photo on left was taken after the 3month training block 18th August 2018, photo on Right was taken 9th March 2018
A matter of perspective – Cesar Ayala
Recently I finished a 12 week training program that made me go 9 times per week to the gym. Monday + Tuesday twice, Wednesday rest, Thursday + Friday twice and Saturday once (Sunday, rest). In total, counting the extra week that I did before starting as a test, it’s around 110 sessions at the gym, of an average time there of 90 min per session (plus around 40 min walking to go and come back from the gym) . A shitload of time, there are long time relationships that last less that the time I spent walking to the gym and being there. Funny thing is it was me who decided to go 9 times. I could have gone between 5 and 10 times per week, I chose 9 every week.
In that time I’ve lost 8 kilos, which could have been more because I spent one week in Spain eating my mum’s food, so I came back with a little extra. I’ve beaten my PB at squats and recovered my deadlift to a decent level, but injured my right shoulder so I had to stop benching, in fact it’s still not 100% okay. I’ve been able to go on the rower for one hour (666 calories, metal as fuck!), but also pulled my hamstring badly when I tried to sprint running. My belly has gone down more than 5 inches, which means that soon I’ll have to buy a weightlifting belt to be able to keep the pace, because the belly is not as “protected” as it was. I’ve fallen face first trying to “jump” a box and I’ve been able to do pull ups, proper pull ups, on the bar and the rings, for the first time in my life.
To be able to work, study and going that much to the gym I had to change my life habits: no more late nights, drinking only once per week (Saturday most of the cases), keep a healthy diet (with a deficit to lose weight), stopped smoking (well, I vape) and started waking up around 6 AM nearly every day of the week. Of the 1440 minutes that a day has, I was busy (sleeping, training, walking, etc.) for more than 1200. I know because I made an Excel about it.
As you can see, I don’t mention only the good stuff, because that wouldn’t be honest. I’ve been tired, I’ve been in pain, I’ve been pushing my limits to new heights, losing the weight, keeping so busy that going to bed at 10 PM was a blessing. There have been good days and bad days.
Many people at the gym have asked me what was the hardest part. And I’ve to say, the hardest part is the right now. Let me explain: The past is set in stone, so it’s already done, all those reps, and all those movements are in the DONE list. All the mistakes and successes are done, in the past; yes, burning those calories on the cardio machines was a torment, but it’s already done. The future is still ahead, I can’t say that the hardest part is something that hasn’t happened yet, so the hardest part must be then, the right now. Going again to the gym for the 4th time in two days. Doing another set. Knowing when to stop. Getting out of bed. And at the same time, if you look about what I said from a different perspective, those were exactly the best parts. Because all those great reps and great days that are in the past, are already done too. Because those new PB that I could achieve in 2 months haven’t happened yet, the best part is then, right now. So I try to enjoy and get the most of it, because I prefer to think about it as a good time instead of as a bad time.
When I’m struggling and having a “bad day” I remember the past. There was upon a time when that exactly same kind of exercise that I’m not doing as good as usual today, was my best. The other day I had to stop squatting at 150 kilos, couldn’t go up to the 170×3 that I did just a few days before. And yes, that’s the kind of thing that gets under your skin, but I remembered the time when even doing 3 reps with 150 kilos was impossible and how I felt when I did ONE. So that day, which was my best day… was now one of the bad days? How’s that even possible? How’s being better than my past self a bad thing? That doesn’t make any sense! The only thing that makes senses is that being better than my past self is a good thing!
Also, nobody told me that this was going to be easy. Hell, I decided to do it because it was going to be very hard and demanding! What the fuck I’m complaining now about? “Oy, that thing that was going to be complicated, well, is complicated, so I don’t want it anymore, I’m disappointed”. So I grind my teeth, collect myself the best I can and keep going. Because if you stop doing something you wanted to do because it gets hard and difficult, that means that you never wanted it.
But without any doubt the most important part was that I was doing something that I liked. I like going to the gym, seeing the people that goes there, doing stuff with the barbell, moving around, and trying to be a little better every day. If you see training as a curse and changing your life habits as a punishment, you are not going to achieve much. Maybe you do it, but feeling miserable each step of the way is not worth it. So change your perspective. Look things from a different angle. Don’t be surprised when things happen, good or bad. Yes, you can get injured and yes nobody likes being injured, but that also will allow you to rethink how you do things, to change your patterns, to learn more. Also don’t get too cocky when results start to appear, because having a great day doesn’t guarantee that from now on, every single day is going to be great. Assume that, without failures, there are no successes, and the other way around also applies. Pick a goal that can be done, save the “Do the impossible!” and all that to the TV ads. Be realistic and honest.
But also start doing it now. Don’t let the tomorrow kidnap you and start a cycle about “I’ll do it tomorrow” or “I’ll start next month” or “I’ll do it when I get a break”. When I was reading the stoic philosophers I found one quote of Marcus Aurelius that defines this perfectly:
“You get what you deserve. Instead of being a good person today, you choose instead to become one tomorrow”.
In the same way, don’t let the past become the prison of your future. Not being able to do something doesn’t mean that you will never be able to do it. Failing in the past doesn’t mean an eternity of failures. Learn from your failures, yes, but don’t let them dominate your present.
So try to achieve that goal you are looking for. One of the best things about training is that it’s not a competition that you need to win. If you can’t keep the pace, you can slow down. If you are not able to go X times per week to the gym, you can go less. If you can’t lift the bar, you can drop it. What matters is not losing the will to keep doing it, to enjoy it while you do it and understanding that by doing it, you are changing your life in a very important way.
And what’s life, other than constant change?