Early this year, after a 10-year break, I joined a gym (following my wife, who did the same earlier) and started exercising again. It's been a rough process to get myself back in shape after putting on weight and being mostly inactive, aside from a few physical gigs and regular yard work.
I have been sticking with it, averaging about 4 days each week in the gym, never going below 3 and sometimes hitting 5 days. During my workouts since January, I often think about a something I heard the first time I tried to lift weights a long time ago.
I was puny and weak as a teen. At one point in high school, I was 6'2" and 120 pounds, miles from imposing. I filled out a little by the time I graduated, but I was still weak. After high school, I spent a year driving a van making deliveries between a company's several buildings, which kept me moving all day. I felt fit, but definitely not strong or truly in shape.
One of my friends talked me into trying to lift weights with him, as he had recently lost some weight and was trying to get in better shape. We lifted with his uncle, a high-school dropout who had been into working out most of his adult years. The "gym" was an old barn with limited ventilation that was stocked with free weights that the uncle and another relative had purchased together.
Starting with no knowledge of weightlifting, I learned the basics of proper form, how to warm up and how to balance a workout by covering the various muscle groups. One of the first times I was there, my friend's uncle said, "You know, after you lift weights for just a couple of weeks, you make a little progress and you really start feeling better about yourself. It helps your self-esteem."
At the time, I thought, "Sure." I knew I was weak, and that I would soon be very sore. I didn't know how embarrassing myself by lifting such light weights would ever make me feel better about myself.
Turns out that he was right. Before long, I did make improvements and start feeling better about myself. I continued working out when I started college, and got into a routine. My workouts continued through college when I got in the best shape of my life. After college, I continued for several years until eventually life got too busy.
Now at it again, I am making some progress, and I am feeling a lot better about myself. For the first time in my life, I know and accept that it's about my own potential, goals and perseverance. There will always be plenty of people stronger than me and in better shape than I am.
When I keep that in mind, I always feel good about myself and the progress I have made. The only competition is with myself, trying to get better than yesterday, last week or last month. When you invest effort and time into your workouts, you will see and feel improvements. Working out helps push me to make better choices regarding my diet, although I have a long way to go. Managing stress and getting enough rest also help with making progress on becoming healthier. Every step toward improving your health and fitness should and will help your self-esteem, if you set reasonable goals for yourself.
I know that I am in better shape than the guy who sat on the couch too much for too long. I set some reasonable personal goals that I achieved. And like the Oracle Uncle suggested, I feel better about myself than I have in a long time.
That was the best thing I learned about workouts and weightlifting.
I am planning another blog post about the best ideas I have ever heard. What is the best idea you have ever heard?