Two Minds and a Flame War

I’m fascinated by the human mind. The mind, such as there is a thing we can refer to with that word, is where all the interesting things about humankind go on. It’s also poorly understood, even by the legions of bright people who have studied and reflected upon it for thousands of years.

Vagueness aside, you’ll notice that we’ve got a Pretty Good intuitive grasp of thoughts and sensations, such that we can communicate reasonably well most of the time. The fact that you can read my words and (hopefully) understand what I want to convey attests to that. Sometimes, Pretty Good is good enough.

Knowing how people operate is a crucial skill in any instance that involves other people. Case in point, fitness training and nutrition. These fields are applied science, and on paper at least we should be able to craft perfect workout programs and diets — at least, you’d think that according to much of the internet.

Often, though — likely more than not — these perfection-seeking schemes fail. Why can’t people just do what we know is right? Why do all these pig-headed people disagree with my perfectly-designed workout? Why do people not eat according to these scientifically-derived principles that ensure success?

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Brain States & Willpower

Now that we’ve officially flipped into another new year, activity at the gym — and in the kitchen — is about to boil over into that first-quarter frenzy of new goals, new resolutions, and the hard determination that only the buzz of the holiday season can kindle. For the starry-eyed masses recently-committed to laying down the cigarettes and twinkies and getting some exercise, the new year is a time of optimism: they have dreams of better health and better bodies.

For the old gym hermits, it’s time to fortify the defenses, shore up the walls, and hunker down until late February. Not because we resent the influx of greenhorns. I’ve waffled on this over the years but in my mellowing-out I’ve had to admit that the January rush makes me happy for what it is. Sure it can be irritating to see all the chuckleheaded tomfoolery going on when you just want to squat, but let’s keep it in perspective: at least they’re trying.

The Serious and Dedicated know that, year after year, the Resolutioner rush inevitably fizzles out by late February, March at the latest, as that post-holiday enthusiasm gives way to the hard truth about reality. It’s hard work. Changes aren’t immediate and to call gratification, such as it is, delayed is an understatement. Those of you with “the bug”, who enjoy lifting and intense cardio for what it is, have to realize that, like coffee, it’s often an acquired taste.

The average Resolutioner doesn’t get that, and without any guidance or mentoring, the odds are stacked heavily against them ever figuring it out. Take a look at all the fresh faces you see on the second week of January, and compare that to how many are still there in August.

It’s easy to snicker and shake your head in judgment. It’s even easier, if you’re like pretty much everyone I’ve ever met in the fitness or strength community, to write these people off as lazy, unmotivated, weak, and other assorted insults continuing on down the spectrum of disdain.

A depressingly large number of people abandon exercise programs, and diets, and plans to quit smoking, and most anything else you can name. Why is this? Are people really just lazy and weak-willed? Are they just stupid and in need of your brilliant workout and diet plan?

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