We’ve all seen them. You know what I’m talking about, those fitness memes that someone has put up on their social media page with the intent of “motivating” people. (Just a warning, but this will likely be a bit of a rant. But as an industry, as people, we need to think a little.) Whether it’s on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest, the internet is filled with photos of people in incredible shape and those photos are captioned with phrases like “Train insane or remain the same”. And the truth is I hate them.
To be honest, I am probably guilty of doing this myself at one point or another. I have always tried to veer away from the memes using women in little to no clothing. That said, I’m sure if you go back through some of the posts on the Trinity Fitness Facebook page or the Project Fitness Facebook page, where I have done most of our social media stuff over the last 10 years, you will find at least one or two pics with some ridiculous statement like the one above. As time has gone on though, I have become more and more disinterested in their use. Here’s why:
They lack empathy and compassion
Okay, so try to picture this. You have just spent the last two years battling back from cancer. You’ve been given a clean bill of health from your doctors and they are encouraging you to exercise. And you’re trying to, but the chemo has left what feels like a permanent impression on your life. Is it going to last forever? Who knows? Maybe a year from now, five years from now, you’ll feel different. But today, right now, you do just a fraction of what you were once capable of and it wipes you out. And someone thinks that putting up a pic of a twenty-something with perfect hair, make-up, who dieted down and got a little photo-shop help for the pic, with a snarky caption of “You can have results or excuses but not both” is going to motivate you?
Or maybe your a stay-at-home care giver to one or more of your children. Maybe you’ve been up at all hours of the night with a colicky baby. Maybe during your down time, when the baby actually sleeps, you have everything else in your life that needs your attention waiting for you. Your other children, your spouse, work, all of this needs to get compressed into those blessed hours when the child is napping. Oh yeah and you need to fit exercise in there as well. When all you want to do is lay your head down for just a few blissful minutes of rest, you need to in fit all of the above, as well as find time to “train insane”!
Or maybe that’s not you. Maybe you’re that middle aged man that used to be athletic. Maybe at one time you actually had a six pack. You had broad shoulders, a thin waist and hair. GLORIOUS HAIR!!! But now, with the weight of responsibility on your shoulders, from a career, parenting, trying to spend some time with your spouse, work around the house and figuring out how to squeeze a little more money out of your job, all you want to do when you get home is put your feet up and rest for a little bit after the kids go to bed. Maybe watch a little Netflix and binge watch whatever series is this years “Stranger Things”. But no, you saw that fitness meme that one of your work buddies shared today (you know, that guy that doesn’t have any kids, isn’t married, lives in an apartment and does nothing but workout, yeah…screw that guy). The meme said something to the effect of “Push harder today if you want a different tomorrow.” Your only thought is “I pushed just to get to this point of the day. How can I do anything else?”
Now, I have painted kind of a depressing picture. To be completely transparent, I am married with two children, a wonderful wife, a beautiful dog and a house that I love. And I wouldn’t trade any of them for anything. They are why I get up in the morning and I love my life with them. My wife and I do the best we can to lead healthy lives and set good examples for the kids. But there are days… and I know my wife feels that way too. We all do. But these memes that preach to us about what we should or shouldn’t be doing, don’t take into account real life. They don’t take into account the fact that a real person has to live this.
The really frustrating part is that there is some truth to what these things have to say. Yes, if you want to be different, then you have to do different. You do. And the results you get will be the result of the work you do. You reap what you sow. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Galatians chapter 6, verse 9. It states “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” 2 Corinthians chapter 9, verse 6 says “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” But if we speak truth without love, how will we get anyone having a hard time to listen? If we don’t guide people with empathy, the ability to see the world through their eyes, if we lack compassion and just smack them with the cold hard truth, we lose them. How does that motivate anyone?
They don’t offer anything useful
The second reason that I really hate fitness memes is that while they may speak a bit of hard to swallow truth, they don’t give you anything useful. Telling someone that “Success occurs when your dreams get bigger than your excuses” is akin to telling someone dying of dehydration in the desert to go drink water. Here’s one of my favorite trite little fitness sound bites, “Eat less, move more”. No kidding. (I wanted to say something else in response to that. What can I say, I’m a work in progress too.) These kinds of things give us nothing useful as far as how to get moving. If you said “Try substituting your two bowls of cereal in the morning for a couple of pieces of fruit and start walking 3 days a week” you have something actionable. These are bits of advice that, while very basic and easy to implement, will start moving you in the direction you need to go.
So, if you are one of those folks that needs to get going, but feels stuck and defeated every time you look at one of those stupid posts on someone’s social media page, I have a few things for you. Keep in mind that these will not get you in fitness mag cover model shape. But to be honest, you have to start somewhere and you can’t get to cover model shape from not doing anything. You just can’t get there from here.
- Drink more water. Try a glass with each meal.
- Eat at least 1 more serving of vegetables than you do now. A salad at lunch or dinner time works.
- Do 5 minutes of mobility work when you get up in the morning. Will this get you “buff”? No but you’ll move better and will be less likely to hurt yourself with the stuff that will get you buff! I wrote a blog post on this here.
- Or, you can do 5-10 minutes of Original Strength work. This methodology is geared to get you back to moving the way God intended us to. You can check out there stuff here. They’ve got a great book about their methods that you can find here. To be clear, these are not affiliate links. I just believe in their stuff.
So, again if you aren’t doing anything right now, start with some of these to get you going. Be consistent, or as consistent as you can and understand that it takes time. Good luck!