For the past month I’ve been working out regularly under the tutelage of Dick Talens, the founder of Fitocracy, and for the first time ever I’m making actual gains. Seven pounds gained so far, and substantial increases in the weights I can lift.
When we first started going back and forth about the training, I said something to the effect of, “I have the irrational idea that I can’t possibly gain weight no matter what I do.” I gave Crossfit a try for a while, and probably gained around 3-5 pounds within a year and tried Tim’s Occam’s Protocol with no real success. Back when I had a house I put a bench in my server room and even rigged up a lat pulldown system by putting pulleys in the ceilng. No gains there, either.
The reason I decided to get training from Dick was because I figured I could put to rest once and for all the question of whether or not I’m able to build muscle. I wanted to know what was possible, how much effort it required, and how much time it would take. As I rested in between sets today in the gym, I kept thinking about how I never thought I could gain weight, just because “I’m not that kind of person”. I thought about other times I’ve felt that way and been wrong, and the different patterns these thoughts fall into.
There is No Way
I was a nerd growing up. I still am, too. That meant that around the time that many of my peers were learning how to talk to girls, I was learning how to talk to computers. I got very lucky and was essentially picked up by a great girl in high school, but my attitude towards dating was that I was mediocre at it and would continue to be. I didn’t know how to talk to girls, didn’t know how to flirt with them, and had no idea that this was even a learnable skill.
Last year I went out to Las Vegas to sit it on a program Mystery was running. We went out the first night and my friend and I pretty quickly made friends with a group of four girls, who we had running around with us for the rest of the night. They asked why we were there and we told them.
“You guys must be teaching, then? You obviously would have no problem with girls.”
I used to believe that I wasn’t the type of person who could be good at flirting. Then I was fortunate enough to discover that there was a way to get better. I didn’t say a single “line” to those girls in Vegas– I had just become someone who was good at these sorts of things.
If you find yourself thinking that you can’t do X because you’re not Y, and there’s no way to learn Y, make sure that’s actually true. In certain cases like becoming a pro athlete after a certain age, it probably is true. In most other fields, it’s probably not true. There’s very often a way.
It’s Not Me
I remember the first time I rode on a motorcycle. My extremely cool uncle had a Ducati, and he somehow convinced my parents to let me ride on the back. In my mind is a freeze frame of the first turn we took– I couldn’t believe how far we were leaned over.
When he turned eighteen or so, my brother bought a motorcycle. He was that type of guy. He bought a sports bike, which suited him, and within a year he was showing us videos of him doing wheelies at one hundred miles an hour on the highway. This all made a lot of sense– no one was surprised that he got a motorcycle.
I never even thought about getting a motorcycle. I wasn’t that type of guy. I bought things like electric skateboards and mopeds. Even when I had a moped, it seemed so far away from a motorcycle that I never thought about upgrading. I took motorycle class only because riding a scooter technicaly required a motorcycle license. I remember during the round of introductions on the first day, I told everyone that I had no intention of riding a motorcycle– I had a 75cc scooter.
Then I rode for the first time during class and I realized that the “type of person” that I was was completely irrelevant. I didn’t need some genes or background to ride a motorcyle– just sitting on it and rolling across the parking lot was enough to make me fall in love.
It’s a dangerous trap to categorize yourself, even if it’s a weird unique category you make up yourself. You never give yourself more options by doing that– you only limit them.
It Won’t Work for Me
Working out was an interesting one. I had a friend named Austin who had a similarly scrawny build, with muscle being equally absent. Over the course of year or two, he became ripped. I don’t know exactly what he did, but my recollection is that he did a lot of pullups, some pushups, and ate some more food. Another friend of mine, Jonah, lost tons of weight and gained tons of muscle.
It wasn’t that I didn’t believe that it was possible to gain muscle– I just believed that it wasn’t possible for me. Clearly this wasn’t a very well thought out stance, but even if I would deny it logically, it’s what my subconscious thought.
What works for one person works for another, at least in general terms. Maybe required protein intake will vary by person, but a workout program with caloric overload, progressive weight overload, and some amount of monitoring and adjustment will pretty much work for anyone.
Want to lose weight instead? Upgrade the quality of your calories and eat fewer of them.
When there’s something with a proven record of working for pretty much everyone, your success will come down to how closely you adhere to a protocol and how much effort you put into it. If a known method for getting a goal doesn’t work for you, chances are the problem is within, and some changes to yourself will set you on the right track.
Photo is my motorcycle. I never thought that I was the type of person who could work on vehicles, but I rebuilt a few moped engines and chopped the tail off my bike with a saw, amongst other things.
I’ll be releasing another 50 SETT invites pretty soon. If you want one and you’re not on the list, go to http://sett.com