A snow covered roadWhy do you go to the gym? Is it only for the health benefits of being in shape, or is it so that you can do something useful with your body? Do you just want to cut down on your body fat and build up some muscle, or is there a practical reason that you lift weights? Do you have some fantastical idea that you need to lift weights so that you can be “buff” or do you not really care about what you look like but want to be able to perform some real work with your body without being a quivering mess afterwards?

When I lift weights, I have specific goals that I want to accomplish. Usually, that means that I want to do what I can to improve my running. My running is a way for me to measure myself against my peers and for me to engage in a level of competition where people do not (usually) have to get hurt. While I obviously do not want to look bad, how my body looks compared to somebody else has rarely been something that I have thought about or obsessed over when I am working out. I really enjoy the health benefits of being in shape, but that is generally just a happy side effect of being in shape and is not really the goal that I strive for. If it were, then I probably would not run marathons and depress my immune system so much in such a short span of time.

One reason that I do lift weights, though, is so that my body will be more useful to me. Being able to lift and carry things, being able to rake my lawn, and being able to shovel my driveway are all very tangible actions that are made much easier by the fact that I am not as weak as I once was. Being able to lug a 6 gallon carboy of wort without dropping it is a must. Moving a table saw when you are the only person home is a useful ability to have. Having the ability to do whatever I want, and knowing that my body is going to respond and be able to do what I ask of it is probably the second most dominant reason why I lift weights.

Why do you lift weights? There is no right or wrong answer, obviously. It is just something that I thought about as I was shoveling 8 inches of snow while it is still blizzard conditions this evening. I was thankful that I had the endurance to keep out there for a few hours and that I had the strength to throw the snow over the 4 and 5 foot banks on the edges of my driveway where all of the snow has been piling up. What gets you into the weight room? Or, for that matter, what keeps you from getting into a weight room?