No matter how long you've been working out, or how dedicated you are, there's always room for learning and inspiration.
The 10 bits of wisdom below (from influential people who walk the walk) will not only inspire you...
...But might also cause you to think a little differently about working out, including why you do it in the first place.
(Notice the consistent themes in the quotes below.)
1. Henry Rollins
The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds.
Nobody is more authentic than Henry Rollins, the iconic musician from Blag Flag and the Henry Rollins Band (staples on my stereo growing up), and this quote speaks to that. For The Iron really is the one objective truth in life; the ultimate refuge from bullshit. In the gym, unlike in life, the playing field is even.
(No matter your position in life, The Iron is the equalizer, because in this endeavor, the hobo and the trust-fund kid are up against the same "two hundred pounds.")
2. Louie Simmons
Do it until it hurts too much.
A simple but wise (and powerful) quote about commitment from powerlifting legend Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell. Louie and Westside Barbell are famous in the powerlifting community for producing the strongest athletes in the world, using the Conjugate Method and special exercises to build the powerlifts.
One of the key insights I've gleaned from this approach is to target your weak points, and train them until they're no longer weaknesses, but strengths. Doing this takes commitment (nobody wants to train what they suck at) and pain tolerance, but the rewards are greater than the sacrifices.
3. Dave Tate
There are people who are better than you, and who know more stuff than you. Are you listening to them?
Dave Tate is the Founder & CEO of EliteFTS.com, whose mission is to "live, learn and pass on." The essence of that is recognizing that no matter how long you've been training, or with whom, or how strong you are, there is always someone stronger, wiser and better than you. The key is also in knowing that they're the folks to whom you should be paying attention, because they will make you better.
In my view, physical excellence does not itself produce a good mind and character: on the other hand, excellence of mind and character will make the best of the physique it is given.
WTF? Plato? Well, this has always been one of my favorite quotes, 2,500 years old or not, as it speaks perfectly to the relationship between mind and body. The next time someone condescends to you about your passion for the gym (or being a "meathead"), you can point to Plato for vindication. The truth is, real wisdom includes giving a shit about your physique, and your physical and mental strength.
5. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.
Training is about overcoming resistance, and the practice and routine of doing this over and over is, to my mind, the greatest lesson a lifter learns. It's been my observation that people who are the strongest physically are also often extremely mentally tough, which carries over to life. Commitment, dedication, perseverance and tolerance for discomfort is what best characterizes strength.
6. Joe DeFranco
Have you ever noticed an athlete in the weight room who is built like Tarzan, yet lifts weights better suited for Jane? Yet, there are other athletes who are every bit as strong and functional as they look.
Joe DeFranco is founder and owner of DeFranco's Gym in Austin, TX. Joe trains world-class athletes to improve strength, speed, power, mobility, agility and sport-specific performance.
In this quote (which is a favorite of mine because it really hits the nail on the head with many lifters today), he distinguishes between athletes who merely look strong (but aren't), and those who are the genuine article, combining an impressive physique with equally notable strength.
He emphasizes what lifters should already know but often don't: if you're interested in more than just looking strong, you need to lift heavy weights. Period.
7. Michael Jordan
Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.
I guess you could say that this is an elaborated "Just Do It" slogan, but I think it's more than that. In this quote, MJ underscores one of the key differences between those who are successful, and many others who have the desire to be but aren't: taking action. To be more than simply a dreamer, you need to take action.
8. Bruce Lee
Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.
The lesson here is to trust yourself and your instincts, and listen to your body. This is not to say that you should ignore advice from other lifters (especially those who are more experienced [see '3' above!] ), but every lifter responds differently to training, and understand that what works for one lifter might not work for you.
In the end, you need to follow your own path and learn from yourself as much or more as from others. Continue what works (and evolve it over time), discontinue what doesn't, and be a permanent student.
9. Mark Rippetoe
Strong people are harder to kill than weak people and more useful in general.
Mark Rippetoe is a renowned strength coach with decades of experience, a former powerlifter and author of Starting Strength (one of the best and most successful books on barbell exercise instruction).
I love this quote because, although tongue-in-cheek, it speaks to the character-producing nature of strength, while probably also alluding to the fact that strong people can be credited with mankind's perseverance over a couple hundred thousand years.
10. Fred Hatfield (a.k.a. "Dr. Squat")
To feel strong, to walk amongst humans with a tremendous feeling of confidence and superiority is not at all wrong. The sense of superiority in bodily strength is borne out by the long history of mankind paying homage in folklore, song and poetry to strong men.
Alas, my favorite quote of all, from the legendary "Dr Squat" who, at 45 years old in 1987, squatted a world-record 1,014 pounds.
Be proud of being strong, and of your pursuit to become stronger.
Although modern culture doesn't revere physical strength like previous generations, there is still nothing more respectable in the gym than the guy squatting 3 times his body weight, even if he's only the size of another guy's arm (who can't squat his selfie stick).
More importantly, physical strength leads to pride and confidence, because we are conditioned to respect the alpha male.
-- Todd Henry
PS – If you have something quotable to say that should be included in the next collection, tweet me @EmergentNutra and you might be featured next time.