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Why do you train?

I got asked the other day, “Why do you train? What is the point of training if it is not for a specific goal?”

Initially I was taken aback, as I’d actually never been asked that before.

The usual questions are, “How do I train to get faster, stronger, thinner, bigger?” or “How to I train to be able to carry my new baby without getting a sore back?”, “How do I train for a marathon, a half marathon, for climbing Kilimanjaro, for doing a week long expedition or how do I train to join the Royal Marines or the Parachute Regiment in the British Army?”

My mate that asked me was a very talented rugby player who had played competitive rugby at, and after, university. He would only train for a specific reason and it was probably for this reason that he did not go further than he did in his rugby career. Naturally, he was a backline player and they generally shy away from any hard work!
He said that he could train for a specific event, but struggled to keep discipline if there wasn’t a definitive goal to train for. Goal setting is, indeed, an excellent way of keeping your training focus.
Talent and natural skill can only get you so far, it is your dedication and discipline to your training that will differentiate you from others.

upper body and core exerciseMohammed Ali, hard hitting and fast talking said, “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”

My mate’s point was that he is almost 40 and he isn’t training for a big fight, for a big rugby game or the Olympics, so why bust a gut and push yourself? What’s in it for me?
What’s in it? Well, everything…
You only have one body for life and if you keep that body fine tuned, you will be able to do more, enjoy more and be able to do it for longer. Training and exercising is where you can constantly push yourself against your biggest opponent, yourself. Being able to constantly strive for personal improvement is reason enough to keep training, but for some people that is not enough.
Many people associate fitness and training with pain and discomfort. The unhappy memories of cruel PT teachers from school or the intimidation factor of gyms, filled with machines, have also scared people away from exercise. Exercise is what your body(and mind) needs and craves. The benefits of training cross over into the rest of your life from work to rest to play (why do you think that the Olympic village runs out of condoms every year?)
Exercise, running and training provide a sanctuary away from the distractions, complexities and mundane elements of daily life. Once the class (ideally a British Military Fitness class), game, training session or run begins you are brought to that specific time and place, nothing else matters. Your mind clears, as your email, your phone messages, your work deadlines and all the others beeps and flashes from modern life clear away.
It can be like meditation. Your mind can relax and simply focus on the task at hand. There is the enjoyment of movement, air in your lungs and the burn of exertion that lets you know that you are alive. The harder you push, the more your mind clears. Getting comfortable in that uncomfortable, dark place where it takes all your effort to be in, is where the results come from.
After the session, as your heart rate drops, you can focus again on your surrounding and what is important. The endorphins that course through your body bring on fantastic feeling of calm and content.
Motivation to train and exercise can come from the desire to get faster, stronger, more flexible, thinner, bigger or to be able accomplish a specific goal or task, but it should also come from the fact that you owe it to yourself. Your training is your time and you need to put aside that time for you and your body.

Hamstring stretchBeing fit, strong and ready gives you the extra confidence to have a go at any challenge, not just fitness. Constantly training means that entering a 10km fun run, is exactly that, fun. Constantly training means you can be the old boy in the rugby team, you can grab a surfboard and have a paddle without collapsing in a heap on the sand or it can mean that your back isn’t sore when you pick up your kids.

There should be no fear of failure when exercising, as by simply being there you have succeeded. Naturally you’ll look better and fit into your clothes better and maybe you’ll meet some friends where you train. We are social animals and working and playing together is what we do.
Another reason, I enjoy it. The initial planning of what you are going to do and where you are going to do it, the actual training and the euphoria afterwards is all part of it.
Having short, medium and long term fitness goals is a brilliant way to keep your focus, but not needing a reason to train is when you know that fitness is part of you. Your goal should simply be to train and not to need a reason to train.

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