Category Archives: motivation

Article Request Series: How has Instagram Changed Strength Training, Body Image Expectations, and Motivation?

Welcome to your front row seat to the world’s most impressive strength feats, abs shredded beyond belief, narrow waists, augmented breasts, and the world’s fittest and most attractive people at your finger tips, all you have to do is pull out your phone and scroll.

Instagram has become the unofficial home of fitness on the internet, it seems that every amateur powerlifter (guilty), aspiring bodybuilder or bikini competitor has a page and is publicly documenting their progress. On top of all these amateur and aspiring athletes, we have instant access to the world’s top lifters posting their training and competitions, and the world’s most attractive nearly-naked fitness models posting motivational photos with quasi-inspirational quotes. I would argue that no single platform has changed the landscape of fitness more than Instagram. Some of these changes have been positive, some have been negative, and for the most part, Instagram’s role in the fitness industry is still being written.

Instagram’s Positive Influence

People are starting

So has all this exposure actually inspired anyone to take up fitness and get after their goals? I’d say a resounding yes. I still remember when one of the lifters I was training told me the meet he wanted to enter sold out in 6 minutes… wait what? I missed a couple years in the powerlifting world due to a bad injury, and just 3-4 years earlier meets didn’t sell out, you signed up a couple weeks before the meet because you kept on forgetting to go online and actually fill out the form. Now there’s an explosion of new lifters looking to get their chance on the platform to test themselves, and there are even a few people in the general public who know what powerlifting is.

How about the bodybuilding shows? Right now the sport at the grassroots level is being financially kept afloat by the explosion of Insta-inspired bikini competitors and men’s physique category, outnumbering the bodybuilding, figure, and physique classes by at least 2:1 combined! The explosion of popularity in the strength and physique sports has been nothing short of phenomenal. Never before has it been more possible or in-vogue to start your fitness journey, document the entire thing, and attempt to inspire others to do the same.

Bigger goals and dreams

I know personally that Instagram has shown me that my initial goals were actually too low, and opened my eyes to what kind of strength feats are possible even at my current weight class. I can see what the top in my sport are doing, and expect better of myself. Seeing what world class lifters are doing has inspired me to chase higher goals myself, and even if I don’t hit them, I’ll have ended up further ahead trying to achieve them had I not changed my perspective in the first place

A chance to interact with the elite

I’ve actually had conversations with world’s top lifters and most successful strength coaches. Alice Matos pointed people towards an article I had written and offered some advice for my female clients, Paige Hathaway (pictured with the boxing gloves in the main picture) responded to my questions about her supplement line. I’ve learned from top physical therapists like John Rusin who has taken the time to point me towards further learning resources and answered questions about a shoulder injury, and I could list countless others, and all of this happened via Instagram. The best information and the best people in the world have never been so accessible, and you’d be surprised how many of them will take time out of their day to help you.

The Dark Side of Instagram

It’s not real

Most people know that the photos of Anllela Sagra (pictured left) and Devin Physique (pictured right) are heavily photoshopped, use professional lighting and photographers, airbrushing, hell they even shrink the skin with ice and apply other crazy industry tricks all to get the best photo possible. Even with all those tips and tricks, they’re still going throw away 80-90% of the photos they took, using only the best angles that portray a completely unrealistic image of what the model actually looks like. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “stop trying to look like the girl on the magazine, the girl on the magazine doesn’t even look like the girl on the magazine” it couldn’t be more true; however, that doesn’t seem to stop us from comparing ourselves to these caricatures of our favourite fitness models.

