What are the main reasons for people getting a gym membership? Weight loss, muscle gain, wanting to drop a dress size, or to stand out as sexy in a club.
These are definitely the most common reasons (even if the person won’t admit it) for getting into lifting. Wanting to look better.
These are aesthetic goals, and while there is absolutely nothing wrong with these goals, this article will look at other reasons why you lift.
#1: Social Life
The first one we are going to look at is the social side of lifting.
If you don’t drink, or can’t afford to keep eating out at nice restaurants then you can be limited to just a few places where you can socialise with friends.
Of course there are cinemas, but people really don’t seem to like it when you walk up to them and strike up a conversation halfway through The Avengers sequel.
Others join local sports clubs (basketball, football, athletics) but these activities require 1) a love of the sport in question, and 2) at least some level of technical/strategic competence.
So for the guy or girl who wants to make friends (in a non creepy way) the gym can be the perfect solution. Think about it, you’ll see the same people there day in, day out. Eventually you are going to have to introduce yourself.
Also, everyone there has an inbuilt conversation starter. You can talk about the gym staff, or the new dumbbells that are needed, you can discuss fitness and nutrition, you can listen to them complain about the air conditioning. Just nod along and soon you’ll have a friend for life.
Gyms are also a great way to meet up with existing friends, particularly ones who don’t drink. It’s an easy way to set aside time to socialise whilst also improving your physique.
Exercising is often seen as a purely aesthetic pursuit, not only by the majority of gym goers but also from the outside looking in.
Regular lifters are often called vain by non-gym goers (or couch lovers as we’ll refer to them), but throughout history exercise has been viewed as a way to improve your health.
And while the majority of lifters do concentrate on the aesthetic changes, they are hopefully aware of the health benefits out there too. There are very few illnesses that cannot be aided or prevented with exercise.
The most obvious disease that exercise can help prevent or cure is obesity, something that is affecting more and more people with each passing year.
Other diseases such as Heart disease, Metabolic syndrome, Type II Diabetes can also be prevented or possibly reversed. Exercising can also lower the risk of some forms of cancer, and reduce some symptoms of asthma.
There is also a lot of evidence supporting the belief that exercise can help alleviate the symptoms of depression. This does not mean that exercise can cure depression (a claim made by many fitness “experts”), but this will still help people to cope with depression.
#3: Sports Performance
A lot of people start going to the gym as a form of accessory work to help improve their performance in sport.
Instead of looking to improve their physique their goals may be increasing power, or endurance. Improving hamstring flexibility (which is a form of injury-proofing) or doing exercises that help with posture.
This can all lead to improved performance in their chosen sport. A amateur shot putter may look to increase explosive power by following a strength and conditioning program which will help them peak in time for the an athletics meet.
In the last few years crossfit and powerlifting have become hugely popular with regular lifters looking for a bit more competition in their lives.
This has turned lifting, which was traditionally a non-competitive hobby, into a full blown competitive sport. A lot of people love competition, not just against themselves (which is the normal approach made by lifters) but against others.
In this scenario the aesthetic benefits and muscle gains are a happy side-effect, the true benefits are faster times, better technique, and heavier lifts. The Crossfit games doesn’t award the prettiest competitor, or the girl with the best abs they award the most competent man and woman there.
After looking at all of the many different reasons why people lift, it seems clear that the common perception of lifters as just vain people looking to get sexier is not always accurate.
Nor is training for aesthetics a bad reason to train. There are very few people alive who wouldn’t want to improve their physique if they could, so why are the people who manage to achieve this dismissed as vain?
The truth is that people who train for aesthetics and are successful will always be the target of jealousy, but the people who call them vain don’t really know the real reason why they train. They could be completely missing the point.