At some point most men throw in the towel on building the kind of body they want or becoming the best version of themselves. They forget about being the man they want to be and keep busy with all the stuff they have to do.
But you don’t have to follow the typical path.
With the right approach and the right mindset you can do both. Here’s how to win the battle of fitness.
Build Your Body
The body you want to build is kinda like your body now, only better.
It has more muscle, and less fat. It looks better, feels better, and performs better. It’s stronger, leaner, and more muscular.
You may not like hearing that. There was a time when I didn’t like hearing that. But it’s what we need to hear. We’re the guys who want to build a body like an NFL player or a Crossfit Athlete or the guy on the cover of Men’s Fitness.
Maybe you think you can do that and still be a husband, father, and 9-5er. And while we can look similar to those guys, training to get their body isn’t the best idea.
It’s not the smartest way to train.
It’s not the healthiest way to train.
And it isn’t the most efficient way to train.
Every body is different. We have different muscle insertion points, limb lengths, grandparents (a.k.a. genetics), and hormone profiles. When we get fat, we look different than other fat people. When we get lean, our muscle definition looks different than the guy next to us.
There is no quintessential “perfect body.” It’s a myth. Forget about that guy on the cover of Men’s Fitness or the dude flexing his perfectly toned abs and biceps on Instagram.
That’s not your reality. Stop trying to be something (and someone) you’re not. Screw trying to look like anyone else. Be the best you that you can be. In the end, you’re working with what you have. And what you have is good enough. Take whatever you’re working with right now and make it better.
Get leaner, stronger, and more muscular. Make your body something you’re proud of. Something that makes every other aspect of your life better.
And most importantly, do it within the context of your life.
Use Fitness As Something To Make You Better
Fitness should be something that enhances your life, not something that everything in your life revolves around.
You know the “gym rats” or the “regulars” in the gym? The guys who look like they live under the bar, spending every free moment pumping iron and looking at their sweaty reflection in the mirror?
You don’t wanna do that.
Most of those guys have low self esteem, no social life, and no identity outside the gym. They’re running from something. Desperate to find purpose and meaning in how much weight they can lift or how big of a muscle they can flex.
They serve their body rather than their body serving them.
Being physically active can – and should – be something that elevates you as a man and as a person. It should be something that makes you better, stronger, and more able to withstand momentary discomfort for a more promising reward later on.
Guys who train regularly know what I’m talking about. Moving weight, doing something you haven’t done before – something you didn’t know you were capable of doing – just plain feels good.
Having a goal to make yourself better is fine. Doing what it takes – making sacrifices – so that you can dedicate the time and effort to becoming a stronger version of yourself is good.
But not at the expense of other, more important things in your life.
Not at the expense of being the husband, father, or friend that you need to be. And, not at the expense of the rest of your life. You need to be able to prioritize and do other stuff, too.
Feel like you need to plan every hour around timing the perfectly balanced food you need to eat and workout 5-6 times per week? Fine, go for it. Though, unless you’re a competitive/aspiring bodybuilder you probably don’t need to do any of that.
Me? I’ll find a way to lift weights or move my body through space a few times per week for about an hour and make movement a regular part of my life. I’ll take part in hobbies that allow me to interact with others and engage my competitive side. I’ll find ways to challenge myself and have fun.
I’m gonna do what I need to do to build a body I can be proud of – the kind of body that allows me to live life ON MY TERMS – and then I’m getting out of there and doing other things with my time.
Most guys who adopt the “all or nothing” fitness mentality burn out quickly. They get in good shape once and then go back to their old ways. They yo-yo back and forth, unable to make a lifelong change that truly transforms their life.
They won’t last long. And neither will their bodies.
So What “Should” You Do Now?
I don’t feel like it’s my position to answer that, because I don’t think there’s just one approach that works for everyone.
But I will offer a few suggestions, both for the guys who can’t seem to make fitness a habit, and those who’ve been a little too focused on the “fitness is life” approach. Call it wisdom from a washed up muscle-head turned dad.
Embrace Health. You know how they tell you to “first secure your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs?” Well that works as a metaphor for life as well.
We have to take care of ourselves before we can help anyone else – including those most important to us like our wife, kids, and other people we love and care about.
Despite what you may have heard, it’s not selfish to do what you need to do to live a good life.
It’s not selfish to become the best version of yourself. In fact, it’s selfish not to.
Your health should be priority numero uno – and you shouldn’t feel the need to apologize for prioritizing that.
Be The Best You. You are the example that your kids will look to for how to live. That’s not something you should take lightly. Lead from the front. When you are an example of a healthy life filled with positive habits. And, that’s the precedence that you will set for your kids (and everyone around you).
You can step up and be the husband and father that you need to be for your family. You can have the strength to forgo momentary comfort so that we can do what’s best in the long-term.
Oh, and don’t forget: you’re just trying to do the best with what you’ve got. Don’t spend too much time worrying about how your biceps measure up to someone else’s.
Embrace Structure. I used to be the kinda guy that flies by the seat of his pants. I figured, if I can find time to work out today, I’ll go for it. After a while I realized that doesn’t work for busy guys trying to balance a hundred different things.
Building a strong, muscular body comes down to establishing the right kind of habits. Like planning a specific day and time for your workouts. Like making a meal plan with your family and shopping ahead of time for what you need. I won’t lie, it can seem a little overwhelming at first, especially if you’ve never done it before.
So if you’re just coming into this lifestyle, the best advice I can give you is to treat it like a business plan. Write everything down, set deadlines, and keep yourself accountable.
Have Fun. I’m not here to tell you how this or that is the best way to work out. Maybe you want to go to the gym and look at all the veins of your arms popping out in the mirror. Or maybe you get fired up over a rocking Fran time (that’s a Crossfit reference, btw).
Is there a “best” way to work out? Maybe, maybe not. But here’s what you should know: this whole fitness lifestyle thing can be a drag. Especially when it’s the end of a long day and the last thing you want to do is go the gym and do what you’re ‘supposed to do.’
That’s why you must find something you enjoy.
I used enjoy going to a public gym – now that would feel like something I’d have to “force” myself to do. These days, I train mostly in my garage or in my backyard with a few of the essentials. That’s what keeps it fun for me.
Find something that stokes your fitness fire and run with it.
Becoming the best version of yourself is more than physical. But, don’t underestimate the effect that this can have on every aspect of your life if you do things right.
When you’re strong (mentally and physically) you can help others become strong and motivated. When you’re able to take control of your life, build positive habits, set goals and work towards them, and commit yourself to adopting new behaviors, you can help others do the same.
Sometimes, as men, we just need a nudge in the right direction, so consider this your wake-up call. Your “call to action.”
Now get moving.
Eric Weinbrenner helps dads build their bodies and challenge their minds by providing simple, effective muscle building, fat loss, and mindset strategies that teach dads how to build a strong, muscular, and athletic body within the context of their busy lives. Join the Bulletproof Dad Tribe at http://musclethatmatters.com/.