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Why are you even at the gym?

The sad reality is that around 90% of the results achieved in the gym are achieved by about 10% of the people there. Now why is that? Luck? Genetics? Drugs? Maybe a combination of all 3? The thing that almost all the people who achieve long-term success in their physical development have in common, is that they understand the importance of improvement.

It has become increasingly more apparent, in recent conversations that I have had with people in gyms, that there is a disconnect between what people THINK they are there for, and what they are ACTUALLY there for.

I believe this is one of the biggest reasons for a person’s “fitness journey” being hampered or even coming to an end. See, when we think we are at the gym to get sweaty, exhausted, and sore, we are chasing a diminishing effect. This means each time we train we get a little less sweaty, a little less exhausted, and a little less sore, which is a good thing. But when you measure your success in a session by these markers, it can often leave you feeling unfulfilled, and seeming as if you are going backwards.

Ask most regulars at your local gym what they are actually there for, and you will no doubt receive some rambling, vague mutterings about trying to ‘get in shape’. But when pressed for a genuine answer, the overwhelming majority are there to improve, to be better than last time. Otherwise why waste the energy, time, and money?

The goal of going training is to improve. It’s right there in the dictionary.



  • develop and improve (a mental or physical faculty) through instruction or practice.

That means the goal of training is to actually get better. Not to get sweaty, not to get sore, not to walk out of the gym like a zombie, but to become tangibly, measurably, undeniably better.

As obvious as this concept seems, it goes mostly ignored by the training population. The goal of training therefore becomes about how you feel after each individual session rather than what you accomplish over the course of weeks and months and years. This focus on the short term (tonight’s gym session) and not the long term (new personal best 5k row /new deadlift record/goal body fat %) is all too common in your average gym goer.

So why is it so uncommon for people to commit to long term improvement?

A big reason is Fear of Failure.

If you never commit to a long term goal, it’s impossible to fail, and failure is a terrifying concept for many people. Failure can make you feel inadequate, and people don’t want to feel inadequate, lord knows there’s enough of that going around in this social media age as it is. But if your only goal is to hammer yourself for the next hour in the gym, it’s pretty hard to fail, you can pull it off 9 times out of 10.

However, if your goal is to go from 25% to 15% body fat, that might take a bit more commitment, it’s very specific, it’s easily measurable and there’s a higher probability that you might fail. It’s much more comfortable for people to never really commit to the process, never acknowledge the decision, so that if things don’t go well you can rationalise it away with a few handy excuses and pretend it wasn’t that important anyway. But staying comfortable won’t get you any closer to what you actually want.

Another reason is a Lack of Understanding.

If more gym-goers understood how setting goals and committing to them would vastly improve the chances of actually progressing, there would be far more improvement in the gym and far less stagnation and frustration.

There seems to be an underlying belief that if they just keep showing up, eventually they will have the strength/body/fitness level that they want.

While on a basic level this might be true, any time I have seen notable results achieved, they were not achieved by accident. They were brought about by a conscious decision, a plan to progress, and a commitment to following through.

So when we really look at how we measure our success at the gym, progress needs to be the metric, anything else is inconsequential. Though sweat and soreness are often by-products, they are not the goal.

How are you measuring progress?

So have an honest look at your past year of training, have you been tangibly progressing in the things you do? If you aren’t recording your training you probably have no idea, and if you haven’t been quantifying your results, how can you know if you’ve been getting better?

It’s time to recognise that, although getting to the gym is half the battle for a lot of people, there’s still another half to fight, the battle of actually getting a result. Don’t just be another number in the gym, recognise the importance of committing to a goal and following through, and don’t be satisfied until you reach it.

Otherwise, why are you even at the gym?

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