I use 40 years old as a common age mark to start questioning yourself, because chances are that you're not really going to ask that question in your 30's, and you probably already figured out the answer by your 50's. Anyways, if you've been doubting your reason for relentlessly picking up heavy things and putting them back down, I'm here to take you on a self reflection journey that may more may not bare an answer, but is definitely worth pondering on.
You are not alone
Having personally coached hundreds of weight lifting aficionados, I've seen this cloud of doubt getting darker darker over the head of many of my clients, until they either ditch the gym altogether, or find a reason to keep going. One thing I never expected is to face that dilemma myself a year ago. After 20 years of punching my gym time card without much questioning, with 11 of those years as a professional bodybuilder, model and coach, I just couldn't figure out a reason to keep doing it. I eventually found my answer, gained back all my motivation (and then some), and I'll show you what my thought process was to get there.
The age factor
One thing that needs to get out of the way before we move forward is that age is not a relevant factor here. I used your 40's as a common example, but it's mostly a function of time in the gym than a function of time on this planet. I'm currently coaching a 75 year old woman on the Advanced Coaching, and I can guarantee you that she doesn't need to read this article, because she's already got a solid understanding of her "why".
If not age, what is it?
Well, only you can answer that one, but here's an easy way to find why you're having second thoughts about this whole weight lifting thing. Ask yourself: Why did you start in the first place? It's likely that you don't even know the answer. Most people I coach hired me on an emotion, and not as the logical conclusion from rational thinking. This doesn't mean they were wrong getting started, but I'm sure that you'll agree with me that understanding why you want to stop is a whole lot harder if you don't even know what you got started!
From experience, people get into the gym (casual weight lifting, power lifting, bodybuilding, circuit training, group classes, etc.) for one of the three following reasons, or a combination of them:
- To win; that's where you'll find your power lifting and bodybuilding competitors.
- For self improvement; losing weight, hitting PR's, gaining an extra inch on biceps, etc.
- As a social activity; not usually where it starts, but often where it ends.
Which one(s) applies to you? Once you answer that, the picture will start getting clearer. If your prime motivation was to win, improve, or socialize, but you haven't been doing much of that lately, that's certainly going to be a problem.
Here's the solution
It's actually quite simple, and there are two solutions to this. Your first path is to find a way to reconnect with your original why. This might mean competing in a different sport, or division, and start collecting trophies again. It could also be to hire a coach and finally get that 6-pack you haven't seen since high school. Switching to a different gym is one easy fix that I've seen work so many times. I had a great client who couldn't figure out why he could not get himself to put in the work anymore; turns out he hated the gym he started training at after purchasing a house in a new neighborhood. We found a great weight lifting spot close to his workplace, and he was back to full performance within days!
Alternatively, your second best bet is to jump from one category to another. What I mean by this is that if you've been performing to impress judges for a decade or more, maybe it's time to start doing if for yourself. On the other hand, if weight lifting was always just a hobby you to hang out with the crew, it might be time to consider stepping your game up and signing up for a body transformation or bodybuilding contest.
In my competitive career, I was always puzzled to see older guys in their 60's having a blast on the bodybuilding stage. They didn't have a shot at winning the open division, and they objectively didn't look really good standing besides younger guys, but now I get it. These guys moved to a different age group and became competitive again, started caring about staying fit while aging, and genuinely enjoyed the social aspect of the sport. They checked all three boxes, and I call this wisdom.
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