Name: Noah Siegel
Weight: 218 lbs
Occupation: Physique athlete, Optimum Nutrition-sponsored athlete, personal trainer
Yes, lifting weights has transformed my body. I'm stronger, leaner, and more jacked now than I have ever been. However, the most important aspects of my fitness transformation are not the physical changes, but the mental fortitude and focus I've gained and the life lessons I've learned along the way.
As I look back, I realize my iron education taught me things I use in everyday life. I may have started in the gym as a 19-year-old kid trying to get strong and impress the ladies, but the relationship between me and the weights turned into something much more meaningful. Pushing, pulling, and squatting what's probably now millions of pounds has provided me with skills that extend far beyond the gym.
Here's what training has taught me about life:
Failure isn't failure
If you've never missed a lift or reached complete muscle failure, you haven't been pushing yourself hard enough. In order to become stronger, you must progressively overload your muscles to the point where they literally can't do more.
In the gym, you should be purposefully trying to fail. These failures are actually steps in the right direction. Eventually, that huge deadlift PR will be yours. Eventually, you'll have the biceps peak you've always wanted. But you won't achieve these goals unless you're constantly pushing yourself to failure.
Although it might be difficult to do, try to view your failures outside the gym as attempts to build your best life. Maybe you don't have to go through life feeling terrible every time you fail. Pushing yourself to be the best student, co-worker, parent, friend, or spouse will undoubtedly lead to some disappointments, but you can always pick the dumbbell—or whatever your implement may be—back up and try again.
The iron never lies
As Henry Rollins once wrote, "The Iron never lies to you." It doesn't care if you're tired, fat, hungry, or just stupid. A barbell loaded with 250 pounds is always going to be 250 pounds, no matter how you feel. Try to blame the iron for not getting your reps, and it'll just stare back at you. Your bad attitude won't change the fact that the bar still weighs 250 pounds.
Don't look to blame your inability to perform on something or someone else. Of course there are times when outside factors affect the outcome of events, but you need to ask yourself whether you've done everything in your power to succeed.
Lifting weights is simple: You focus all your energy on moving an implement from point A to point B. Taking this approach to other aspects of your life will help you simplify difficult tasks. There are no choices and no excuses, only focus and will.
Do more than just show up
To be successful in life and in training, you have to do more than just show up. Don't be that guy who simply goes through the motions. You've seen him in the gym; he comes in, does his curls and bench press, and then hops on a treadmill for 20 minutes. He lifts the same weights, works at the same pace, and does the same exercises over and over again. He may have been doing this for years, but his body never changes. Like everything else, he's getting what he puts into it.
If you show up every day and do a half-assed job, you will get half-assed results. If you want results, you need to constantly strive for new heights and progressively overload. Stop doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.
Focus is a learned skill
It's easy to tell yourself to focus, but learning how to block out the world and use tunnel vision to see the task ahead of you takes some practice. Do it first in the gym. Go over what you are about to do and see the positive result in your head before you attempt anything. When you are in the moment, there should be nothing else on your mind.
In my mind, attempting a heavy squat is the ultimate lesson in channeling your entire being into making something happen. If you attempt a max-effort squat without any previous mental preparation, you'll get crushed.
Through the years, I've learned how to take this intense focus and use it to accomplish other tasks in my life. You can do the same. Once you get the hang of it in the gym, apply it to other areas of your life. If you want something badly enough, shut out all the distractions around you and do it!
You are capable of greatness
The most important lesson the gym has taught me is that through hard work, I can do things I never imagined possible. I changed my life because I wanted to achieve something and wouldn't let anything get in my way.
You don't have to be the biggest or the strongest guy in the world to learn these lessons or their practicality in life. There's a reason many athletes are successful outside of sports. They learn to face their challenges head-on and battle through them.
Through our triumphs at the gym, we learn we can be triumphant in life.