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What I’ve learned at the gym

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I pretty much live at the gym. There is a couch in my office and I have been known to sleep there on occasion. It is home and it is filled with people I consider to be my family. In many ways, the gym is also my classroom. Here are some of the things I’ve learned at the gym, about training, and about life in general.

It’s important to identify priorities and treat them as such. In strength and conditioning, we screen and assess new trainees to identify what they need to work on the most. The first exercise of any training session is usually something that is identified as a priority. This allows the athlete to work on what is most important while they feel fresh and focused. In life, just like the gym, identify priorities and work on them first, get them out of the way before life gets in the way.

There is no such thing as the right time or the right place. So many people don’t want to start going to the gym today because they feel like they need to get in shape first, or they are still looking for the right gym or the right trainer. The truth is that at the gym, just like in life, the hardest step is the first one. There is never an ideal situation so you’ve got to work with what you have and you can’t wait for the right time and the right place or you will never get anything done.

Everyone is different, so don’t worry about what others think of you. At the gym, it’s all too easy to get distracted by what everyone else is doing. I used to get upset when I compared my lifts to others in the gym. Then I realized that I was often comparing myself to people 15 years younger or 50 pounds heavier than I was. It’s not a fair comparison and while I was questioning myself, everyone else was busy being just as self-conscious as I was. In life, just like at the gym, don’t waste any precious mental energy worrying about what others think, just focus on lifting and living.

Consistency is everything but change is how we grow and improve. In the gym, the most important predictor of success is commitment, you need to show up consistently or you will not see results. However, if you always lift the same weights and never try anything new, you are bound to hit a plateau. In life, just like at the gym, you need to commit and build habits to make things happen, but if you never try anything new you will never learn anything new.
Have something you can always come back to when you have a bad day. When I feel sad or stressed out, I know that I can always go to the gym and squat and I will feel better afterwards. In life, just like at the gym, it helps to have something special to fall back on when you get stuck in a rut, whether that is a favourite book, a favourite movie or a favourite lift that always makes you smile.

It’s your responsibility, no one else’s. Only we can be responsible for our bodies and our lives. You can hire trainers and nutritionists but when it comes to fitness, no one else can do it for you. No one can live your life for you, either. Take your health and your life into your own hands and you will achieve great things.  

Tania Tetrault Vrga is owner and head trainer at CrossFit Winnipeg. Send questions to her at www.crossfitwinnipeg.com

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