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The Brain and Transformation – Willpower, Enthusiasm and Synergy

the brain and transformation

Scant attention is paid to the psychological aspects of the transformational process. To reconfigure the human body, we must first reconfigure the Mind. The Mind can be the transformative acolytes best friend or worst enemy. Those that have undergone their own vital transformation will attest that there are identifiable mental states associated with the physiological phases that accompany a radical physical transformation.

The overarching goal of all things diet, exercise and fitness-related is to transform the body, i.e., improve muscularity, improve leanness, improve performance. Remolding the human body requires a skillful blending of serious exercise, disciplined eating and optimal rest and recovery. The exercise plan must be sufficiently intense; the diet selected appropriate and effective, formalized rest and recovery are not optional.

The task is nothing short of herculean: revamp the body. Add muscle, burn off body fat and in doing so automatically improve athletic performance. All athletic undertakings improve if the athlete (somehow) becomes significantly leaner and/or significantly more muscular.

The Process of Transformation

the mind and transformation

What is the core motivation behind all things diet and fitness-related? What causes us to join gyms, jog, diet, purchase supplements, hire personal trainers, purchase diet books and fitness equipment? I would suggest there is a single unifying commonality: a desire to change our body, to improve upon its current shape and degree of fitness.

The core motivation for the transformative process springs from the Mind of the individual.  A strong and reoccurring internal vision jump starts the process and sustains the process in the early stages.  We see and imagine ourselves in our idealized, reconfigured body, sleek and lean. In our mind’s eye we create mental imaginings; we see ourselves powering through life with our radically transformed body.

This strong internal vision is the key to developing the next steps of the transformative process.  See Huffington Post article – How to Use Visualization to Achieve Your Goals.”  The interlinked disciplines of training and nutrition combine to form “the process.”  These strategies need to be set into timeframes.  Various modes and methods are combined to reconstruct the body, to alter it, from what it is into a new and improved version, a streamlined version, a more muscular version and a more capable version.

Each week the ante is upped: the diet further tightened, the lifting made heavier, the cardio done faster and longer. Each week progress is coaxed, slight gains are registered in each of the intertwined disciplines. Creeping incrementalism occurs when the athlete sets the big macro goal into a timeframe (usually twelve weeks) and creates weekly micro-goals.

The sophisticate, moved to action, researches modes and methods and after comparing and contrasting exercise and diet templates, creates an integrated periodized game plan, A combined effort is launched in three separate areas, differing disciplines are pursued simultaneously: resistance training, cardiovascular training, nutrition. Three separate game plans are created and implemented.

See Practical Programming in Extend Your Life Force for information on periodization or for a more detailed explanation check out my book "The Purposeful Primitive" at

The Benefits of Transformation

There is a natural and predictable shifting of psychological perspective that occurs as the transformative process unfolds. Mental recalibration accompanies and assists every phase of the successful physical transformation. The Mind is recalibrated to aid the effort.

the brain and transformation

In the beginning, willpower powers the process. Initially we do what we do on blind faith and belief. Willpower is all about having the self-control and fortitude, the grit and gumption, the diligence needed to adhere rigidly to selected guidelines and strategies. Strength of will enables us to (initially) stay on track without regard for results. But for how long? Willpower is finite. See IDEA’s article on The Science of Willpower.” 

No matter how strong minded or determined a person is, at some point all acts of will must come to an end. Transformative Masters understand that once the process commences, the willpower spigot is turned on. Wisely selected resistance training, cardio and nutritional strategies start the process.

The transformational process is akin to fitness Ground Hog Day: the same fitness and dietary procedures are repeated, over and over, on a daily and ongoing basis. There are no breaks, no timeouts, no cheat meals or days off.  Food prep needs to be done before foods can be eaten. Cardio must be consistent and intense.  Weight training is made increasingly difficult.  Rest and sleep are legislated. All this new activity and upset need to fit into our already busy and hectic lives, no easy task.

Tangible results generate enthusiasm.  Genuine enthusiasm (born of results) is self-sustaining, like solar power or cold fusion. While willpower is finite, enthusiasm is infinite. Obtaining real results generates genuine enthusiasm. Where there is amped-up enthusiasm for the process, adherence becomes effortless. Long term adherence is the key to transformational success.

After weeks of small consistent gains, enthusiastic adherence morphs into synergy. When enveloped in synergy, the sum is greater than the individual parts. While the athlete remains in this synergistic sweet spot, muscle is built, body fat is oxidized, performance soars. When all the component parts are in place and practiced in a balanced and even-handed fashion, the trainee can ride the synergistic razor’s edge and experience the gain of a lifetime. Synergy carries us across the transformational finish line.

In the end willpower is a finite mental propellant.  It is important that the investment of that willpower yields tangible results before it runs out.  These results are what fuels enthusiasm and feeds the synergy of physical transformation.

Want to learn more to take your gains to the next level?

Check out this blog post! "How to Focus the Mind"

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  1. asmithxu

    This is so true- getting fit is oftentimes a matter of willpower, sticking to it week after week. I really like your analogy of a fitness ground hog day.

    For me, I love to exercise and sweat it out at the gym, but I have more trouble with my diet. The diet is my downfall.

    I am trying to actually gain weight, but I have a small appetite. If I am not reaching my goals as far as eating, I will take some time off from exercising which of course turns into a vicious cycle.

    It is so important to start getting results. I think that as a new person, it can be difficult to know which actions will give results over time. I look forward to seeing more from your site and learning more about fitness.

    • Marty Gallagher

      I think the takeaway is at some point enthusiasm need come on-line – results birth enthusiasm – results can be elicited from one of four categories…look at the content of the categories…too often the intensities are insufficient – in nutrition contrast is king…

  2. Alex

    You are right that willpower is foundational to the achievement of any physical gains, so it is important to use it strategically. We only have so much and it can be broken easily if used carelessly without the long term in mind. People only have so much of it.

    When it comes to building will power, how do you best go about cultivating it? Because if you do so, the benefits can be enormous. You can break new boundaries in your physical capabilities and live your life to its fullest. I look forward to hearing you answer.

    Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

    • Marty Gallagher

      willpower is finite – some have more than others –  that is factual – again, I would suggest that the answer is not how to cultivate more willpower that solution lies in obtaining tangible physical results before willpower exhausts itself –  my world is mathematics, sets, reps, poundage, time, frequency – within two weeks we can generate results, motivating results that morph the athlete from will to enthused. the categoriescan include improved workout performance, improved body comp, improved energy and vibrancy – there is a totality in our effort that creates many possibilities for generating the motivating progress we seek.

  3. todd

    This is a great read. Very informative.
    Yes having a strong internal vision is a requirement to achieve the desired results in my opinion. You have to believe in yourself and your ability to make it happen, the process will not be easy so to see it through you need willpower and the vision to see the small results along the way as you progress to your end goal. You have helped me focus on my vision and willpower, thanks for the great info

    Take Care

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