Hey, you – dude over 30.
Your workout sucks. And not for some technical “sets & reps” type reason.
Your big screw up occurred way before you even started.
The good news is I can help you fix it. It begins with a very small yet crucial first step.
I’m entering my third decade in this “industry.” For the record, I do not see this as a source of pride – quite the contrary.
Among my former high school classmates are high-powered Manhattan lawyers, doctors, surgeons, and movie producers, even (well paid) actors.
I’m doing, well, this.
Guys I played hockey with (or at least tried to keep up with) are just wrapping up their NHL careers and starting golf careers. I’m doing this.
Even some of the deadbeats have since blasted past me. A buddy who at 17 was single-handedly leading the “legalize it” campaign somehow got off the bong long enough to parlay his side-gig driving strippers to private parties into a 24 hour pizza delivery business.
They’re always an hour late and typically screw up your order but I suppose the 4 am pizza crowd isn’t too discerning.
And I’m doing this.
What can I say? It’s a passion. So that’s a win.
We have more “information” today than ever.
Back when I was starting out, the average knowledge base was woefully inadequate. Even the best certification courses were abysmal when it came to nuts and bolts program design, so newbies of all ages were forced to use the big guy in Zubaz pants behind the juice bar as the expert-at-large.
Not surprisingly, we were exposed to more bullshit than front row of an MLM convention.
However, today, we got all this knowledge. And it’s good information, coming at us from journals and websites and magazines and browser homepages.
Now the average bloke just strapping on his gym shoes for the first time is concerned about improving his thoracic mobility and LDL-particle size. At their level I was blending up Mega Mass shakes while trying to find ways to build my inner chest.
Yes, my inner chest.
But what I – and my friends – lacked in knowledge, we more than made up for in passion. And in the end, passion is all that matters.
I have done – and still do – my fair share of fitness consults.
When I was starting out I didn’t know anything. So I’d ask, “What do you hope to get out of your exercise journey?”
Then I got smarter. I learned you needed to assess. Height, weight, medical questionnaire, blood pressure, body fat assessment, hip internal rotation test, Thomas test, blah blah, blah.
Today, what do I do? I start with one question: “So what do you hope to get out of your exercise journey?”
It doesn’t tell the whole story. But it does tell you the most important info.
The Passion Test
You can tell a lot about a person and how successful they will be by how accepting they are of their passions.
Someone with the self-awareness (and courage) to embrace their passion and pursue it to their utmost ability is not necessarily guaranteed success, but they are assured a life driven by purpose. Which could be argued is the very definition of success, more so than money or a big house or a trailer full of groupies awaiting your autograph.
On the other hand, someone who denies their passion, or labels it “stupid” or “childish” or (my pet peeve) “unrealistic” – while they may be successful, they’re almost assured a life of searching beyond their material possessions for a level of satisfaction that always eludes them.
It sets up the quintessential mid-life crisis – i.e., the hedge fund manager who trades in his wife for a cocktail waitress and a race across the country in a rebuilt Trans Am. With apologies to Burt Reynolds, that isn’t pretty.
Let’s bring it back to exercise.
When a guy over 30 answers, “What do you want to get out of your exercise journey?” with something like “I want to lose a few pounds and improve my cholesterol numbers,” I immediately think, “Wow, that’s respectable and normal!”
And I know he’s lying.
These goals aren’t “mature” or “realistic” – they’re watered down, so banal that they’re not even worth getting out of bed to achieve.
And the success rate for such goals, ironically, is embarrassingly low, despite the exceedingly low bar that was set.
Now when a guy answers truthfully, it sounds like this:
I’ve been skinny (or fat) since high school. I tried working out in college but never saw much success. Then I got married and started my career and everything got busy, but I still wanted to look better. I still do today.
So I want to gain 20 pounds of muscle. And lose 20 pounds of fat. And get big arms.
I want to look like the Rock, with hair. So yeah, lets do this.
Look like The Rock? Hell yeah, you and me both.
Honestly, the odds of the average Joe reaching such a lofty goal are basically zero.
Actually, they are zero. No chance whatsoever.
But the likelihood that he’ll fall short of this ambitious goal and land well beyond the “realistic” goals set by the first guy is great.
And the odds that our truthful guy will continue to build upon his modest success long after Mr. Realistic has rationalized that he was “too busy to exercise” and quit working out altogether are even greater still.
Some of the most valuable time you can spend isn’t with your coworkers or spouse or even your idiot kids — seriously, your kids are idiots; doesn’t make them bad people though – it’s with yourself.
Now time with yourself isn’t just a crude euphuism for what teenage boys do in the bathroom – it’s what smart, successful, happy men should do, almost every day.
In the case of your physique, start today by asking yourself: what do you want? Not what society or your wife wants, what do you want?
Do you want to have respectable cholesterol numbers and be able to keep up with your kids – or is that just politically correct bullshit you think sounds appropriate?
Is what you really want to be more muscular? Have big arms and visible abs? Sport an impressive squat or bench press?
Do you want to look great for your age or just look great, period?
It’s not being self-centered. But even if it is, if you aren’t going to put yourself first then who is?
This is the most important question everyone must ask themselves before embarking on any type of exercise “journey.”
Just remember, there are no “wrong” answers. I know many guys who in their 20’s sailed far into the dark waters of bodybuilding and now, at the old age of 40, just want to be healthy and look like they lift. And because they’re being honest with themselves, they get no grief from me.
So pour yourself a glass of whiskey and consider this one small but vital aspect of being a man – your physical being.
What exactly do you want?
Only then can we move to the next step — figuring out what you need.