It can obscure your view of your own progress

I should be celebrating, so should Cam, and so should Marina, but we’re not, we’re all struggling with confidence issues directly related to our relationship with social media, specifically stuff we’ve seen on Instagram; Let me explain. Marina signed up for her first powerlifting meet in January, she’s been training hard and she’s made incredible progress, putting on 30+ pounds on her squat bench and deadlift in a matter of a couple short months, and despite her relatively short training cycle, she’s going to be competitive in her weight class at her upcoming meet in January. By all measures she’s making incredible progress, but like many others, she follows some of the best lifters on Instagram, and every time they post a video of their new PR, she just feels further behind. Cam recently added 100lbs to his bench press in record time, hitting the 4 plate mark for the first time in his life, which is something that not many people ever do, regardless of bodyweight; however, with the world at your fingertips, it’s one thumb stroke away to see someone doing 4 plates or more with ease, and it can seem like this is the norm and allow it to cheapen your own accomplishment. We tend to lose perspective of our own significant achievements with this skewed perspective that 4 plate benchers just grow on trees. I had a similar experience after missing a 635lb deadlift, and there was Jesse Norris, a weight class underneath me, pulling it for an easy 8 reps. The reality is not everyone who starts their fitness journey can end up in the world’s elite, the best are the best for a reason, but that shouldn’t stop you from celebrating your accomplishments along the way.

Mistreatment and misinformation

“you can’t even see the difference in those photos, you’re still fat! haha” – ready for these kind of interactions? That was a real comment taken from a transformation picture that trainer had posted online of one of her clients. People can be ruthless when they’re sitting behind the safety of their phone screen, and if you make your profile public, be prepared for some abuse. I personally can’t stand to read the comments on popular Instagram posts anymore, perhaps I’d like to ignorantly keep some faith in humanity. Making a change to your lifestyle or chasing a grandiose performance goal is already incredibly intimidating, the last thing anyone needs is some asshole keyboard warrior talking shit to make themselves feel better about whatever short coming of their own they’re overcompensating for.

Although Instagram is going to give you the chance to interact with some of the world’s best, for every knowledgeable person, there’s at least 20 others aggressively marketing the most ridiculous of quick fixes and lacklustre fitness products and supplements, so beware and have a strong bullshit filter on at all times.

So has Instagram had a net positive or negative effect on fitness as a whole? I’m not sure, but as an individual you can use it as motivational tool, and a chance to interact with like minded people. If you feel the negative side effects starting to creep in, feel free to check out, unfollow, go private, and take a moment to reflect on just how far you’ve come.

 

 

Article Request Series: How to Stay Motivated When Life Gets in the Way

 

Motivation as an emotion fades for everyone – everyone, at some point in their training career, therefore motivation must come in the form of strong reason why you’re doing this in the first place

Think of all the people with amazing intentions at the beginning of the year, it’s January, it’s a new year, and the motivation for change is at an all time high. A large number of those people will actually take action, buy new workout clothes, get a book on nutrition, sign up at the gym and for a few weeks to two months they will actually go! If you’ve ever been in a gym in January you can attest to all the new faces and the long waits for equipment, but, around mid February, the gym floor goes quiet, and you’re once again left with the same familiar faces week in and week out all the way to December 31st. So what separates these familiar faces from the ones who dropped out in mid February? Do they have less responsibilities, no kids, and an easy job that doesn’t have weird hours or mentally taxes them? Maybe, but probably not. What about those people who were there in January and into February? Were those months inherently less busy than the other 10 months of the year? Did life conveniently take a cease fire on all schedule crisis during those months? Maybe, but also probably not.

The biggest difference between those that make it day in and day out and those who start strong but quickly fade is usually the strength of their reason why they’re there in the first place. The second biggest difference is that they turned goals into habits, which are much less dependent on motivation to complete.

You should have goals, you should have specific goals, and they should mean something to you – that last part can’t be stressed enough. For me personally, I used to be motivated by chasing records, pushing my potential as far as it could possibly be stretched, and always competing against my former self. Now, 2 years ago two separate doctors told me I would never powerlift again, and fuck that, no one tells me I won’t be able to do something, I’ll show you – thanks for the motivation! These are the things that keep me going on days where everything hurts, I’m being a little bitch, and I want to make excuses as to why I can’t train that day. Your reasons should be different, but they’d better mean something to you. If you want to lose 20lbs of fat, why? What would be different? how do you view yourself now, and how would that change if you were to accomplish and maintain your fat loss goal?

