On Ego Pursuits, Identity, and Avoidance in Strength Training

Allow me to tell you a story of ego pursuits, identity, and avoidance.

It was the bonus day of the Girls Gone Strong Women’s Fitness Summit (WFS) in 2016. Jessie Mundell was teaching us the proper way to do deadlifts and glute bridges with correct alignment and pelvic floor utilization.

Buuut, I just couldn’t get my body to do it. I felt frustration, self-doubt, and uncertainty. I was full of excuses—anything to defend my ego, which was so wrapped up in my identity around lifting. There was no way I had been doing something so wrong for so long!

Mostly, I just did not want to do it, because it felt hard and scary and impossible.

The mind has a way of tricking itself, so I proceeded to leave the summit, returning home to completely forget the advice.

It gets even better though. It was the Women’s Strength and Empowerment Weekend (WSEW) in 2017. I didn’t attend Jessie’s session.

But the truth has a way of revealing itself in time.

Almost two years after WFS, I had a light-bulb moment in physical therapy. My PT gave me a cue that made me realize that I still had the same alignment issue and weaknesses that I had experienced at WFS.

So, finally… I bought Jessie’s Core + Floor program.

…then I didn’t step foot in my home gym for over a month.

This week I started the workouts and they feel so right. I’m finally addressing the issues I’ve avoided working on for years. This feeling is the catalyst for me to continue the habit of working out again.

You see, a few years ago, it was all about how much weight I could lift. I competed heavily in powerlifting. I gained pride in achieving not just personal records, but some state and national records in a powerlifting federation.

Powerlifting Ego Pursuit
At the peak of my ego pursuit, sharing my highest PRs

Lifting had become a complete ego pursuit for me—in other words, something that is only being pursued for the desired result of such pursuit. An ego pursuit is doing something just to be able to say that you did it. It’s when you have a feeling that you shouldn’t do something, but you just have to finish it, just because.

This became dangerous when it came to lifting weights. Even if I was in serious pain or discomfort during a set, I would trudge on, completing the prescribed set of reps just because I had to get it done to say that I did it.

How I felt on a given day was dependent on how good of a workout a had—not how I actually felt, but the outside appearance of it. Did I do something extraordinary or set a new personal record? If not, I wasn’t satisfied.

At the time, it mattered more to me to attempt a PR than to be conscious and cautious about exactly how I was moving my body. Inevitably, this led to injury.

Since then, I’ve peeled back the layers of my ego and identity associated with strength training.

Through this journey, I’m slowly learning how to trust my body again. Coming at exercise from a different perspective, things are just different. All ego is out the door. It’s about really slowing things down, being patient, and moving deliberately. Fully understanding what I’m doing while I’m doing it. Making sure all the right muscles are being utilized before rushing through something. Be fully present in each moment.

What are your thoughts about ego pursuits? Let me know in the comments below!

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