The Psychology Of Fitness

Mindsets, Body Types and Everything In Between

You Must Own IT – pt 1

“A diamond is a piece of coal that stuck to the job.” – Michael Larsen

Theme of the week:  You Must Own IT.

What is itIt is anything that you want, from financial freedom to the body you desire.

What does “Owning” it mean?  It means the responsibility lies in your hands.  The responsibility is yours and no one else’s.

It moves beyond excuses.  It moves beyond your “feelings” and certainly moves past your weak points.

I remember when I was younger and started working out, I had an internal drive to reach for more and as I started working out, I wanted to be the best I could be.  I went to a small high school and since I’m naturally competitive in nature, I wanted to be one of the strongest people there.  In college, although I went to a school that was 100 times larger than my high school, I still wanted to be one of the best.

Then I started taking exercise physiology courses and my game plan to get there became skewed.  Instead of consistency, hard work (albeit, probably not nearly as effective) and internal drive to be the best I could, I started to rely on “The Best” methods.  Consistency got replaced by what was “most efficient,” aka, I could work out twice a week and “maintain” (On a side note, I must say, I despise maintaining…what’s the quote, “You’re either moving forward or going backwards”).  Good old hard work was replaced with excuses why doing that work was stupid, because it wasn’t “The Best” methods and my internal drive to be the best got replaced with justifications for not working as hard.

Throughout the process though, I had a desire to do the work.  I simply loved working out.  There were definitely obstacles that held me back and I’ve had to experiment with a lot of different methods just to keep working out, but the ability to “Own It” was definitely lacking.

I placed the responsibility of my drive to actually work out, and of my actual actions of getting to the gym on my “feelings.”  I didn’t work out because, “I didn’t feel like it.”  Which is straight up bullshit.

Nothing I’ve ever achieved, I have intrinsically wanted to do before I actually started doing the work.  If I got into a relationship, it was because we started dating and then one day I realized, “You know what? I like this person. Let’s do more of this.”  It was never, I like that girl over there, who I don’t know, and want HER to be my girl friend.  That’s not how I work.

I’ve been at my job for nearly 5 years now, and only at the beginning of this year have I finally started accepting that, maybe I’ll work in fitness, instead of trying to get into other fields (Like Psychology).  And since that time, I’ve purchased over 200 books, spent $4000 on programs and have spent nearly all of my free time learning as much as I possibly could.  (For reference, I was still a “nerd” before this, but not nearly to this extent).  You can say this year, I’ve finally starting “Owning the Responsibility” of working in fitness.  As such, that naturally competitive side is coming out and I want to be one of the best.

With working out, or really any other endeavor, there will ALWAYS come a point where if you want to be better than average, if you want to see how far YOU can go, you will decide that you will do absolutely what it takes to be YOUR best.  It’s not being the best in comparison to someone else simply for the sake being “better” than that person, but because you have not yet reached your potential and you want to see how far that potential goes.  If you end up being better than someone else, great…and if not, “F’ it,” because it’s about YOU and not them.

So what is “Owning It?”   It’s where you finally jump over that fence you’ve been straddling and fully commit to that road of endeavor –whether that be with a move you’ve wanted to make, a job you’ve wanted to quit, a relationship you don’t want to be in or a body you don’t want any more.    It’s at that place where transformations and personal turning points start.  It’s at the crossroads of 100% commitment, internal and burning desire and personal responsibility, that your life shifts.  It is at this point, where exercise stops being about “general fitness” and instead becomes about becoming your best.  It’s when you stop blaming “not knowing what to do” and buy the books, dvd’s or personal training sessions to learn.  It’s when you stop not going to the gym because you’re “tired” and push through the feeling until you get there, stretch and feel revived after your work out.  That is “Owning It” and as the title of the post says, “You Must Own IT.”

I have a lot more to say about this week’s topic and this week, I will be doing things a bit differently.  Instead of posting only on Monday, I will be putting up posts on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights.  Each one will be about You “Owning It.  Whereas this was an introduction to the topic, Wednesday will be the first in a two-part post about the process someone goes through in order to get to the crossroads of 100% commitment, burning desire and personal responsibility.  Until then, Do You!

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6 comments found

  1. “With working out, or really any other endeavor, there will ALWAYS come a point where if you want to be better than average, if you want to see how far YOU can go, you will decide that you will do absolutely what it takes to be YOUR best. ..”
    For some of us, working out is like doing the laundry, cleaning the toilet or washing the windows. At no point do you EVER aspire to be a “better than average” toilet cleaner. Hence, you never have any intrinsic motivation to be the best at exercise, since it never rises above the level of necessary evil, like ironing shirts.

    1. I think you may have completely missed the whole point of the 10+ posts on the subject of owning it. No where, during all of those posts did I state that you should try to “own” something which you will never find inherently enjoyable. With that said, I did say that most people who initially start exercising don’t enjoy the feeling of exercise. That doesn’t mean that they dislike the activity itself. If “working out” for you is doing laundry, cleaning the toilet or washing the windows, AND you don’t like those activities, then find something else which constitutes your workout. If you don’t like it, then you are wasting your time trying to “Own it.”

      Your example reminds me of a study done on the people that clean hotel rooms. After learning that what they were doing was a good form of exercise for them, they ended up losing more weight. There’s a couple theories as to why, but the one I most agree with, is that they were encouraged and because of that encouragement, they either worked harder or made smarter eatinig choices, knowing then, that they were “working out” while at work.

