Bring Your Guts but Check Your Ego

In my experience as both an athlete and coach, I’ve found that many trainees fall into various degrees of the following two categories of training mindset:

1. Egomaniacs – These folks have eyes that are bigger than their stomachs and tend to bite off more than they can chew for the sake of feeding their ego. Envision the meathead who stops an inch off his chest in a bench press so that he can put another 10 pounds on the bar. I’m going to guess that decline bench is his favorite exercise…

2. Mental Weaklings – These folks have no guts for the glory and are incapable of suffering discomfort for the sake of progress. Imagine the middle-aged professional on the elliptical whose been going the same speed for the same distance since the first time she discovered the magical hamster wheel. Maybe she’s even reading the latest issue of Cosmo?

Perhaps the scariest thing about each of these extremes is that they’ve likely convinced themselves and others that their approach to fitness actually works. The egomaniac’s friends think he’s jacked and tan, even as the distance from his chest to the bar increases in proportion to his bench press max. A strength coach would spot him and repeat, “zero, zero, zero” for each incomplete repetition. Let’s not even discuss what’s probably going on with his “squat.”

The mental weakling’s coworkers envy her happy hour skinny jeans because they don’t know the difference between being petite and being truly fit. A strength coach would wonder where her ass went while she fails to hold herself up in a single leg glute bridge. As an athlete of mine proclaimed after plummeting to the earth faster than gravity on her first attempt at a pushup, “Oh my God… I’m skinny fat!” Don’t dare ask this person to get her heart rate elevated.

When I own a gym someday (hopefully in the not so distant future), I’ll post a sign above the entrance that says “Bring Your Guts but Check Your Ego.” The fittest people get comfortable with being uncomfortable. They push their mental and physical limits without allowing their egos to compromise the integrity of their training. They step outside of their comfort zone for the sake of self improvement and understand that today’s investment yields next year’s results. If you’re the egomaniac, check yourself and rebuild from a couple notches below where you think you should. If you/re the weakling, pick up a weight or pick up your pace and discover what it means to be uncomfortable.

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