by Matt Weik
When you call yourself a fitness fanatic, do you sometimes wonder what other people’s stories are like? What I mean is the person exercising next to you. Or the person you always see in the gym. What is their background? Why are they exercising, what results have they seen and what goals have they achieved? And most importantly, what obstacles did they have to overcome?
The unfortunate thing about people who exercise and look in shape is that those who don’t exercise put them in a box. This box is referred to as someone who is self-centered, narcissistic, conceited, and only cares about their looks. Yes of course. People like to look good and that may be a reason, but in most cases it has nothing to do with their story and their “why”. It’s just a by-product of the work they do.
But I try to get people to ask other people to share their story. Something like, “Hey, you look great. What made you do it? “It’s that simple. And the interesting thing is that one of three things will be said. They’ll either tell you that they’ve always been in really good shape and try to keep it up, that they were overweight and took the job to burn them off, or they were thin and worked hard to gain good quality muscle mass.
And while some people start from the same point of departure, each individual’s story is different. They are all motivating and inspiring. This is an aspect of training that not many people get to see, as the results of your efforts are very dependent on your body composition. We all need to tell our story about why we exercise more often. It can only motivate someone to start.
Tell the story of why you are exercising
Okay, I’ll go first. You are reading this article so it is obvious that I am a writer. While I’ve enjoyed writing all my life, my passion for writing about health and fitness stems from my athletic background, my time as a trainer and strength trainer, and my own challenges that I faced regarding my own body composition.
When I was born, I was diagnosed with a milk and sugar allergy. This has become a nutritional challenge as most foods contain one or the other. Then, as I grew and became more agile, I found that both knees dislocated extremely easily – so much so that I could sit on a chair and one jumped out and dislocated. The doctors told me that I could never exercise. As a kid in the 80s you could only play outside and do sports (the internet didn’t exist then). So I was determined to prove them wrong. That’s when I decided to train with the light dumbbells we had in the basement and do the usual push-ups and sit-ups (nothing serious).
As I got stronger and my muscles started to develop, my knee dislocation problems went away. That was around the age of 13. I also outgrew my allergies. Fast forward to high school – I was an athlete. I’ve played basketball, soccer, and tennis. It was my sophomore year when I decided to focus entirely on tennis (I liked individual sports where a win or a loss was 100% on me).
I trained hard and hard and found that I was one of the few on the tennis team who would train. I have been very successful with my tennis career which enabled me to play No. 1 at Penn State during my freshman year of college. I weighed 133 pounds at the time and was 5’8 “tall. I was thin but built to play tennis. It was only after my tennis career was over that my focus shifted.
I was fed up with being “thin” and the fact that I had already proven the opposite to doctors made me decide to step into the fitness and bodybuilding world and gain some height after admiring the sizes I did looked in fitness magazines. Today I weigh a healthy 200 pounds. I’ve built a significant amount of muscle and know the hard work I’ve had to put in over the years to even get a size (I was a hardgainer).
This is just my story now. You have one too. When I share my story with those who don’t exercise, some of them will be motivated to exercise. It’s the “if he can do it, so can I” mentality. Getting started is the most difficult for most. Then it remains committed and consistent to take the time to exercise regularly.
Who can you inspire and who can you learn from?
The fitness community is amazing. There are so many people out there who work out and have an amazing and inspiring story to share. From people who were about to develop diabetes, to high blood pressure, morbid obesity, sick or ill people, people who were extremely thin all their lives, to people who were bullied while growing up. Every … person … has … a … story.
Because as much as we have to offer in terms of knowledge and experience, there is so much more that we can learn from others. We all learn better when we learn together. Everyone has something to bring to the table and you don’t have to be today’s so-called “guru” or “expert”.
So many people are ashamed of their “before pictures”. You look at the person in the photo and many feel humiliated. You think to yourself, “I never want anyone to see this picture.” In reality, the person in this photo was the motivator to get them to act and exercise.
Social media seems to have a problem with before and after photos of people because they say they create negative body image. I think it does the opposite. Either you look at the photo and get motivated, or you will look at the photo and get frustrated because you won’t commit to making the change, because it takes work and those pictures get noticed.
I want you to share your own story. Share where you started. The fights. The scars. The sweat. The tears. Share your journey as it could be the only factor sparking determination in someone else to follow in your footsteps and take action for a better, healthier life.