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Passion over Attitude

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A few months ago I touched base on a topic delivered by one of the worlds most sought after strength/conditioning/kettlebell trainers Mike Mahler – the idea that a piss poor attitude can deliver the same results from a workout that a positive attitude can.

There is no shortage of “power of positive thinking” advocates, so I thought an examination into the validity of positive results being achieved with a less than perfect attitude was fascinating, but the analogy was a little lost on me. I enjoy any number of physical activities and I particularly enjoy the time I spend in my gym – lifting weights, hitting a heavy bag or doing intervals on my stationary single speed are my ideas of a good time, so it was difficult for me to personally relate to having a poor attitude towards working out. But I think that was what was particularly intriguing to me about the idea. I wanted to know if someone who loathed training as much as I love it could really achieve the same results that I could from a session.

Mahler proved his point with several colorful examples of people achieving success in endeavors that they absolutely had no real desire to perform, not just success but high levels of success. So it must be possible for people who hate physical activity to achieve the very same results in the gym that people who have a good deal of fun performing their workouts, right?

In my article a few months ago I came to the conclusion that whether you love or hate your workout, if it’s designed well and you perform it as prescribed that you would achieve results. But I’ve since been doing some more thinking on the topic and I’d actually like to see a long term study of this theory to see how things pan out over several months. My guess is that, workload being equal, that the subjects who despise physical activity will most certainly achieve similar results than those who thoroughly enjoy it – but I wonder how long that can actually last.

I know that I’ve had jobs that I haven’t been fully emotionally invested in, but that pride in myself and a good work ethic kept me performing at a high level for some time. As the months and years drone on though, it becomes more and more difficult to perform at a high level when doing something that you don’t care about – or worse yet, that you thoroughly dislike. Sometimes it was only a matter of a few months. One occasion I even lasted six years, but I knew that I wasn’t performing at the same level that I had been at the outset and my growing hatred of the task at hand would always eventually force me to move on.

I imagine that if this attitude as it relates to fitness test was administered over the long term that the common result would be similar to my examples of work history. If you don’t have some kind of passion for something, you may be able to give your full effort for a while, but it’s difficult to maintain the exceedingly high level of performance that it takes to yield results if you simply don’t care or don’t have any enjoyment at all in the activity.

Workout01I suppose it would be a different result if vanity was the catalyst, if someone were incredibly obsessed with their physical appearance then they would likely continue performing at a high level regardless of the activity. But for people who aren’t totally driven by ego, prolonged results through an activity that is hated might be somewhat more difficult.

It’s my estimation that passion could play a huge part in achieving any kind of long term success in any fitness regime. In order to continue to excel in anything over an extended period of time, there needs to be some enjoyment or some passion in the task at hand – it’s incredibly difficult perform at a peak level over an extended period of time if you aren’t at all interested in what you are doing.

Can you get results in the gym if you don’t like your workout? Absolutely, but if you want to continue to perform at the same level and continue to achieve noticeably positive results your best bet is to find a form of physical training that you can enjoy and be passionate about. The more you enjoy an activity, the easier it will be for you to maintain the same level of desire for improvement and that drive is what will get you the results that you are after.

About Jeff Wilson

Jeff Wilson has been involved in some form of sports and athletic training for more than two decades: as an athlete, a trainer and a writer.

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One Comment

  1. Michael

    October 9, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    I think you hit the nail right on the head: those with passion may not have better immediate results than those who “psych themselves up,” but those with passion have perseverance that will fail the rest.

    This might not apply to everything, but in the world of the gym, where it’s not only what you do today, but what you do every week for the next year or decade or lifetime, it certainly does.

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