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What exercise has taught me about life

by James Anderson
Posted: December 22, 2015

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This article is going to be a little different [read: a lot] from the usual “how to get a six-pack in 6-weeks” that loves to flood our news feeds on a daily basis. In actual fact, this is my personal story of my journey into health and fitness and what it has taught me about life. 

I guess we should get straight into the nitty-gritty of it then?  So, it all started during my high school years….

I wasn’t exactly what you’d call an “A student”, in fact, you’d be hard pressed to find my grades residing in the first 3-4 letters of the alphabet. But it wasn’t all bad news, for all the poor grades I did seem to excel at two things.

1.              Sport

2.              Anything to do with learning about anatomy, physiology or human potential.

In hindsight I should have probably just joined the dots and travelled down the path of least resistance, leading myself into the health and fitness industry straight after high school. But, in fine teenage form, I did the opposite.  Instead of focusing on my strengths (and passions) in exercise and physiology, I chose to focus on the poor grades and negative comments from my teachers who only acted as gifted guides, leading me down a negative path that eventually saw me end up in a hospital bed suffering from severe depression.


I can honestly say that this was one of the lowest points in my life. But, as I’ll explain later, it was also an experience that I will never regret having. 

Without delving any further into the details of my hospital stay I am sure you can understand that being there made me quickly realise that something was seriously wrong with my life. So over the next few weeks I worked on developing a vision for how I wanted to live my life from that moment on.

And guess what my vision started with? “Health” and “Happiness”. Once I was discharged I began to focus all of my time and energy into the education, development and growth in the following areas of my life.

1.              Mindset. 

2.              Nutrition.

3.              Exercise.

And, although today’s article is what exercise has taught me about life, I would first like to say that the primary goal for a truly healthy body should be to develop ALL of these areas. Because when you do this, the results in both your mental and physical health will be exponentially greater - allowing for a balanced life of health & happiness.


Now, back to exercise and what it’s taught me about life….

Over the years I’ve tried it ALL. I’ve exercised using a huge variety of training techniques and modalities. During these years I have also experienced a colourful array of emotional highs and lows in my life. I have had successes and failures in all areas of my life.

I’ve almost died 3 times. I’ve lost my friends and family to sickness and tragedy. I’ve been $100,000 in debt…the list goes on. But the thing is, we’ve all had tough times. We always will have tough times, because that’s life.

What I have learnt is this. It’s never a matter of what happens to us, it’s always a matter of what happens within us. Pain, discomfort, tough times and adversity will always follow you through life whether you like it or not. You need to understand this and realised that these experiences are actually blessings.

And when it comes to exercise and life, I have found that they’re very similar. You have to go through something that challenges you if you want it to change you. The only difference is that the pain that life has to offer can’t always be avoided, whereas you have to make a choice to put yourself through the pain when you exercise. But both give you an opportunity to become a stronger version of yourself.

Because if you’ve ever exercised really hard you’ll know that it can hurt really bad, and if you’ve ever gone through a tough time in your life you’ll also know that it hurts. And it’s hard to focus on anything else when you’re deep in the moment - the pain and discomfort rises to seemingly unbearable levels that your mind and body screams at you to make it stop. 

But this is what I’ve learnt, don’t quit – just keep going, grind through it. Because it’s in this pain and discomfort that magic lives - your magic. The pain will eventually pass and you’ll look back with a smile knowing that you have grown.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t regret for a second having suffered depression as I believe it’s made me the person I am today. I also think that considering my experience that I have a responsibility to let other people know that it’s ok to suffer from illnesses like anxiety and depression but also to to remind people to reach out and ask for help as often times it’s never as bad as you make it out in your mind.

Now, I can’t say that this is scientifically proven, but I firmly believe that one of the reasons I love training at such high intensities is because I’ve experienced these incredibly tough times in my life and understand that those painful times eventually pass and what’s left behind is a stronger, more resilient, more powerful person. After all they don’t call them “growing pleasures” do they?

I’m not trying to discount anyone else’s experience in life either - life is an experience that can only ever be had by your own perception, and the best thing about perception is that it can be altered - allowing you a way to view things differently.

So what I’m asking of you is this - understand that you’re more powerful than you could ever imagine, and that whatever painful experience you’re going through, whether in life or your training are blessings designed to make you a better version of yourself. Start to develop a mindset where you cherish the challenges with the knowledge that strength comes from the struggle. Remember that tough times make the best and break the rest so if you’re not where you want to be, keep going, even slow progress is still progress.

Train hard, smile harder.

Love heath and fitness? Learn more about working in the fitness industry by exploring careers here


James Anderson

James is the owner of a women’s only tribe based at Bondi Beach that focuses on strength and conditioning team training for optimal outcomes and long-lasting solutions.

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