Don’t Start with the End in Mind


Let’s do a little time traveling: Go back in time when you first started to dabble in the world of “fitness”. Most likely, you started to exercise because you were unhappy with yourself. Be it that you were dissatisfied with the image you saw in the mirror or a general feeling of being “not fit” – strength training is looked upon as a solution to a problem. What’s wrong with that you ask?

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Now don’t get me wrong, I really do think that strength training has lots of direct benefits and is one of the best solutions when it comes to body recomposition, improving general well-being, confidence and sports performance. I’ve seen this happen with myself and many others.

What’s sad is that I don’t recall a single conversation in which someone stated that they started training because it looked like a fun hobby.

But that’s really what it is for anyone who gets those benefits I described above. People who are really strong and have a strong-looking physique view this as their hobby.

Practicing bodyweight skills and lifting heavy shit is freaking awesome – my point of view.

On the same note, no one really starts rock climbing, mountain biking or wake boarding because it’s “good exercise”. These are physical activities – just as strength training is. But I don’t know anyone who said they’re gonna go rock climb 3 times a week, have a post rock climb shake and are doing this because they want to lose some extra pounds and develop bigger forearms.

Rock climbers are practicing because they wanna climb that big-ass mountain. Surfers fall off their surf boards a hundred times a day, just for the one magical moment when they ride that one wave.

I train for the feeling of accomplishment when I finally ‘get’ a move. For that unbeatable grin when you get your first muscle-up.

I practice for the zen-like state I’m in when I can hold a handstand effortlessly.

Also, a mountain biker doesn’t punish herself for having a piece of birthday cake by riding up a mountain. She rides up that mountain because it’s fun (oh and she can have that birthday cake anyway because she rode up that mountain).

And you know what? People who are passionate about a physical activity and who have been doing it for a significant amount of time (2-3 years) usually look good naked.

There’s also the other side of the spectrum. Maybe you’re familiar with the following statement:

“I just can’t find the motivation to exercise. I know I should do it, but I always fall off the band-wagon.”

You don’t need more motivation.

When I get asked how much I train (I actually have a pretty moderate training volume), people admire my discipline. Frankly, I really am not that disciplined. It’s the other way around: I’m a lazy bastard, but as far as strength training is concerned, I can’t help it. I want to train and I can’t wait to get back to the pull-up bar. My close friends know that I get grumpy when haven’t trained in a while.

This is nothing you should do. Life is too short to force yourself into doing a certain activity.

I’m not even saying that strength training is for everybody. Just as mountain biking is not for everybody.

But I do think that everybody should have some kind of movement practice. Through my own movement practice, I discovered what a magical tool my own body is. Everyone should try to live up to their physical potential in some way.

Find the one thing that you can’t wait to get back to after work. Immerse yourself in it. Learn about all the little details, the technicalities and strive to get better at it every time you do it.

But don’t start something with the end in mind, out of a state of unhappiness. Don’t do it because you want to look a certain way, or because somebody said it’s good for your cardiovascular system or some other pretentious bullshit.

Start with the process in mind.

Get excited about the journey. Try something for the pure joy of doing it.

If you don’t have that one exciting activity yet (by the way, you can have more than one), do this right now: Google “your city + activity X”. “Activity X” is the one thing that was at the back of your head while reading this article. If you’re still clueless, here are some random ideas:

  • Breakdancing
  • Stand-up paddling
  • Krav Maga
  • Indoor cycling
  • Bouldering
  • Yoga
  • CrossFit
  • Parkour
  • Underwater rugby
  • Olympic weightlifting
  • Space shuttle hopping

Okay, that last one I made up. What I want you to see is that there are endless possibilities out there that you can explore. I bet there’s at least one item in the list that sounded fun or intriguing to you.

Having said that, strength training is a great enabler and basically let’s you do all the other fun stuff you want to do more effortlessly. And it doesn’t require lots of time investment. Spend 2-3 hours a week on strength training by following a simple routine, and kicking ass with your other physical (and mental) endeavours will be that much easier.

And even if you are, like me, passionate about strength training, but have been training on your own until now, maybe find a group of like-minded people. Find a gym, maybe not a big box gym, but one that encourages community and group trainings. Or find people at your local park and create a calisthenics group.

After discovering bodyweight training, I quit my gym membership and went solo for 3-4 years. I improved my strength a lot in this time without spending a penny on gym memberships. But recently, I found a garage-style gym here in Hamburg (the Scoop Yard, check ’em out if you’re around). Being around people with a similar passion for strength training is magical and my progress went through the roof.

Take action.

Do that Google search I proposed earlier in the article. Be honest with yourself about your attitude towards physical activity. Is “exercise” a crutch to you and you’d rather spend the time taking a dance class rather than doing push-ups? Well, I’m sorry to lose you as a reader, but you should go with your gut feeling here.

Likewise, if you share my passion about strength training, don’t feel obligated to do this solo. Find people who share your form of mental illness, people who don’t make you feel like the weirdo in the room. Or simply reach out to me through the contact form or by subscribing to the Neat Newsletter. If you know someone who is “should-ing” all over themselves (like “I should work out but can’t be bothered to do it.”) point them to this article or basically tell them that formal exercise just might not be what they need.