      Also, know that those that find the most enjoyment out of even mundane activities can enter into a “flow” state by trying to be their best at the activity, no matter what that activity is. That’s the whole wonder of our minds. We get to choose how we are going to view an activity and hence have the power to either react to our pre-conditioned responses to that activity or make it our own. In other words, even the most mundane of activities, you can own.

      If you choose not to though, that’s fine…but find another activity that you can enjoy.

  2. But what about those of us who never find any kind of exercise inherently enjoyable? That there is nothing whatsoever that we have even the remotest desire to “own”. No matter what we try, it never, ever rises above the feeling of putting your arm in an unflushed toilet. That no matter what you do, how you do it or who you do it with, it is never more than at best a chore and at worst a unpleasant, uncomfortable experience. The experience never rises above the level of a flu vaccine, or paying for insurance – it’s a good thing to do, it helps, but it’s never something other than a discomfort. The motivation is entirely extrinsic – it’s based entirely on the wish to avoid the undesirable consequences of NOT doing the act (catching ‘flu, getting burgled and not being insured etc). I’ve tried all sorts of exercise (football, rugby, swimming, weights, running, cycling, circuits, hiking…) and can honestly with my hand on my heart say I have never, ever once felt any sort of physical pleasure or “buzz” from it – beyond the relief of finishing and thinking “Thank G*d that’s over with!”. The feeling of pleasure can’t simply be the absence of the ongoing discomfort of participating can it? I can also say it has never, ever lifted my mood or improved my outlook, again beyond the feeling of relief that it’s over with till the next time. Whilst I know there are people who get their kicks from being beaten, I assume that the idea of pleasure from exercise isn’t simply about a form of athletic masochism?

    1. In those series of posts, there was a line where I said I believed the desire for exercise was based on three aspects: Self-Determination Theory (aka, feeling autonomous, not feeling disconnected because of the activity and feeling competent), Chaos Theory, which although not directly applicable to fitness, is highly applicable to the “messiness” of life and physiological reasons.

      I don’t doubt that you, like many other people I’ve encountered, truly do not find exercise enjoyable. That is why I said to find the benefits worthwhile and to find other ways to enjoy the activity, without inherently liking the activity.

      Also, and I think I was going to write about this but couldn’t find the source, there have been studies which show that people who don’t exercise don’t see immunological improvements (aka, they are more likely to get sick) within the first 9 months of exercise. It’s not until after about 9 months, that most people’s immune systems are stronger overall, from exercise. This I believe is correlated with one’s ability to start to feel “better” after exercising rather than before.

      Personally, the physiological factors that you describe from exercising sounds like a mixture of the cessation of exercise within those 9 months, AND a multi-factoral either vitamin/mineral deficiency or a low genetic predisposition for the increase in core temperature/metabolite clearing from exercise.

      In other words, you may never truly find working out truly and inherently enjoyable. If you did not notice though, the first 9 posts talked about getting to the point where you can increase your intrinsic drive to “exercise” and not “own it.” Please refer to the posts where I talked about the 4 levels of extrinsic motivation. You must “Own It” pt. 6.

  3. Some background – I have given fitness a good crack of the whip – I recognise that results are not immediate, but to never feel any sort of achievement or pleasure (other than when the pain stops) seems normal to me. Example – I worked out / lifted weights plus some (limited) cardio for four years. I went from bench pressing 60 kg when I started to 105 kg after three months and ended up at or around 120 kg (went up and down a bit, with changes day to day). The act wasn’t boring – it required too much concentration – but I never got any sort of kick from it. It was always “So what?” when I upped the weight. I did it because I felt I had to, not because I got some kick about having put another disc on the bar. At the end of a session, I didn’t ever feel a physical / mental buzz and a “Wow, I achieved X”, just an “Ow, that hurt, but at least I don’t have to do it tomorrow” sort of relief. Just like doing an extra lap in the swimming pool (I swim and cycle because they are “doable” within limited time, finance and travel constraints, whereas gyms aren’t any more) is just that – ho hum. No “Wow, I have so improved”, more a “Well that’s a hour of my life I can’t get back”.

    Cycling another mile, adding to how far I went before is just another “right, that’s done for now” experience – a bit like paying another insurance premium. I feel comfort knowing if my house burns down I’m covered, but I don’t get a warm feeling when the money leaves my bank account!

    I understand and accept the long-term physical health benefits of exercise, but what I cannot accept is the seemingly unchallengable view, that if you do enough it becomes fun, that there is always, invariably, physical pleasure and mental reinforcement from the act, in and of itself. I “own” the decision to exercise, just as I “own” the decision to pay insurance, but neither gives me a physical kick or a mental lift.

    1. I never implied it is an automatic enjoyment of exercise. Please read the whole series of posts. I never implied EVERYONE will or should own exercise.

      What you are describing is the Ownership over the RESPONSIBILITY of being healthy for it’s benefits. I’ve talked about that. And that is more than most people do. In other words, good for you. That’s what you should be doing.

      If you don’t enjoy it though, and there are some people that will never enjoy it, but you still “Own” the responsibility for your health and longevity of your life, then what are you disputing?

      Not everyone will enjoy exercise. Ok, I know this. But if you can at least take “Ownership” over your health, then you are on the right path. Please read, as I’ve asked before, this post: http://thepsychologyoffitness.com/2010/08/09/you-must-own-it-pt-6-of-7/

      Especially, this line: “We’ll call this the “I’m an ‘In Shape’ Person” motivation. People identify with being “In Shape” and although they may not enjoy the exercise so much, they absolutely can’t see themselves as being in any other sort of shape and therefore work out.” In your case, substitute the words, ‘In Shape’ and instead, Health Benefits. Please do not get caught up in the semantics.

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