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Check Your Ego at the Door, by Matthew Romans

I recently read a book titled "Ego is the Enemy" by Ryan Holiday. The author discusses personal experiences and historical examples of how ego can get in the way of learning and growth, blind us to our faults, and lead us to be our own worst enemy. This often results in future problems. While the author didn't specifically mention the field of exercise, I couldn't help but notice some parallels to my own experiences instructing clients over the years.

When performing Total Results exercise, ego is definitely the enemy. Ego can lead to poor form, injury, cessation of progress, and quitting the exercise program altogether. An unchecked ego is often what leads to mistaking the assumed objective for the real objective. The assumed objective is that you want to perform as many possible repetitions with as much weight as you can. This is a mistake, and once you take on an incorrect mindset you're starting down a dangerous path. The real objective of exercise is to inroad (fatigue) your musculature thoroughly and efficiently enough to stimulate a growth mechanism. This is what prompts the body to make improvements. The amount of weight that is used on a given exercise is not nearly as important as using perfect form. While we certainly want to progressively overload the musculature (i.e. - to periodically add resistance to the weight stack) in order to give the muscles a reason to get stronger, it is far better to use less weight and stricter form. This translates into a far more effective stimulus. One of the most important duties of an exercise instructor is to help the client stay calm and keep their emotions in check during the most intense portions of a workout. This allows them to maximize their exercise experience.

Some clients will take on the mindset that exercise is a competition. This can happen in a few ways. One, they may have a spouse or a friend who is also in our program, and might feel as though they have to compete against them. Two, they may feel as though they are competing against the machine, especially as momentary muscular failure approaches. Three, they could place an inordinate value on their time under load (TUL), and get discouraged if they do not increase that TUL on every exercise of every workout. These are all examples of ego rearing its ugly head.

Exercise is not a competition!

Two different people participating in our exercise program have completely different body proportions and leverages, so there is no valid basis for comparison. I would recommend encouragement rather than thinking of it as a competition. Trying to "beat the machine" is a bad idea, because it can lead to poor form and injury. Finally, don't worry so much about TUL. It's a measurement that we record and keep track of, but it is only one criteria for determining your progress. If you perform an exercise for 1:40 TUL in perfect form, that translates into a far more effective stimulus than an exercise performed for 2:00 in poor form. If you really must have a competition mindset, think about competing against yourself to give your best effort possible, regardless of weight and TUL.

What can you do to keep your ego in check?

First, be a learner. This is something that we tell prospective clients during their initial consultation, as they are about to undertake something that is very different and new to most people. Ego needs to be taken out of the equation before true learning can take place. This holds true for novice as well as experienced trainees. No matter how long you have been doing something, there is always something new to learn. More than a decade into his career, basketball great Kobe Bryant sought out fellow great Hakeem Olajuwon to teach him how to improve his post moves. Bryant was a veteran of 30 years old and had already won four NBA titles and numerous individual awards; his legacy was secure. So why did he seek out Olajuwon's help? Because he wanted to continue to learn and improve as a player. Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers won one more NBA title the following season, and he thanked Olajuwon for his help after his last game in 2016.

Second, be humble. Celebrate your accomplishments, but keep an even keel, and don't get discouraged if you have a less than optimal workout. Strive to put forth a maximum effort every time out, and be satisfied in knowing that you have done your best. Remember that when you have reached the physical goals that you have set for yourself (fat loss, muscle gain, etc.), there are many more unseen benefits that come with regular proper exercise (maintenance of insulin sensitivity, metabolic/cardiovascular conditioning, bone remodeling, resistance to injury). You can always set new goals for yourself as you go along.

Finally, keep your ego in check by working with a Total Results exercise instructor. We can teach you the things that you need to know and show you how to get the most out of your exercise experience. We keep our egos in check by being lifelong learners; we read and study everything that we can get our hands on and solicit advice and knowledge from other sources in our field that we respect.

Experience the Total Results difference today!

Posted October 15, 2019 by Tim Rankin