Now that you’ve got your goal, and your reason why, write it down in detail as a note to yourself. Sounds cheesy? Fuck it, it probably is, but do it anyways. Tell yourself what drives you, why it really matters, and what it would mean to you to accomplish it. Now that you’ve got it put it somewhere you’ll see everyday; I personally recommend the bathroom mirror or taped to the side of the bedside table so you can’t cover it with other shit and forget about it. Read it when you need to, chances are you’ll stop reading it fairly quickly, but every time you see it you’ll be reminded why you’re doing this in first place. The plain fact of the matter is that you have time for what you deem important, and your schedule tells no lies. If you watch 5-6 hours per week of netflix or any type of non productive screen time, you had enough time to accomplish your fitness goals. What you’re actually saying if you choose netflix over fitness is that it’s more important to you, and you have a stronger reason to watch TV than to train, and you know what, that’s ok! BUT, DON’T TELL ANYONE THE REASON YOU COULDN’T ACCOMPLISH YOUR GOALS WAS BECAUSE YOU DON’T HAVE ENOUGH TIME! You’re making barriers that don’t exist.

Now the second part is to turn that initial motivation into habits you can keep. So you’re motivated to lose 20lbs of fat and you’ve got strong reasons why, now what is it going to take to lose that? Depends on where you start and how much you have to lose, but science seems to point towards 5-6 hours per week of planned exercise and changes to your nutrition, and possibly lifestyle changes as well. So instead of trying to change everything at once, start with one habit, for instance, make it a goal to get into the gym 4x this week. Keep plugging away at this goal until you get in consistently for at least two weeks in a row, this is your only goal! Don’t worry if you fail, just keep trying until you nail it. Now on to the next habit. You probably don’t eat enough vegetables, so lets start there, try to eat at least a handful of veggies with every meal and eat them first. Got it two weeks in a row? Awesome, onto the next one. Maybe you drink too much juice, pop, beer, or wine, so the next goal is to drink water only for the next two weeks. Repeat these habit goals and the goals will accomplish themselves.

The cool thing about developing habits is that one at a time, you develop the skills to keep them. Say for instance you struggle with the first habit of making it to the gym 4x per week, perhaps you always struggle with finding the energy to go back to the gym after you come home and eat dinner, so you realize that you need to pack a protein shake in your car so you can hit the gym on the way home. You get to develop your own personal strategies that help you overcome your barriers one habit at a time, and once those barriers are defeated, and habits are formed, they require much less active mental attention and motivation to get them done, it’s not much different than how you made brushing your teeth a part of your routine.

One thing I’ll touch on is developing a good relationship with your ability to move and exercise. It’s easy to view hard physical work as punishment or dread some of the feelings of pushing yourself (muscle burn, nausea, fatigue etc.) but ask someone who’s had that ability taken away from them how much they miss the ability to move and be in control of their own physical destiny, and how hard it is for them to sit on the sidelines. My heart and mind goes out to Erin right now, who is battling cancer, just starting chemo, and can’t wait to get back in the gym the moment she can. She knows that movement and exercise are privileges, not punishment; don’t wait until your lifestyle choices make it to the point where you can’t move anymore without pain or complications to realize this. 

Motivation may start as an emotion, but it continues as a discipline, you may need to re-motivate yourself by reminding yourself why you started, but your discipline and habits will carry you through the rough times when you don’t feel like going. When life gets busy the only thing that can keep you going is making yourself a priority, dont quit! You deserve to demand better from yourself. Realize that the decision not get after your goals is always a decision, and your schedule will tell you what you’re making a priority. Remember, you have the privilege of having the ability to get after your goals, so do it! You fucking got this!