Why You Need a Training Philosophy to Really Transform Your Body

By on July 25, 2016

In order to stick at something for the long term, it needs to be ‘intrinsically motivating’. That means you aren’t doing it because of a carrot or a stick but rather just because you love doing it. To be honest, carrots aren’t that great anyway.

This is where a lot of people new to the gym will fall down. They start working out because they want to look good naked and impress people (impress people naked?). But these are extrinsic reasons in nature. Songs by Survivor talk of burning fires that come from within – not trying to look good in selfies!

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The same is true in every other walk of life too. Consider Simon Sinek’s ‘Golden Circle’. He says that for a business to lead its industry, it needs to focus on its mission statement; on its ‘why’. That’s what lights the passion and ignites innovation. That’s what brands are made of, versus cynical businesses with nothing to offer.

So what is your mission statement in the gym? What is your ‘training philosophy’? If you don’t have one, let’s try and work it out here together…

Let Your Why Guide You…

The importance of having a good reason for training goes beyond motivation. The reason you train is also going to impact on the type of training you do. And if you look at any of the big fitness movements in recent times: bodybuilding, CrossFit, powerlifting, powerbuilding, street workouts, ‘athletic aesthetics’, MovNat… they’re all driven by a philosophy and an ideal. Bodybuilding is about achieving the ideal male or female form as envisioned by Greek and Roman sculptures. CrossFit originally came with the mission statement of being able to do ‘many different things well’ but has grown to include more since then. MovNat is about returning to natural movement and using the body ‘as intended’. The list goes on…

Some training methodologies can be categorized as ‘GPP’ (General Physical Preparedness) whereas others come under ‘SPP’ (Specific Physical Preparedness). Some emphasize challenge, whereas others emphasize fun.

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But while each movement has its own philosophies, you will also find variation from class to class and between individuals. Some CrossFit gyms are about pushing yourself until you puke/break, while others take more cues from Olympic lifting and pay a lot of attention to correct form and technique. It’s not until you work out why you’re training that you can decide what the best school is for you; and then bend that to meet your own more specific goals. You need to know your ‘why’ to know your philosophies and to know what you’re trying to get out of your training.

For example: if you really are just about the looks and what that does for your confidence, then bodybuilding might be a good choice for you. If you’re more interested in performance, then you need to choose what approach to ‘performance’ you want to take. Does that mean walking on your hands? Lifting large amounts of weight? Running long distances? All three…? Maybe you just want to look and feel your best, sleep better and be more productive? The way you go about training in each case will be very different.

And ask how this core drive affect the day-to-day of training. Do you want your workouts to be brutal and punishing? Or are you more interested in training correctly so that your joints hold up in the long term?

This will all impact on your diet too and on how you structure the rest of your lifestyle around your training. How important is training to you? How much of your energy and time do you want to devote to it?

Work Out Why You Workout

So how do you go about finding your reason for training and your motivation?

One method you could use to try and figure out what drives you to the gym beyond ego, is called the ‘Five Whys’. This means asking yourself why you do something five times. Why do you train? Why does that matter? Why is that important to you? Why? Why? Like an annoying toddler.

But this helps to peel off the layers and get to the core of what motivates you. In my case, it’s to do with freedom, fun and action.

I work out because quite frankly, life is a bit dull otherwise. Life for most of us involves sitting around watching TV, going to work and doing the dishes. I love comic books and action films and computer games with lots of ninjas and explosions and I just feel like life should be more like that.

When I’m curling weights, life is a little bit more like that. When you’re in the gym, you feel like a warrior, challenging yourself and pushing yourself to the edge of your limits.

I always say that I work out so that if I one day met Batman, we’d have something in common. If I met Goku, I’d want to spar with him (he can punch the universe apart, so I have a ways to go…). I want to be a contender.

But it also equates to freedom. Being physically fit gives me more physical freedom and means I can go further and faster than I could otherwise. Going for runs, I get to find hidden areas of interest around Ealing where I live. Being able to climb means I can climb crags and trees when I’m exploring. And being able to lift and punch means that I have the freedom that comes from not being intimidated by others – I never want to be told what I can or can’t do by someone else. That goes for intellectual development too, for problems that you can’t punch your way out of. I love that Tony Stark manages to go toe-to-toe with a god on the strength of his technology. To me, training the mind is just as important as training the body and you can’t really have one without the other.

