“Imaginary Lats Syndrome” describes the guy at the gym who walks around like he’s the coolest thing ever birthed into our world without any actual accomplishments to back up the assertion.

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Aristotle had it right when he said that virtue is found within the mean between two extremes.  For instance, let’s look at the subject of timidity vs. aggressiveness.  On one hand, someone can be too timid if they avoid confrontation when their own or someone else’s rights are being abused.  On the other hand, someone can be too aggressive if they instantly attack anyone they perceive to be threatening their rights or someone else’s.  Aristotle’s virtue of the mean comes into play when we tell someone to pursue a happy medium between being a pushover and a bully.

Although it’s a somewhat awkward segue, the same issue applies to fitness.  The two extremes are competing against everyone and competing against no one.

I often see the competing against everyone mentality among more athletically-minded males.  Despite their external guise of confidence, a lot of them are extremely insecure and feel a need to try to make sure that everyone around them believes that they can do anything anyone else in the gym can do.  I encounter guys like this all the time.  For whatever reason, they’ll come over and attempt to do whatever I’m doing.  They’ll do one rep of it with bad form and then immediately walk away with their imaginary lats flared like they’ve achieved something.  I guess they soothed their threatened ego or whatever need they had to come over and get in my space.

Then, you have people on the other end of the spectrum.  These people see someone in the gym lift a heavy weight, run fast, etc. and then immediately think, “Oh, I could never do that!”.  The truth of the matter is that they probably could.  It may take years of focus on achieving the task, but they probably could.  The error in thought is in believing that they are incapable and that they should give up because of that misguided belief.

So, the happy medium between believing yourself to be in competition with everyone vs. believing yourself to be unable to compete with anyone is simply competing against yourself.  At the end of the day, who’s beating who at what exercise doesn’t really matter for most of us in the gym.  What matters is that we are getting better each day.  Better how?  I don’t know.  What are your fitness goals?  Define them and then work towards them.  Maybe you need to do more cardio to get your resting heart rate or blood pressure down.  Maybe you need to lose weight to shake off your Type II diabetes.  Maybe you want to run a marathon.  Maybe you want to be awesome at high school sports.  Whatever it is, you are your own competition.  Beat your past self each and every day.  If you did ten reps of 135lbs on your bench press last week, do eleven reps this week.  It’s a step in the right direction, and it is only through a cumulation of those steps that you will get to your own fitness goals.

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