People train for a variety of reasons. To be healthier, stronger, to perform better at a sport, for mental health, to be part of a community, to build confidence, to be able to chase their kids around.
These are all really, really great motives.
But, for me, at that age, none of this applied. I was simply embarrassed by how I looked and I felt like it was not experiencing the benefits of my youth.
When it comes to training for appearance, the pendulum has swung wildly in the other direction.
Twenty years ago, training for aesthetics was absolutely the norm. You went to the gym because you wanted to lose weight or become more muscular.
In recent years, this idea has become a bit taboo. And, in general, I think this is probably for the best. For decades, gym culture has been too obsessed with how one looks while ignoring the other completely valid and valuable reasons to train.
But here’s the good news, whether you train for body composition or performance or to manage your diabetes or build self-affirming habits, research has shown that taking action to improve yourself (whether mentally or physically) has measurable and long-lasting effects on self-satisfaction and happiness.
This may seem completely logical when written out this way. But you have to admit that improving one’s self - particularly physically - often comes with a social stigma.
Participate in a 5k “fun run” for charity and you're doing a nice thing. Run 5k three times a week so you can have visible abs and you can come across as self-absorbed.
But, as I mentioned, the research shows something different. People who engage in self-improvement activities - including those that involve improving physical appearance - report long term benefits when it comes to happiness, self-satisfaction and confidence.
This is my way of advocating for training, no matter what your goals. Because whether you are tired of struggling to pick up your kids, or no longer want to feel winded when you walk up a flight of stairs, or want to earn a college sports scholarship, or just want to look better when naked, you are truly impacting your life in a positive way.
By the time I was 30, I was in pretty good shape. When I hit 31 I decided to bite the bullet and shave my head right down to the scalp. I’ve never looked back.
And while I’ve been lucky enough to do so many things that I’ve been remarkably proud of and have made me happy - having a beautiful child, being married for over 20 years, starting a business that I truly believe helps people - fixing the way I felt about myself has, and continues to be, a big part of the equation.
You don’t have to stay unhappy forever.