Now that you are pumped to sweat, let’s help you through some of the games your mind is going to play. You need to cut through the mind games to succeed—a weak mind is a greater hindrance than weak muscles. Some of these mind games are similar to the ones faced when trying to change your diet. Conquering one will inadvertently conquer others because no matter how they articulate themselves they all speak the same language of fear and insecurity.
Fear 1: They’re all looking at me
Red-faced, I admit that this was my number one fear for the first months of starting out. You can bet that every burly, tattooed guy strutting down our main street has a lifetime membership at our only gym in town. Walking in for the first time, I could smell the testosterone laced air, hear the deep grunts of full-bodied men straining at car-sized weights. In I walk, all 135 pounds of me, every man stops, spotters and lifters alike look up and stare. There is no readable expression because real men don’t show emotion. But I know exactly what they are thinking as I’m standing there stripped bare, weak with shame, feeling no rite of passage. After a long held breath, they go back to their biceps and triceps, content to leave me gathering up my tiny bits of courage enough to take that vital first step toward a better me.
Okay, so what really happened was no bothered to look up at all. There were two big guys in the far corner; one of them may have had a tattoo about his mother; they said a friendly hi when we later crossed paths. Everyone was courteous and friendly. So you would think that would have settled it—no more irrational fears about everybody looking at me. Nope. Two days later, walking into the gym, same stupid fears and insecurities.
So what’s the answer?
I’m going to share something that has set me free. I cannot trust my emotions and the crazy thinking that goes with them. At first this may sound debilitating but it’s not. When I decided to start lifting weights, it was done thoughtfully, with an understanding of why the decision had been made. I was in a state of peace and prayer, with a clear sense of vision. That can be trusted. What cannot be trusted is reactionary fear that rises up from insecurity. Talking to myself during these times is effective. Right now I am experiencing irrational fear. If I simply act, the fear will dissipate and reveal itself for what it is, a phantom projection of long-past hurts. Walk through fear and you are the stronger for it.
Bodybuilding with a bunch of strangers is sharing something personal about ourselves because men do not like to reveal the limits of their strength. It takes courage. If you do bump into some muscle heads that are aggressive or rude, report them to the manager. With an aging population becoming more health conscious, the last thing a manager wants is a few bone heads ruining his business. Frankly, I have never had a problem other than what’s in my head.
Fear Two: It will work for everybody else but not me
This was my number two biggest fear, and one I still battle to this day. Lifting that first barbell, boney arms quivering, it’s almost impossible to believe that you’re capable of growing pipes like the guy beside you from such little raw material. All those limiting thoughts come to mind, I’m 47 years old and a genetically small guy, yadda, yadda.
So against my better judgment, I made the mistake of researching bodybuilding websites on how to fast-track muscle development. I discovered one must ingest enormous amounts of protein before and after workouts for maximum uptake. There were countless supplements, patches, creams, powders and pills. I needed to schedule eating and sleeping. Every mega-body promised the perfect workout system and they were as different as night and day. It was clear that these sites played on fears in hope of selling muscle in a bottle.
I got back to the basics and made an investment decision. My plan was to simply hit the weights three times a week, gradually increasing intensity, eat about 20 grams of extra protein a day, and make sure I get enough sleep. I learned some simple sets, making sure my form was good, executing slow, deliberate movements without jerking or throwing the weights. Sure enough, three months later, I had doubled my weights and was starting to show the shadows of a man who was lifting. I felt and looked strong without the need for creams, powders and pills. Healthy food and intensity was all it took. A wonderfully simple formula.
No matter your age, gender or genetic disposition, if you lift weights and are consistent, you will get stronger and harder. If you increase intensity you can add larger to that list. It’s impossible not to, so put that fear to bed.
Fear 3: I cannot do this
This final fear is perfectly modeled in the famous scene when Moses argued with God at the burning bush. After God provided a practical solution to every tabled fear, finally Moses blurts out, “Send someone else, I cannot do it.” When there is no logic left, then a baseless deep feeling of dread tries its last kick at stopping you from moving forward.
Think about this for a moment: you walk into a gym, put on a pair of shorts, lift some weights that are kind of heavy. You repeat this each week. What the heck does fear have to do with this process? Maybe you don’t deserve to look healthy. Maybe if you get fit you will just be putting on airs, or pretending to be something you are not. Or maybe it’s not your body type. Or maybe the fear has no brains and is just a deep emotion: I cannot do this because. . . I just can’t, I know it.
But you can do this in spite of how you feel. Human will is stronger than fear. That deep feeling of apprehension is a lie and has been holding you back from God knows what. God does know because He is the one who planted those visions in you like seeds so they can grow and bear fruit, like a humble man leading a million people out of years of bondage into a land flowing with milk and honey. One action of faith over fear leads to another.
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