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Evolution of a Gym Goer: Lifer vs Poser

Which rung on the Evolution Of A Gym Goer ladder are you on?1

As is usual for me, when I start writing on a topic I get rolling, get passionate, and my mind starts racing. A page or two in and I start heading off in a related, albeit a bit disconnected direction and end up with something altogether different than expected. On a positive note that is where a lot of true gems can come fro possibly this is one.

When I sat down to write my last article, I’m a Lifer… Are You?, I was planning on writing a short article. However, before I knew it, I was headed off away from just simply defining what a “lifer” was into the evolution of a gym “goer”, and the differences between two very closely related but polar opposite ends of the road for those of us that stick to training and nutrition long term.

So without further ado, here is my simplified version of the evolutionary ladder of a “gym goer.”

The Newbie

We all start out as the “newbie“. We are on fire with a short lived passion; as short as those instant and fleeting gains we made in our first weeks and months in the gym before we hit or first true test, our first small plateau. It is here that we lose about 75% of people altogether, or they simply bounce in and out and become the as I call them, “The New Year” exercisers. This latter group of individuals refers to those individuals who make lofty New Years training resolutions, come to the gym for a few weeks, and then are not seen again until the next year. The rest trudge forward…

The Intermediate

Those that progress to step two, the intermediates, rekindle their fire and begin to read, watch, learn and sponge up all information they can get their hands on; building upon the blank slate they used as a newbie to make those incredible gains. Gym goers begin to realize they knew nothing about training during their newbie stage. They recognize that most of the improvements they saw in performance occurred despite, rather than because of their training/nutrition programs. This stage can last anywhere from a few months to a few years before progressing to the next stage, reverting back to the New Year exerciser or completely quit altogether. Regression on the gym goer evolutionary ladder usually results from a lack of physical transformation, desire to train, or sadly enough, paralysis from analysis. 80% of the intermediate crowd will fail to progress past this point. The rest trudge forward…

The Perpetual State Exercisers

20% of those reaching the intermediate stage will become perpetual state exercisers. After that initial fire, these individuals learn that continued physical progression will take significant effort on their part. Rather than accepting and breathing life into a continuous pursuit of excellence, they relegate themselves to doing just what they know and makes them feel comfortable. We have all seen these individuals in the gym two, three or four days a week. They follow the same routine year in, year out. It usually consists of a bit of time on the treadmill, some pec deck, maybe bench, and some other machine based work and last, but not least, bicep curls. They just pay their penance, never making a lick of progress. Ten years from now they are doing the same passionless, useless crap and look exactly the same; possibly even worse due to a combination of father time catching up with them and a lack of novel stimulus’s to offset this aging process. Only about 1-5% of the starting whole at this will stick to their guns, progressing to the final stage.

The Lifers & Posers

It is this final stage that I feel it the most crucial and potentially dangerous. Falling off the wagon in the earlier stages or going perpetual with a realization that hard training and nutrition isn’t for you is not a bad thing. It’s just not for you, much like dentistry is not for me. The lack of desire to reach this final stage is not a short coming. However in this stage you have a choice of pain and stress or one of positive advancement and progress. The people that have made it to this stage seem to take one of two routes. They have gone through the newbie gains, they graduated to the high school of training where they began to find a passion, they have read a few books, went to a few lectures, learned as much as they feel they could, and have began to figure out what is for them. NOW it’s time for collegiate work, time for them to make a choice of what they’re going to do with the rest of their training years.

Just as higher education is a choice toward your life long career, so is this stage in the gym goers evolution. In making a career choice, some make the right one and choose a field of passion. They select something they already have a love and drive for. They move on to live a life in a work enjoy and excel in. Unfortunately, others take the wrong approach. They jump on and go through higher education, graduate study, all the while hating it. They keep doing it because they should. They were told they are supposed to, or they are obsessed with the idea of it, which is far from a real drive and passion.

The same thing happens day to day with those who choose to go forward to those final stages in the training, athletics and nutrition world. You get two roads, lifers and the obsessed, or the posers if you will. One is sheer joy and passion, the other poison for themselves and the industry I love.

When the road splits, which path will you take?

The lifers have gained a maturity, patience, and with it, wisdom that has been molded under the bar as well as behind the fork. This maturity allows them to go on each day with a relaxed passion for their pursuit of building themselves into something great. You see a very visible love for what they do. Lifers don’t stress over their training and nutrition, they accept, act, learn and evolve. Lifers know they are good, have a confidence and presence in their ability and knowledge. At the same time however, they are the first to seek more knowledge from others. They have a true passion for giving back and helping others who display the same passion, even if their training goals do not match up 100%.

At the other end are those who stick to it out of obsession and negativity simply because they feel that they should. In this group you get those you dwell and stress over the minutia, the exercise addicted. Additionally, in this group you’ll also get the scabs of the industry who are here not out of a true love for the training itself; Rather they’re here to take advantage of the passion of another. They spread regurgitated crap they have likely stolen from another scab like themselves, looking to rob a buck and mislead each new group of newbie’s.