Basically, I want to be a bloody superhero.

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Nietzsche claimed that we are all driven by a will to power. I believe that a will to power is really a will to freedom. Power is potential – the more potential you have, the more options you have. Coincidentally, Nietzsche was also the guy who came up with the concept of the ubermensch or ‘over man’.

All this tells me I should be training in ways I find fun, challenging and exciting. It tells me I should be training cross discipline and for performance (mentally and physically) and it tells me I should be constantly looking out for new ways to push the threshold. It’s why I write this site – I’m fascinated by anything that can give me an edge in my training.

That’s all my deal though. You need to ask yourself what yours is and try and work out what is really driving you to the gym.

Once you know what this is, your training journey will open itself out in front of you. Now you can train in the way that most effectively helps you to accomplish your goals and that brings you the most enjoyment. And you can work out where that training fits into your lifestyle.

You’ll find that your training works much better too when you find training partners that have a similar philosophy to you. And if you follow a training program, you need to find a program that works within that context. The same goes for finding fitness products you like – look at the brand behind those products. And of course you need to communicate your training philosophies to any personal trainer you might employ.

Best of all though, having a clear training philosophy will eventually enable to develop your own training methods and principles – perhaps create your own movement and help others!

Have Visions, Not Goals. Read Philosophy

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Remember that this ‘why’ has to go much deeper than ‘to lose weight’. If you’re using the ‘Five Whys’, you need to find out why you want to lose weight. What deeper need does it satisfy? If it’s to feel good about yourself, then why does losing weight make you feel good about yourself?

What you’ll find, is that this answer needs to fit within the broader context of your philosophies in life. We all have political and religious views (yes, atheism is a religious view) and we all have goals and objectives. Ultimately, your body is an instrument to help you achieve those goals and live the life you’ve chosen. If you know your purpose and your body can help you achieve that, then you have crafted a useful body!

How does something like politics come into that? Well for example, I believe that freedom is the right of all sentient beings (ahem). That’s why I hate the thought of being made to back down, or of anyone else being made to back down. I hate bureaucracy and I love being able to say: “thanks but nope”. That’s also why I am interested in working online and in lifestyle design. Ultimately, being

My training is a reflection of my lifestyle and an expression of my beliefs then. And my chosen lifestyle supports my training too. This was true even before I knew it and that’s why I’ve not stopped training since I was 13 years old. That’s 16 years…

So if you’re still struggling to identify your training philosophy, perhaps try doing a bit of soul searching to work out your general philosophy and your general purpose. Think about your broader life goals, read some philosophy and consider what you want to achieve and what you stand for. It might surprise you just how much some philosophical texts directly relate to your training.

Socrates said:

“No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.”

If you want more proof that philosophy can inform an awesome training program, then look no further than Bruce Lee. There’s a man who developed an incredible training philosophy, turned it into a movement and crafted an incredibly imposing physique. A book collecting his notes on training is called The Art of Expressing the Human Body. And guess what he studied at University? (Philosophy!)

Of course your training philosophy need not be quite so grand. Your goals and your philosophy may simply to maintain a good level of health so that you can provide for your family and set a good example. In which case, training so hard you almost break 7 days a week probably isn’t for you. They’re all valid.

One more tip then to try and find your way is to have a ‘vision’ and not a goal. Visualize what you want to get from your training and focus on the emotion behind that – you can hang onto that mental image to help you through the toughest workouts and to help you make the right decisions. It is emotion and not logic that we find most motivating and it’s often easier to create an abstract objective when you’re struggling to put your goals and aims into words. Then, once you have that end ideal, you can deconstruct it and break it down into the tiny steps and training methods best suited to helping you get there. You can even try making a mood board of images you find inspiring and go from there.

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I love this…

About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

2 Comments

  1. Darcy Meek says:

    Well written and stated Adam, maybe this is what I need to stick with my working out. You rock buddy.

    • thebioneer says:

      Thanks a ton Darcy! Really glad you enjoyed, is really encouraging to get the feedback. You rock too 😀

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