Being an athlete, no matter what level, is no small feat. It takes years of hard work, patience, persistence, practice, and even failure to groom and master the skills in your sport.
And then, after putting countless hours into your athletics while trying to balance school, a social life, and everything else in between, you are told to add more to your plate. You are told that strength training would benefit you. Coaches will argue that it will keep you safe, make you more explosive, faster, and stronger in order to better your craft and push you toward being the best athlete you can be.
But, what’s the point?
Physiologically, evidence and science support that strength training can significantly reduce the risk of injury and increase force development and power output. While all of this sounds awesome, as an athlete, you simply might not care. You are good in your sport and have made it this far without strength training. You may ask yourself: “Why now? What am I gaining?”
Strength training not only tests you physically, but also mentally. It creates lifelong habits and truths that are apparent in everyday life. The most important and applicable lessons you can learn are not always from the sport itself—they are from the long, drenched-in-sweat, and seemingly never-ending hours devoted in the weight room. The grueling, sometimes unenjoyable time spent training in the weight room teaches you how to be a better teammate, friend, colleague, and ultimately, a better person.
The three most applicable, necessary, and honest truths an athlete can learn from training are grit, patience, and the importance of consistency. And here’s why...
Grit: A Development of Character
In life, people are constantly told that they must work hard in order to succeed. There are no excuses. It is embedded in our society that work ethic is one of the key ingredients and a powerful embodiment of success. In sports, athletes learn what it is like to have a raw, authentic work ethic. But, as an athlete, you learn something deeper and more valuable than work ethic alone, you learn grit.
Grit is a combination of passion and perseverance to achieve goals. It is the ability to push past obstacles and failures, endure emotional or physical pain, while not giving up and inching closer to your goals. Grit is a strong predictor of success. Those with grit are more likely to achieve their goals, and therefore, succeed.
So, how exactly does the weight room and training instill grit in athletes?
It is inevitable that you will not want to do everything in life. The most elite athletes probably do not want to wake up at 5 AM to train. However, they do. Because it means that they will get stronger and better at what they do. Similarly, you will not want to pick up the barbell again after you just failed a rep at a weight that you performed last week with ease. But you have to. You don’t know how close you are to success. These patterns of responding, rebounding, and growing after failure will ingrain grit in you.
Grit is an important characteristic to have as an athlete, but more importantly, to exemplify as a person. You will fail a lot in life, but as long as you respond from your failure with an attitude of growth and fiercely pursue your goals, you will be successful. You will learn to accept that while not everything is easy, it is worth it.
Grit will guide you and lead you as you are exposed to all different journeys and sectors of your life—whether that be work, marriage, parenting, and more. You might not realize it, but you will have training, be it on the field or in the weight room, to thank for your development of grit.
Patience: The Combination of Persistence and Time
Patience is a resounding characteristic in sports and in life. You learn to have patience with your teammates, family, friends, with obstacles in life, goals, failure, and most importantly, with yourself. You learn that with most things in life, rewarding and deserving things take time – it is a process of growth, failures, and eventually, satisfying outcomes.
Unfortunately, in our current society, there is an emphasis on instant gratification. People are constantly chasing things that have immediate returns or rewards. Everyone (for the most part) make choices based on what decision will give them the quickest and most desirable result while taking the least amount of effort and energy. However, strength training teaches you to wait for a longer return. It teaches you that you have to sacrifice the immediate returns of ‘the now’ for the enduring rewards of ‘the later.’ You learn to recognize that while being patient is not easy, it is necessary to achieve a greater reward because strength training results take time (and lots of it!).
It takes time to groom and master not only skills in your sport, but also skills and technique in the weight room itself. Generally speaking, it can take months or even years to watch your hard work turn into fruition. Training instills a mentality in athletes that teaches you to be patient – it is imperative in order to succeed. Sometimes, there is no expected ‘end date’ with training, so as an athlete, you are expected to train hard and consistently to see those results. You learn to have patience with not the results, but the process and progress.
These concepts are profoundly translatable to everyday life. The most rewarding and satisfying things in life take time, whether that be getting the job of your dreams, buying a house, or even starting and raising a family. Those ‘rewards’ do not happen overnight. They are a culmination of hard work, discipline, patience, and sacrificing the immediate returns of ‘the now’ for the lasting rewards of ‘the later.’
Consistency: A Determinant of Success
Consistency is the fortification of your hard work and patience. It coincides with the development of patience paired with grit. It takes hard work and time, over and over, to see results, respond to them, grow from them, and ultimately achieve your goals. This process is abundantly clear in strength training.
Not only does it take time to see results from working out, but it takes consistency. Consistency is shown by committing to continuous training. It might not always be glamorous, and you might not want to be there, but each time you consciously engage, you are getting closer to your results and creating strong, enduring habits for the future.
In life, you have to consistently show up. It is guaranteed that you will have off days, not only in training, but in general. Some days will be harder than others, but as long as you have a consistent mentality, you will get closer to your goals and success.
Being consistent will bleed into all aspects of your life. How consistent is your attitude? Your will to work? Your drive toward your goals?
Being consistent does not mean being perfect. Instead, it recognizes that you will not be perfect, but you will be reliable. You will show up to create habits that shape your character and create lasting habits. Consistent character is more important than perfection itself and can be learned through strength training.
Why All of This Matters
Strength training is hard. It can be physically taxing, and mentally feel monotonous and pointless. However, the lessons it teaches may, arguably, be more important than the training itself.
One of the biggest benefits of strength training is hard to measure and cannot always be seen – character development. Grit, patience, and consistency are valuable truths that can be instilled through training. Those qualities will resonate with you throughout your career as an athlete, but more importantly, as a betterment to your character throughout different chapters of your life.
If you haven’t seen the benefits of strength training yet, just wait, they will come. And they will be worth it.
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