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7 Things Lifting Has Taught Me About Life

Since February 2016 I have gone from 271 lbs to plateauing at 235 right now. I lost most of the weight by running but also cutting out a lot of snacking and over eating at meals. I need to lose about 20 more lbs but that will come slowly and methodically. On February 6th of this year I started weightlifting again. I use Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1 system that incorporates four primary lifts (overhead press, deadlifts, bench press and squat) along with some assistance lifts to build strength.[1] I also run/do cardio three-four times a week depending on how sore I am or how much time I have.

Right now here are my 1RM (one rep max) for each lift:

Overhead Press: 170

Deadlift: 305

Bench Press: 250

Squat: 325

These are not big numbers but they are very methodical. I wanted to share this with the purpose of sharing what I have learned about life, so far, from lifting. I am no expert at lifting and am a novice at best. Yet…

#1 – Pain is part of the process

This is one of those “make it or break it” factors when it comes to lifting/losing weight. The tendency for our bodies is to run away from pain but what I have had to learn is that pain is just part of the process. I hate it but often I have to push through the pain to accomplish my goals. Life is that way. Pain often has her way with us and our tendency is to run away when perhaps we need to lean into the pain. Check out this quote from Henry Rollins:

“It wasn’t until my late twenties that I learned that by working out I had given myself a great gift. I learned that nothing good comes without work and a certain amount of pain. When I finish a set that leaves me shaking, I know more about myself. When something gets bad, I know it can’t be as bad as that workout.”

#2 – Not planning is planning to fail

I used to just go in there and throw a bunch of weights around and say I was lifting while accomplishing zero results. That’s stupid. Since taking Wendler serious and using Excel to record my numbers I have noticed incremental changes in my strength. Why? I have a plan. I think many of us go through life just like this. We have zero plans and zero goals amounting to…you guessed it…nothing. I am not saying we all have to go Type A and get rigid with everything we do but I strongly believe we must set goals and plan.

#3 – Our biggest obstacle is ourselves.

The biggest obstacle in lifting has to be my own mind. So often I try to talk myself out of a lift because of this pain, or that time conflict, or on and on go the excuses. You get what you give and many times we hear voices telling us to quit. Life is that way isn’t it? The biggest obstacle between us and what matters most is often between our ears.

#4 – There is a right way and a wrong way

Technique is the difference between results and injury. Louie Simmons said, “Don’t have $100.00 shoes and a 10 cent squat.” My body is no longer able to bounce back from injury like it used to (and its getting worse) and so technique is key in my lifts. I am always looking for ways to improve my form or have an edge on trying to get stronger while maintaining proper form. Sometimes we go through life without consulting the experts or at least having a coach. We think we have the right form but so often we injure our mind, body and soul to the dismay of our growth.

#5 – Haters will suck the life out of you.

A weird epiphany came to me a couple months ago. Many people who are over weight, out of shape or lacking results want others to be just like them…miserable.[2] They will say some comments like:

  • “You should eat what you want, live a little.”
  • “Don’t lift a lot of weights as you will be sore when you are older.”
  • “Everybody needs breaks. Take a month off or so.”

I get it. Yet, what I want to reiterate is that part of having a plan incorporates rest, food and life. What it does not include are excuses, lack of focus and laziness. I don’t think I need to make the jump to life here for you. I think you get this. Avoid the haters.

#6 – Make Time

I used to say, “I don’t have time to work out” so that I could have a valid reason not to. The truth is that I had plenty of time but I simply did not manage my time well. Here is a window into a typical day for me…

6:00am           Awake

6:50am           Drop kids off at school

7:15am           Arrive at work

3:15pm          Leave work

3:30pm          Work Out

4:30pm          Arrive at home and begin to cook dinner

5:15pm          Dinner

6:00pm          Ball games

9:00pm          Get home, put kids to bed.

10:00pm        Go to sleep

As you can tell, I have hardly any time to breathe. That’s part of it. Sometimes my workout is two hours and sometimes I go in there for 15 minutes. The important thing is to put time in. Someone wiser than me once said, “You make time for things that are important to you.” That is true in life. Some people care more about money than they do their family or even their own health. Others care more about some perceived status than they do about things that matter most. As a youth minister I have seen it time and time again how families have jacked-up priorities and then tell me, “Robbie, we just do not have time for church stuff.” You know what? They are right. Why? Whether they can admit it is irrelevant because church (for whatever reason) is just not important to them. The same goes with weightlifting.

#7 – Growth is slow and incremental

Every month, as per my plan (see above), I add 5% to my workout in terms of lifts. I had a guy come over to me while I was benching and said, “Why don’t you add more weight sissy?” I laughed it off but I knew I deep inside I could tell him that I have added 15 lbs to my workout over the past two months but he probably couldn’t tell me his growth. Getting strong takes time. There are injuries, setbacks, obstacles and a host of other things hampering growth. That’s why it is slow, methodical and purposed. Many of us want veteran body with rookie effort. Again, life is that way. Growth takes months and years. I am glad I am at a different place now than where I was ten years ago but that took some time.

That’s it. What would you add?

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[1] Specifically I use the “Boring But Big” program in 5-3-1.

[2] I understand some people who are over weight or out of shape cannot help it. I get that and obviously I am not speaking about those folks nor am I claiming some sort of superiority over other folks who do not work out. I am just making some observations.

After years of trying I have discovered the secret to losing weight.

