Everything I ever learned about how to behave properly I learned in the gym

Many of us didn’t learn how to behave properly in our own homes, we had to learn it along the way. Many people had parents teach them about being polite, or pushing through setbacks, or being nice. I learned everything I need to know about how to behave properly in the gym. In fact, maybe some people need to be reminded how to transfer what they know in the gym to real life. Let me get real with you about how to behave properly starting from the gym.

Lesson number 1. Don’t play the victim.

My athletes know they are not allowed to say “It is cold,” or “It is hot,” because I would say: “IT” is not hot. YOU are hot in it. Take responsibility for your life! Once you take ownership of how you feel, you instantly feel a sense of autonomy and empowerment to make things different. “I am hot in it,” tells my mind I need to dress or hydrate differently next time. “it is hot,” means someone else has to take care of my needs. Or someone else is to blame. And you lose.

Lesson number 2. Recognize you have a choice.

I have a screwed up knee and two screwed up feet. When someone tells me they don’t run or play tennis or soccer, or whatever anymore because they tore their meniscus, or had knee surgery of some sort, my hackles go up! Every day I run in pain. It’s a choice I make because the alternative is anathema to me. When you have an injury of some sort, it is your choice not to play because you are not willing to do the movement necessary to keep it strong. Your knee will not bust off because of a tear. It will hurt. But with a  little regular strength training, you can control the damage and still be moving. Use language that tells the story that it is your choice. It was not chosen for you. That frees you up to get creative about how you can do what you want to do.

Lesson number 3. Hand out complements regularly

Smile and complement people no matter how beautiful they are. I’m not saying all people don’t need a complement, I’m saying beautiful people are not as self-deprecating, so it’s a little more fun. I spoke to one of those people years ago who told me she rarely ever hears a complement because everyone always assumes she already knows it. But she said she still likes a complement. And she graciously accepts. And it’s nice to not have your kind words trampled on by “Oh thanks BUT.… I have a long way to go… I look like shit today… I’m so fat…” etc.

Lesson number 4 – Accept a complement with a wide smile.

It’s not attractive to blow of someone’s complement! Smile and say Thank you! People don’t like their words or their sentiments to be wasted. It’s rude and it makes us less lovely. On the contrary, a smile and a gracious “Thank you,” makes us much more beautiful.

Lesson number 5 – Pain is temporary. Trust it will be over soon.

I race Obstacle Course Races, and I will guarantee you there is no more painful sport in terms of the effort it takes to race, and the grueling pursuit of training. No matter what your sport, if you want to improve you have to experience a little bit of discomfort or pain. Remember this when you’re stuck in traffic, or there is no hot water in the shower, or you have to wait extra long for your airplane: The pain is temporary. Trust it will be over soon. This was one of those giant paradigm shifts I experienced recently. I have panic attacks because of my trust issues. When I am able to get my mind right, that the pain is temporary; that I can trust it will end soon, I am able to talk myself out of the panic.

Lesson number 6 – Trust the process.

If you’re a person who has any sense for planning at all you know what I mean. There are times when we want to quit because the vision doesn’t seem to be anywhere near reality. But if we stop to look at the plan,  we see there is no way it can’t work, so we have to motor on through; trust the process.

Lesson 7 – Get out of people’s way. Even if they’re assholes.

Chances are, they are not assholes, they’re just having a bad day, but sometimes they are assholes because they just don’t know how to behave. We are not going to change them by getting in their face. I’ll never forget, many moons ago, when I was a newbie gym-rat, I reached for a set of dumbbells to do something- I can’t remember, let’s say it was biceps curls. I turned to work, and this giant muscle-head dude sitting on an incline bench behind me lit into me about getting in the way of his mirror image. I was dumbfounded. I apologized and moved. I was young then, and very insecure, so I would never have picked a fight. But now, even more I wouldn’t because I don’t want to waste one milli-second of mental energy on things I can’t change. We can’t change asshole or a bad day by getting combative. That also goes for responding to stuff we disagree with on Facebook or any social media.

Lesson 8 – Sometimes you’re feeling like Shit. That’s ok.

Even perfectionist social-butterflies are allowed to have bad days! People will forgive us for not being the life of the party! You don’t feel like working out because you don’t want to talk to anyone?! GO ANYWAY! Put your headphones on, hunker down and go. Better yet, don’t put your headphones on, don’t hunker down and be real with people who ask. “I feel like shit today. Don’t bother me.” That gets respect! Being real with people is always better than not being real. We don’t need to unload all of our problems, but we can be real about how we’re feeling in the moment.

Lesson 9 – Know your Why

Sometimes I move through pain. Through apathy. Through disappointment. Through agony of wanting to quit for one reason only: I don’t want to be on any medication! I’m just shooting straight with you. No judgement. It’s just me. But I just do not want to be in such a mental state that I have to take medication. I’m not one of those naturally happy people, so I have to work very hard at it. About every few months I take a dose of four ibuprofen to eliminate the inflammation in my knee and body. And the relief I get, I imagine, is what people who get high feel when they smoke dope. It’s such a beautiful thing for about 36 hours. But I practice restraint every day. I’ll be real with you, I tell you this because I want to inspire someone to be strong like I am about it. I don’t want to be on drugs! If that is you too, we have to get up EVERY DAY and make the choice to make the right decisions! Exercises is ALWAYS the right decision. Getting outside is always the right decision. Exercise outdoors with no headphones so you can practice mindfulness is frequently the right decision. Know your why and make the right decision.

Lesson 10 – Stare in the mirror regularly

Vanity saves my life every day. Those who get judgmental about people who spend an hour or more looking the mirror don’t understand that it is the game-changer in our usefulness on this planet. I am much more motivated to teach and inspire and lead others (i.e. use my gifts) when I am feeling good about myself. I feel good about myself when I am fit and strong and muscular. I am feeling weak and insecure and less useful when I don’t exercise. Anyone who goes to the gym probably feels the same way. Don’t ever feel guilty for wanting to look at yourself in the mirror. Or for being motivated to get up in the morning so you can watch your muscles grow. There is a very good chance it’s those exact moments that are building your confidence and courage to be a better parent, co-worker, daughter or person.