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Benefits of lifting for our heart, minds and soul

We all know that exercise training has oodles of benefits for the physical health of our bodies. Not only does performing regular exercise decrease our risk of heart disease, diabetes and depression but it also increases our bone health and longevity.

However for many of us, myself included, we gain so much more from our time in the gym than an improvement in our physical wellness. There is far more to lifting weights than solely muscle contractions, bulging biceps or heavy squats we simply need to take our training experiences and lessons into our daily lives.

These are my personal Top 10 Life Lessons from Lifting

1. Self belief is powerful

Self-belief is at the very core of both professional and personal success; yet on a daily basis I work with individuals who lack confidence, who feel unworthy, who find it near impossible to comprehend that they have the ability inside themselves to make positive life changes.

Weight training encompasses setting goals that seem beyond our capabilities. In a dedicated and consistent fashion we work towards them until suddenly we have reached our goal, and what once seemed unfeasible has been achieved, giving us a huge sense of self fulfilment.

From a personal perspective. 12 months ago, squatting two and half times my bodyweight seemed impossible, ridiculous almost; yet after setting smaller goals, staying dedicated and consistent to training, I did it, breaking a British Record along the way. So first hand, I can promise that there is nothing more fulfilling than doing something that once seemed impossible.

… Impossible is nothing

2. Be relentless (90% of the time)

If we want results in the weights room, in our education or our career, we must learn to be relentless. We must decide what we want and not stop until we get it, ensuring our passion remains along the way.

Physical strength and mental strength go hand in hand. If we take responsibility and learn to be relentless we teach ourselves to embrace discipline, we can find security in physical training because we know it is a stepping stone to achieving our dream physique or getting a personal best. If training feels hard we learn to work harder, and the same goes for life. We all face tough times, but by being tough ourselves means we can cope in a healthier way.

3. Work hard. Rest harder.

After a training session we must ensure our bodies get the correct nutrition and rest in order for them to recover, adapt and become stronger. The same goes for our minds; modern life is stressful. Most of us juggle busy jobs with children, education qualifications and keeping the home tidy, and if not that then we are worrying about money or family or stuck in rush hour traffic.

At some point we need to stop. We need to consider life quality. We need to take some time out for self-care, whether it is something as simple as reading a book, going to yoga or baking something with the family. It is crucial, so I have learnt, to “sharpen the saw” from time to time.

4. Be accountable

Accountability to both ourselves and others is without doubt one of the best assurances to reach our goals. If we plan our training, write our weights down every single session we can ensure we hit every rep, no exercise will be missed, progress will be almost certain. Writing down our goals and telling others what we are doing reflects the integrity of our actions.

In life if we choose to surround ourselves with people that make us do better, that make us accountable to our pursuits, that support us to take ownership of goals, then we learn to take responsibility, to improve ourselves and reach that goal.

5. Be all in

We have all been there at some point in the gym just going through the motions, our minds in a far distant land; however teaching ourselves to be fully present during training is important to get the most out of it. It is something I teach individuals during sessions, a one hour training session is 4% of their day, so during that time switch off and focus purely on training.

In modern life we are surrounded by distractions, it only takes walking into a coffee shop to see friends spending more time of their phones than talking to each other. Shamefully I have been guilty of it too, whilst playing my role as Ashoka Tano fighting Hondo Ohnaka so he didn’t steal my Starship I was quickly responding to an important work email, this upset my son, he doesn’t understand about work he just wants mummy to play Starwars with him. So now when I play Starwars, my phone is turned off, and like when I am training, I am fully focused on the present, I am fighting for my Starship, I am all in.

6. Step outside the comfort zone

Going into the same gym with the same training partner, following the same training session as last week is what happens to a few of us from time to time, we get into a routine, we develop our comfort zone.

Now, comfort zones are great, but nothing magical ever happens there. To progress in training we how to go beyond our comfort zones, go to a different gym, train with somebody new, change up the exercises, push ourselves to an uncomfortable place. It can be hard, and there are times when we’ll want to give up, but that is when we get results.

Likewise in life, if we want something we have never had we have to be willing to do something we have never done, to be fearless and to feel a little awkward from time to time.

7. Slow progress is better than no progress

Sometimes during training we feel like we aren’t progressing, that we are only marginally increasing the weights we are lifting, often forgetting that a marginal increase is still an increase.

Personally, during training I am massive fan of biscuits (not those types!), biscuits are the tiny weight plates we add onto the barbell – only usually a kilo or two in weight. Adding these are sometimes unnoticeable from rep to rep, but add a great deal to the total volume lifted in a session. It is those little progressions we need to appreciate because little by little, a little becomes a lot.

It is important that we take the time every now and then to look back, to see how far we have come and realise that slow progress is still progress.

8. Put the first things first.

When we train we usually train the compound movements first, these are the most important ones, the ones which we will get the best results from. These ones need energy, need focus and need passion to complete, but they are also the hardest ones. The ones that if we put them at the end of the workout, we walk away from because they would break us.

If in life we learn to prioritise, to put the most energy into the most important things in our lives even though they may be difficult, it is those that we reap the most reward from. Many of us will recall times where we have put off that really difficult piece of work until the last minute because we choose to procrastinate over easier tasks. By putting it first we can ensure it is done to our best ability.

Spending time with family is crucial to our life quality but often neglected until the washing is done/the house is tidy/ emails are answered all of which do need doing, but are ultimately insignificant in comparison.

9. Failing is completely acceptable

In training we sometimes use the term “train to failure”, this literally means pushing out reps until the muscle is exhausted. This allows the muscle to adapt and to become stronger so next time it can better deal with that stress. In this situation we see failure as a positive, because as a result of failure we develop strength.

In everyday life we tend to fear failure, yet when we train if we fail a lift, we adjust our technique, we ask for spotter, failure simply makes us more motivated to succeed in that lift.

If we want to be successful in life we have to change our attitude to failure, that is not something that is shameful nor is it final, it is simply a lesson. To look at something a slightly different way. To ask for help. To try again.

10. Enjoy the journey

Any athlete that has ever stepped foot on a podium is immeasurably grateful; however it is the process to that podium, enjoying every training session, relishing in every qualifying event, appreciating every nutritious meal that makes the success truly unforgettable.

In the gym if we stress over how far away we are from the results we want it will take the passion out of our training; instead if we enjoy our time in the gym and lift with enthusiasm the results will creep up on us without us even realising!

So often we become so focused on getting to the finish line that we forget to enjoy our journey there. In the 21st Century life is fast paced, we race from one thing to the next and end up living busy yet somewhat insignificant lives. By focusing on the present and by appreciating the people in our lives we can regain a sense of self, be happy and help others to be happy.

Life life fully

Rachel x