You Are Not Your Workout

by Michael Plank



We talk a lot with our 6-year-old about choices – maybe to an over-the-top degree. Any time he talks about “bad guys” or “bad people” we always correct him to say “you mean people who made some bad choices.” Why? Because people are complicated. And people are more than their choices and more than their actions. Even though we love to take one experience and draw broad, sweeping generalizations based on it, we’re all a little more complicated than that. That person who cut you off in traffic is probably just another person who was distracted or stressed or busy and so they weren’t acting as their best self – not a piece of human garbage.

Ok, so why does all of this matter?

Because workouts don’t always go well.

Sometimes you try something you’ve done a hundred times, but you don’t have it in you today. Sometimes you try something brand new and fail at it. Sometimes you do your very best and it’s just objectively not a very good job.

But here’s where it get’s complicated.

Most of us work out because it enriches our lives in more than just the physical ways. In a very real way, a lot of us have completely transformed our self-understanding and self-definition through what we’ve gained in our physical practice. That’s amazing. But it makes it easy for us to kind of meld our workout life into who we are as human beings. Which means I start to think that if I do a good job on my workout, I’m therefore a good person. And if I do a bad job on my workout, I’m therefore a bad or worthless person.

Lies. They’re powerful stories that we tell ourselves, but they’re not true stories.

Your missed deadlift isn’t a character flaw, it’s just a thing you tried that didn’t work. Not being able to do what you set out to do today – dare I say it? failing – has no objective impact whatsoever on how worthy you are of dignity, love, and respect. (And incidentally, it works both ways. Failing a deadlift doesn’t make you a worse person. Getting a mile time PR doesn’t make you a better person). You are who you are – worthy of love, and dignity, and respect just because you’re a person – and your workout performance is what it is. And no lift, no workout time, no rep scheme can ever decrease or increase your value.

Working out is amazing and it gives you lots of gifts in life – but never forget that who you are is something far greater than even the best gift you’ve ever received.

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