While they both (lifer and obsessed) are in it for the long term, each making dramatic changes (lifers nearly always and in more positive ways than obsessors), they are near parallel opposites. From an outsiders viewpoint obsession and passion are often mistaken for one another. Yet, for those of us on the inside, these posers are easy to spot. They are as different as apple pie and a ham steak. (damn now I’m hungry again!)

Lifers train in joy, lifers have patience, lifers have fun, lifers have a relaxation about them in their progress, extreme physical exertion and dietary habits. They are secure in their training and diet choices and know that there is no magic bullet. They realize that consistency and hard work, along with the learning and experience, will get them to their next destination. You can feel the passion and confidence spilling from their pores as they punch that clock for days, weeks, and years; the whole time knowing that all the effort will pay off not tomorrow, maybe not next month, but rather 5 years from now, 10 years from now….

The obsessed on the other hand bleed insecurity in their daily actions and lives. They consistently show up, but lack patients in nearly all aspects. They question everything in their training, nutrition, and daily lives, and can be seen bouncing week to week from one plan to a next, worried they are missing that crucial piece to the puzzle. The obsessed work more for physical exhaustion than actual progress. They have fleeting moments of happiness as they scrape themselves off the floor, no matter if they have made real progress or not, only caring that they created self pain. They can usually be seen spending more hours of the day reading and trying to be a “lifer” than a true lifer actually does. The problem with their approach is that they are so consumed, stressed and busy trying to appear like a “lifer” they never actually relax and live the life it takes to be one. You can feel the stress and insecurity in every breath they take.

A lucky few can escape the threshold of the obsessed and relax into the lifer as I did. Sadly many crash and burn before that, or continue on living a life of exercise induced negativity for life. For me it was a hard transition. I truly had hit that point where every second of my day was consumed with being “The Thing”. I ate, breathed and $hit training and nutrition, it defined me. I had nothing in life but it, and in that I lost it. By fully consuming and following my passion I lost all else about me, and with losing myself, I in-turn, lost the passion as well. No matter how much you love something it can’t be all you are. It has to be but a part of the whole, or it will consume you, and own you, instead of you owning it.

That my friend is the short and skinny simplification of the evolution of a gym goer through my eyes.

A Few Additional Thoughts…

I’ll leave you with a few other somewhat connected thoughts. As I told you at the beginning they always come up when I write. Maybe they should be a part of another article. Too bad though, you’re just going to have to deal with them here!

Learn to relax, take things in and on your own terms. Breath, sort the cream from the crop. Always strive to learn more, but learn it out of passion, not out of fright that you’re missing some crucial piece. Own your life and choices; blame them on no man but yourself. Have confidence in your ability and knowledge. Make choices and accept them, see them out then learn and grow from them. Nothing but life has an actual ending, just more chapters to learn and build upon. Accept that and have fun on your journey. Train hard, follow your passion, be it in this physical endeavor or whatever suits you best. Figure that out and own it.

Above all LIVE LIFE, don’t exist in it. As Mel Gibson said in the movie Braveheart, “Every man dies, not every man really lives.“ Go sit down with you and learn yourself, who you really are, and who you want to be. Learn you, accept you, and love that as it is you. Love that there is always someone/ something, better, bigger, stronger, more learned, and more powerful in your chosen field than you. Seek them out, accept them, and don’t fear them. Learn from them and grow yourself.

Never stop living, but in order to do that remember you have to start.


1 Image taken by SOIR. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Accessed on October 30, 2010 from:http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Leiter_Steineberg.JPG

2 Image Image Copyright Andy Potter. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License. Accessed on October 30, 2010 from:http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/258241

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Written on October 29, 2010 by Phil Stevens
Last Updated: November 01, 2010

This information is not intended to take the place of medical advice.Please check with your health care providers prior to starting any new dietary or exercise program. CasePerformance is not responsible for the outcome of any decision made based off the information presented in this article.

About the Author: Coach Phil Stevens is an accomplished strength athlete with considerable experience in Powerlifting, strongman competition, and highland games. Phil is the 2007 APA World Champion in the 242-pound class (total). He has held the APF 275-pound class raw National bench, squat, deadlift, and total records. Phil’s marquis lift was his 725-pound raw beltless deadlift, performed on February, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. He has been ranked in the “Top 10” in the deadlift across all national powerlifting federations. In addition, Phil has in a few short months moved to the A class in highland games with the goal of going Pro. His coaching services are avalable by clicking on the Strength Sport Consultation tab.
Professional Commitments:In addition to his coaching duties, he also serves as the California State Chair for the North American Highlander Association, as well as the founder of Lift For Hope an annual strength competition with proceeds donated to charity. He also runs his own printing business (business cards to t-shirts with everything in between) that can be found at www.bingcolorprint.com.