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How fitness training saved my life: important life lessons we can all learn

Like many people, I use the new year for reflection, looking back at the highs and lows of the year just ended, ruminating on how to make the next year better; maybe starting a new hobby or making a renewed commitment to myself to carry on striving for growth.

Whilst I've been thinking about my fitness goals for 2021, I've begun to appreciate how much I have learned from my gym training and how transferable these skills are to my career and life. Initially when I started training many years ago. it was to improve my fitness. I have been consistent in my training, training regularly 3 times a week for over 35 years. However I never thought about any of the benefits regular training gave me until recently. I have been guilty of doing something over an over without really being mindful of the activity; therefore being oblivious of the benefits that have accrued. However, subconsciously, you absorb those benefits but need a trigger to realise them. That trigger occurred when I least expected it - during my 2nd heart attack!

I can literally say the lessons I had learned from years of gym training saved my life. During my 2nd heart attack, I had to wait 40 minutes for an ambulance to arrive - every second and minute of that was excrutiatingly painful. I wished the pain would stop and would do anything for the pain to go away. But as the minutes ticked by I knew that I had to find a way of dealing with the pain to survive. How does training in the gym help you survive a heart attack? Well, physically, my years of training had strengthened my heart but it was the mental skills that I had also acquired from my training which also played a vital role to survive those 40 minutes. I'm not sure its something I consciously did but I found myself trying to divert my mind away from the pain by focussing and reminding myself of my past successes in overcoming pain and severe discomfort, willing myself to overcome this latest situation and determination to overcome my current situation.

In hindsight, when reflecting upon the mental benefits from my many years of training I realised that these related to:

  • Discipline

  • Mental strength

  • Resilience

  • Determination

  • Focus

  • Self belief

My gym training has tought me discipline; to train regularly even in times when I don't feel upto it. It teaches you to stick to your commitments. I have trained 3 times a week for over 35 years. I have made a commitment to train a number of times a week and so I do what it takes to honour that commitment even when, quite frankly I am lacking motivation and desire to train. When training hard, you need to have determination and perserverence to push yourself to make further gains and improvements. When striving to new personal bests, it takes mental strength and self belief to convince yourself you are capable of acheiving those goals. Along the way, you will fail and may also get hurt, but you will develop resilience and courage to return and start again and keep trying.

But there are a number of other parallels between fitness training (whether it be in the gym, cycling, running or ther sports) which are transferrable to life, career and business.

Make a plan to monitor and ensure you make progress

Otherwise you will exert a lot of energy in the gym without understanding why or for what purpose. As I discovered, a training plan ensures each session is properly thought through and ensures a balanced workout. I used to spend years just turning up at the gym without a plan doing random exercises- it made motivating myself harder as I didn't know why I did certain exercises and also made me focus on exercises I liked rather than train in a balanced manner. Consequently, there was no proper way of measuring my gains and progress. A documented training plan gives you focus, enhances the efficiency and quality of your training. If you have trouble or struggle with putting a plan together, it may be worth talking to a coach who can help you create and maintain a dietary and fitness plan.

Review your goals regularly

Many people go the gym or start training with an idea of getting fit and or losing weight and think the hardest part is going to the gym; so whatever exercise they do must mean they will make progress. However, unless you have thought about specific and measurable goals, it is likely that you will not make much progress and your motivation will drift as a result. Without goals a common mistake most people do is to repeat the same routine, week by week, month by month and year by year. They wander why they fail to see any discernable improvement in their fitness or strength. This approach also leads to boredom and frustration.

Setting clear, measurable and achievable goals (SMART) would ensure such pitfalls are avoided. These goals should be revisited, say every 3months and would involve a refresh of their routine. Not only to keep training interesting but also to ensure the body is shocked into doing something different to make progress. - to shock it out of its comfort zone- and out of cruise control! A regular review also ensures that your training plans are consistent with your fitness goals. As with planning, you may find it more motivating if you use the services of a coach to help understand and create specific goals tailor made for you as well as to help hold you accountable to achieving them.

Use your past successes to get your through difficult times and moments

When you're really struggling to complete your training, whether it be a single exercise or the whole routine, if you've already completed it before, you can use that experience to instil belief, confidence and drive yourself to complete the task you are currently trying to achieve. The more times you have been able to complete such tasks, the stronger your belief becomes and the higher the probability that you will be able to overcome future hurdles - "I've been here before and succeeded so I can do it again" mentality will kick in. Afterwards, you'll feel a lot better knowing you didn't give up , showing grit by sticking with it. This will help you build resilience, knowing when you face difficulties in the future you can overcome obstacles as you've overcome hurdles before. It's a really powerful tool to have and one which will serve you well in times of need.

Final Thoughts

Regular training in whatever sport provides much greater benefits than just improved physical fitness; it also enables you to develop a number of important mental skills and traits which can be of great value in your life and career. Just make sure you have some goals and follow up with some plans to get the most out of your training.

It would be really interesting to hear your views and hear your experiences about this topic. Please get in touch via email,

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