July 24, 2015

Training the Mindful Muscle: 3 Lessons I’ve Learned from Bodybuilding.

woman strong muscle vintage JPEG

What comes to mind when you think of professional bodybuilders?

If it’s chiseled, juiced up bodies, obnoxious, weight room grunting and countless selfies whilst flexing in a mirror, you aren’t alone. Bodybuilders come with a certain egotistical stereotype. Their rap generally isn’t positive, though, I contend, weight lifting is great for building the mindful muscle.

Hear me out.

Not all bodybuilders are in it for the boost to their vanity driven ego. In fact, many people turn to weight lifting for far more thoughtful reasons beyond striving for those rock hard abs. Here’s my story.

Three years ago, my life took an unexpected turn. I was a full time university student, mother to three little boys, working full time and smack dab in the middle of a divorce, trying my damnedest to hold it all together. I desperately needed to blow off some steam and this was when I stumbled upon the world of competitive bodybuilding—it was the very breath of fresh air that I needed! Sure, the beautiful bodies and the glamor that goes hand in hand with the competition side of the sport were undeniably alluring but getting started was anything but pretty or glamorous.

Training six days a week was intense, to say the very least and it challenged me in a way I had not yet experienced. While I had always been involved with various forms of physical fitness from the sports I played as kid, to my yoga teacher status and my on again, off again love affair with the treadmill, none of those gave me what pumping iron did, which, coincidentally were some pretty unexpected things.

Here are 3 of the biggest gains I made:

1. Being present.

Lifting requires a certain undivided attention. I had dabbled in lifting here and there since my high school years but once I decided to commit to lifting at a competitive level, I had to learn to focus my attention. My basic form had to be correct and my mind had to be in the right place. Whatever I was going through or whatever I was stressing about had to be left outside of the gym.

Learning to let go was a huge struggle for me. When I stepped into the weight room, it had to be just me and that stubborn old barbell. And, you know what? Once I did let go, my world didn’t come crashing down around me like I though it might if I wasn’t constantly stressing or thinking about a solution to my problems. In fact, the level of focus needed paired with learning to truly relinquish myself and my thoughts to the process were incredibly freeing and refreshing. This inspired me to be wholly present in other areas of my life during my day to day activities.

Just let go. Slow down. Things will be okay.

2. Patience.

As much as anybody who decides to do anything I would love to see immediate results but that just isn’t the way it typically works. Bodybuilding is a long but satisfying process. There were times when I felt like giving up because I wasn’t seeing progress quickly as I wanted it to but instead, I forged ahead slowly and steadily. The mantra “trust the process” is one that I’ve had to remind myself of often. It is incredible what can be accomplished with a bit of dedication and some hard work even if you’re moving at what seems like a snail’s pace. This too leaked into my day to day life.

Be patient and be persistent and the results will follow.

3. Fortitude.

Both mental and physical fortitude are taken to the limit. Whether it’s busting out those last two reps, reaching a new personal record or resisting the temptation to break the diet, you’ll learn just what kind of stuff you are made of. Accepting the momentary pain knowing that true gratification for reaching a goal is just around the corner was, for me, the true measure of strength.

Sometimes in life we have to deal with tough and unpleasant things. That’s real life and it’s doable, easy even, when we realize the hard and the painful stuff is temporary and that good things are just on the horizon.

So, there you have it. Bodybuilding has shaped me in more ways than just physically. I stuck to the program, trusted the process and placed in all of my competitions. I’ve also become a more mindful meat head inside and outside of the gym.

I would (and do) recommend this sport to anyone and everyone willing to listen regardless of starting point or personal goals. See what kind of gains you make.


Author: Taija Jackson

Editor: Katarina Tavčar

Photo: Wikimedia Free Domain

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