An Ode to the Gym

The gym is a lot more than a place to move, grunt, and sweat.

It’s a miniature cosmos where we can make contact with the deeper parts of ourselves — our convictions, fears, habits, and anxieties.

It’s an arena where we can confront these opponents head-on and prove that we have what it takes to vanquish them.

The gym is also a setting where we can test the assumptions we’ve made about ourselves and the stories underlying them.

It calls on us to demonstrate how we respond to the greater struggles of life — adversity, pain, insecurity, stress, weakness, and disadvantage — and, in some ways, who we really are.

In this way, the gym is a training — and testing — ground for the body, mind, and soul.

The conflicts that we learn to endure in the gym empower us in our daily lives, as well.

The concentration, discipline, and resilience required to build a great body are also required to build a great life. If you can do one, you can do the other, because the way to do anything is, at bottom, the way to do everything.

The gym calls on us to constantly attempt new things, and thus is also a source of learning.

It’s a forum where questions are at least as important as answers, and it cultivates what scientists call a “growth mindset” by teaching us that our abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work — a worldview that’s essential for great accomplishment.

The gym is practical, too, not idealistic.

It’s a laboratory open to any and all ideas and methodologies, and it gives clear, unqualified feedback: they either work or they don’t.

In short, the gym can be so much more than merely a place to work out.

It can be a refuge from the chaos around us; a world of our own that we create to satisfy our most personal and primal dreams and desires.

This is why the gym can give us a lot more than muscle and strength. It can give us more life.


If you want to hear more of my musings on mastering the inner game of getting fit so you can be all you can be, check out my book The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation.

In this book, I share wisdom and insights from hundreds of scientific studies and scores of legendary artists, authors, entrepreneurs, philosophers, generals, and conquerors, as well as my own biggest “a ha” moments that have helped me overcome the things that were most holding me back.

Go for it!


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Mike Matthews

Mike Matthews


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