Like many of you, I am currently in a season of dropping excess pounds from my body. In the last two years I have put on a rhinoceros amount of weight. I have gone from a trim 225 to a… well that’s none of your business. Before I started losing weight I am positive you could stick a chicken drumstick between chin 1 and chin 2 and you might not see it. Laugh it up but I one point I could nestle my dinner on the crest of my belly and use it as a TV dinner tray…without the dinner tray.

There are many factors to this:

  • Quitting my ten year job and starting a new field and then quitting that and starting a new ministry.
  • I am getting older and thus my metabolism is shrinking.
  • I am exhausted and I don’t feel like working out.
  • I have minor stenosis in my neck and some arthritis in my back.
  • Raising four kids ages 10, 9, 7 and 6.

You get where I am going with all of this. My journey from Stay Puft to stay fit has not been easy but I am making some progress. After years of trying different diets and such I have finally discovered the secret to losing weight. Before I share this I want to, embarrassingly, share all of the things I have tried:

  • Atkins Diet – Failed – Felt like I had to sacrifice an animal a day to stay full.
  • Paleolithic Diet – Failed…I am too broke for these ice-aged neanderthals.
  • South Beach Diet – Failed
  • Hydroxy Cut Pill – Failed
  • Alli Pill – Failed…and gross if you eat any fat.
  • Cortisol Pill – Failed

I could go on and on but those are just a smidgen of the things I have tried over the years to lose weight. So after years of trying to meander my way through diets, pills and the latest fads in exercising I have discovered the secret to losing weight.

Are you ready?

THERE IS NO SECRET!!!

Some of you just clicked the “X” icon on your browser and said, “Forget this idiot. Stick with theology and leave weight loss to the experts.” I understand and get it but at the end of the day there is no secret formula for losing weight. I have looked at different research and consulted some of the experts and there seems to be a common thread to losing weight:

  • Build some muscle because it burns fat more.
  • Exercise 4-5 times a week with cardio minimum at 30 minutes.
  • Eat consistently throughout the day and don’t get too hungry.
  • Make sure your snacks are healthy.
  • Don’t overeat.
  • Stay away from things that have a ton of sugars, fats and oils.
  • Oh…and work your stinking tail off.

That’s not rocket science folks. It is common sense. Standing in line I saw an advertisement in a magazine promising the customer could lose 25lbs and not diet if he or she simply drink this “shake.” Folks, lets use some common sense here. If I go eat 12 Krystals for lunch and steak and potatoes for dinner and a Oreo Blizzard for dessert but simply drink a shake I am not going to lose weight. That’s insane.

The truth is that people want to do the least amount of work to get the most amount of results. Click To Tweet

So they will pay crazy amounts to have a company mail meals to them or send them a magic pill so they can lose weight without really trying. Now I understand there are great tools out there to help like exercise trainers, nutritionists and specialized diets but at the end of the day it takes work, discipline and struggle. I ate recently with a friend who said, “Man you have slimmed down a bit, what are you doing?” I told him these exact words, “I am running a lot and not eating what I want and eating mostly what I don’t want.”

That won’t sell on Facebook and I won’t get a royalty check from it and I guarantee you I can’t start a multi-level marketing plan based on a product I have but the end is the same: weight loss.

The fact of the matter is that many of us (myself included) are just simply lazy. We make excuses to justify why we can’t lose weight like it’s a DNA issue or I just simply can’t ___________________ (you fill in the blank). I understand that losing weight is more difficult for some than others. For example, studies show that it is, in fact, harder for women to lose weight than men (Source and Source). Yet, just because something is hard does not mean it is impossible. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “As long as a man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his way.” Chew on that for a minute. Once I quit making excuses and manned-up then I started gradually losing weight. So far I have lost 24lbs. My goal weight involves me losing another 20lbs and I hope to eclipse that in two months.

It has been frustrating losing weight. Sometimes I will have days where I cheat and blow it. I then do work and shed it again and keep it up. In the past month I have ran in the rain twice and snow once. It is easy for me to come up with reasons why I should not work out but if my decision does not compliment my goals then it constrains them. Truth is…I am tired of walking up stairs out of breath or staying on the verge of blood pressure medicine.

Here are some practical tips that will help:

  • Lose it! App. Functional and keeps track of the food like a journal would.
  • Jawbone UP3: Mine was a steal for $67 (used on Amazon) but anything that keeps track of steps and heartbeats will help you shed pounds.
  • Accountability: Have someone to work with in this endeavor. A friend who will attend boot camp classes with you or a spouse who will help with your food choices.
  • Realistic Goals: My first goal was a baby step. Then after I accomplish that I set a new goal. What if you could lose even 1/2 lb a week. Completely doable. That is 25lbs in one year!
  • Self-Discipline: I can’t begin to describe the feeling of hunger craves like when you are at a church supper and everyone is double-fisting the fried chicken down their throat and you are eating a salad. Your mind will play tricks on you and your body will fight you tooth and nail. Have some brass.
  • Quit the Habits: Smoke? It helps keep weight off but in the end being fat is healthier than being slim because of nicotine. Drink alcohol? Stop. Sure a glass of wine helps improve cardiovascular function but so does running. Besides one glass of wine just might not do it so it leads to another glass and so on and so forth. Am I right?
  • Pace yourself: Massive thanksgiving dinner coming up? Eat and be merry. Don’t freak out and be a fun sucker. Get back to work the next day. Gained a pound during a week? Life does not stop. Eat less the next week and bust your tail.

In the end I am not a dietitian/nutritionist and one should consult their doctor before going on a weight loss program. Yet, don’t buy the hype of expensive products when you can use some common sense and brass tenacity.

What would you add?