Tag Archives: goals

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.



The Only Thing You Need to Know To Actually Succeed This New Year

This is my one and only post about New Year’s resolutions but I hope it reaches those who truly want to succeed this year. In hopes of actually helping you accomplish your goals this year I’m going to be frank, blunt and honest, because just like you I too have failed time and time again, but if you’re easily offended maybe skip this article.  
First of all I’m not a fan of New Years resolutions and here’s why: there’s no difference between the person you are today or tomorrow unless you make the change, a simple rolling over the page on your calendar won’t make changes for you, you aren’t born again, and guess what? All those challenges and barriers are exactly the same on December 31st as they are on Jan 1st. You flipped the calendar from November to December, did anything change that day? Did you feel different? Where was the fire and driving force for change that day? Or was it just another day that perhaps signified Christmas was coming and, oh shit, what am I going to get Aunt Tracy she has everything… Chances are that if you’re still reading this that you’re in the second camp, nothing happened the last time you flipped the calendar, and most likely this one will be no different. Even more so, chances are this isn’t your first New Years resolution aimed at the same goal, so if it didn’t work last time, what makes you think it will this time? 

The answer is quite simple (but not easy!): YOU have to make it different. 

That’s the unsexy truth about goal setting. If you’re relying on this sense of new that comes from the date on the calendar, not only do you know this will wear off quickly, but you’ve given away control of your life to an arbitrary external event instead of taking responsibility and control of your own direction, and in order to do that you need a strong and compelling reason why you are chasing your goal in the first place. 

Since this is a fitness page we’ll talk about fitness related goals but really these principles apply pretty much anywhere, let’s talk about the most common New Years resolution first: I want to lose x pounds this year and keep it off. Probably the first thing I would recommend to you is to change that to a waist size goal because muscle and fat have different densities and 150lbs can look drastically different depending on the ratios, but that still isn’t getting to the heart of the matter. Why do you want to lose x amount of fat? “To look better” or  “to feel healthy” is too vague and superficial, anyone could say that, why do YOU want to lose that fat? Your answer should be different, unique, and it might sting a little when you say it out loud for the first few times, although soon you should find it empowering as you put the old you in the rear view mirror. Here’s an example of what a goal could look like: 

I want to lose 6 inches off my waist this year, because I’m no longer proud of the person I am when I look in the mirror. I do not like the way I talk to myself throughout the day. I want to walk into a room without silently judging myself in other’s voices. I want to feel like I am worthy of attention and I no longer want to cringe, recoil, and silently refute every time I’m complimented. I want to get to a point where I value myself for my ideas, the way I treat people. I will not view myself a waking set of love handles and stomach fat another day. I will set an example for those around me that I care about, and hope to inspire them to change as well 

Despite the fact that it’s going to sound like a poorly written soap opera monologue, this is the kind of detail you need to get to if you truly want to succeed. Now go write it down, and keep writing until you feel like you’ve got it all out. Got it? Good. Now don’t show or tell anyone. Sounds weird right? I used to think you were supposed to tell everyone your goal, but new research shows that the more people you tell about your goals, the less likely you are to accomplish them , and this happens through deferral of responsibility. Every time you tell someone about your goals, you actually mentally give away part of the responsibility of achieving that goal to them, it’s now up to them to support you and guide you along the path, but it suffers the same pitfall that a date on a calendar does: it’s an external force and the only one that matters is you. 

In the new year, the same temptations will be there, there will be food, there will be alcohol, there will be Netflix marathons and deadlines. You will feel like you have no time and no energy, just like you did last year, except this year you’re going to have a really strong reason why none of that matters and you are going to kick ass, no matter what. 

Now that you’ve got a goal, if you’d like a little more direction on how to overcome some of the most common barriers to success I’d highly suggest you check out this article for further reading https://blacksmithfitness.wordpress.com/2015/03/20/the-1-reason-people-dont-make-progress/