In the fitness industry, numbers matter. In some strength coaches’ cases, if they do not help their client’s hit their numbers, then they could be fired. Numbers are correlated with results. If you bench press 225lb for 10 reps and in two weeks that goes up to 235 or 245lb, you are getting stronger. That makes sense, however it doesn’t paint the whole picture. Dan John, my mentor and a renowned scholar and strength coach, believes that these numbers should help improve our health, longevity, fitness and performance. If the numbers increase but your health and longevity doesn’t, then that’s where the dilemma starts to arise. Health, longevity, fitness and performance are broad terms in their own right, and every circumstance is different. The values change based on the individual and their situation, but their moral compasses shouldn’t.
As an exercise physiologist, my job description is based around helping individuals attain their best self. Well, what is “best self”? Who knows? No one knows, and it is very biased and subjective based on the individual who is trying to find their worth. What this means is that my job is to help individuals find whatever they are looking for using exercise and its application to their life. This is very key, and I don’t want people to miss it. Using exercise and its application to their life, not my life, not other clients’ lives and not the objective numbers that are written on a 1-rep max board on the wall. Now, I can use variables, such as numbers, to help someone build his/her confidence, but numbers shouldn’t be the main driver. Numbers by themselves do not have value, nor do they determine someone’s self-worth. Emotional ties must be created at some point for numbers to truly mean something. Searching for meaning and value behind numbers, is often how we end up losing our way. We end up pushing ourselves to reach a number and forget why we even started in the first place.
I believe this was one of the biggest things I have learned over my career in the exercise industry. Numbers can get us to lose sight of what really matters; the quality of life. There is no absolute in life. I have seen habitual smokers live through their 90’s, as well as listen to a doctor tell a 13-year-old girl that she is going to die within the next two years.
There are no absolutes in life and as an exercise physiologist my job is not only to improve a client’s overall performance, but to also improve one’s overall quality of life. Quality of life often times gets paired up with performance goals, health and longevity as separate units. However, I believe that due to its subjective nature, it should be the sum of health, longevity, fitness and performance.
We exercise to improve our health with the hopes of improving our longevity. When was the last time we heard someone say, “I exercise so I can improve my quality of life?” It doesn’t happen often because we are always searching for or trying to validate our self-worth based on the actions and reactions of others. Competition is phenomenal, and at what cost are we willing to compete? Some are willing to do whatever it takes to win. If that means cheating or changing your moral compass, would it be worth it? I believe that when we are willing to change our values to seek out what is deemed as an “improved quality of life” by using objective values as our end goals, we often lose sight of what truly matters to us, which will ultimately interfere with our daily living, relationships with our friends, family, and ourselves. If we were to compare how many true friends and family member’s that have our backs when the time gets tough, it is very minuet compared to how many people there are in the world. Therefore, our quality of life is measured not only by our health, performance, longevity, and fitness but also by how we approach and go about our everyday activities and our attitudes towards the process in obtaining our goals and the relationships we have formed with others.
Quality is a staple mark in how I progress my client’s training program. These programs are not linear because people are not linear. The sets and reps are always changing, but the relative quality always stays the same. I focus on getting them to be aware of the smaller goals that they have already accomplished like showing up for workouts, getting the workout in, and pushing themselves. Getting ourselves to enjoy the small victories enriches our environment with prosperity and optimism. Often times we forget that getting out of bed in the morning is powerful and we lose the site of its value. If you do not wake up and get out of bed you literally can’t do anything else, so you lose. I work with patients with pulmonary diseases that fight every day to take another breath. They value every breathe they take because it could be their last. When was the last time you smiled and enjoyed taking in a long deep breath? I won’t lie, the only time that has crossed my mind is when I felt like I was drowning or suffocating. Our values are different and that changes our quality of life. We leave behind the small victories in search of bigger victories, losing site of the bigger picture in our life. Our genuine happiness.
We lose site that simply “showing up” is an accomplishment in the big scheme of things. We get caught up in the numbers and the diets that we lose site of the little things that help shape who we are, such as simply showing up, working hard, learning from the failure, and pushing through the sweat and tears. When we enrich our training style with the notion that life is a journey and exercising is simply a part of that journey that can improve quality of life, we will be able to truly help ourselves reach our goals. It can’t be forgotten that the little things are what matters, being nice and polite matters, giving a helping hand, trying your best, putting your best foot forward, and giving to others without asking in return matters, not the numbers.
Exercise is an indirect effect on health, performance, fitness and longevity and most of all how people view themselves and others. As a coach I have learned over the years that it is important to coach in the present and not in the future or past. I forget too much to remember the past, I can’t predict the future, and the present is the only thing we have any control over. Personal achievements will come in the gym, if one is consistent and hard work is there. But that isn’t all that matters, and it is not what determines self-worth. Hitting certain numbers make you a better person. Interactions with friends, families and strangers through these personal achievements will dictate that.
As our life carries its new mark, our goals should too. We must learn to understand that exercise is simply a contributor in our journey to improving our quality of life. There are no guarantees in life, so why not strive to life the life we have with humility and appreciation. In the end, benching 400lbs and fasting all day while doing doubles days, have no value when they are not shared with another variable.
True value comes with understanding that strength is relative and life is reality.