Four Life Lessons From Prison Inmates

Four Life Lessons From Prison InmatesFor me, life lessons and points of learning can come from the most unlikely of sources; even an encounter years ago where I met two recently released prisoners, and from that meeting I learned four life lessons from prison inmates.

Four Life Lessons From Prison Inmates

It was several years ago and on our regular evening walk, my dog Roxy and I were walking down a walkway in Colorado Springs near our home and two men were approaching from the opposite direction.

As we got closer, my radar was up. Looking at these two I could tell, even from a distance that they were potentially bad news. (I know… judgmental on my part but in my neighborhood, you had to be a little more vigilant than usual.)

Of course as we got closer Roxy became excited to meet new people and obviously these two gentlemen were happy to meet her too as when we met up face to face they wanted to pet her and she was all too happy to receive the extra attention.

It didn’t take long for me to piece together that these two guys were recently (probably that day) let out of prison. You could tell they had nowhere in particular to be but they were also nearly glowing as they were experiencing their first freedom in probably a long time too.

The prison tattoos were also a tell-tale sign…

However, what I really noticed as we were all talking was just how jacked these two people were. Between the two of them their body fat percentages added up was still less than 10% and to say they looked strong would be a complete understatement.

After we parted ways, it got me thinking… As someone who lifts and back then lifted regularly and heavy, why was I not getting the same results as they did? A simple question but it opened me up to learn a few things.

How can guys in prison – which in reality is not a place one thinks that someone can thrive physically – become so strong? Well, I will tell you, and how they do that also applies to life and is the basis for these four life lessons from prison inmates because what they do almost seems impossible.

For starters, if you go into prison, you had better be strong lest you experience an untold amount of nasty things happening to you at the hands of other inmates. I have read stories of guys going into prison weighing 130 pounds or so and then gaining 50 pounds of muscle. Why? Because they HAD TO in order to survive. Their goal is to survive and that survival (and the prevention of being a victim) is a strong enough why to keep them motivated daily…

The lesson here is that if your why or whys are strong enough, you can do unimaginable things if pressed to do so.

Secondly… prisoners are more or less forced into a life of routine. Day after day, year after year, and possibly for many years their daily schedule does not vary, and because of that, they lift and workout every day on a consistent basis.

In prison, everything is on a schedule and inmates wait and look forward to the time they can lift and workout. Routine is how anyone gets muscular, inside prison or out. Even the most normal of men who follow a strict lifting program over a period of years will become very muscular and strong. How many free/normal folk are able to dedicate themselves to the gym for a period of 10 years or more? In prison, they have the time and inmates end up adopting the power of consistency day after day, year after year. Not only do they lift consistently, they sleep to recover consistently as well as sleeping on a regulated schedule and sleep for physical gains – is always mandatory.

The third item in the list of four life lessons from prison inmates is that when they workout, they do their absolute best because they have to do their absolute best. For example, these guys lift and they lift HEAVY weights… Why? They do it to intimidate others, as to not appear weak or show any weakness, and because they have to BE strong to appear strong. If I had to guess, they never approach the racks with the intention of an “easy day” ever. Every day they lift as much as they can the best that they can.

Lastly, and this is still the biggest mystery to me is how do inmates gain so much muscle mass and definition on such a substandard diet? I’ve eaten jail food before… and trust me, it’s nothing to get at least remotely excited about from a nutritional point of view or any other point of view for that matter. Inmates get about 3000 calories a day from food and that is it. Most bodybuilders eat MUCH more than that, I know that I used to eat more than that back in my lifting days myself.

Prisoners don’t have access to a nearby GNC to get supplements, protein powders, amino acids, and the like so how do they do it. The ONLY answer that I can come up with is that they do the best they can with what is available to them. So another valuable life lesson there… even if it is only speculation.

As I said… life lessons and points of learning can come from some of the most random of places and in this case, from an incidental meeting between my dog, myself, and two guys who just came out of the pen. But it was an encounter that got me thinking and thinking for many years, wondering what was to be learned from that experience and that is the impetus for this writing… you can learn anything from anyone… and in this case, the four life lessons from prison inmates are summed up as follows.

Four Life Lessons From Prison Inmates

  1. You can do anything that you want or need to do if you really have to, regardless of your situation in life.
  2. The power of consistency is really a thing and little gains, day after day, over an extended period can yield massive results.
  3. Do your best, every day, no matter what. Even if your physical survival does not depend on it… never phone in your efforts.
  4. Not only do your best but also do your best with whatever means, tools, and knowledge is available to you. Life isn’t necessarily fair and we all don’t have the same set-point to begin from but it is entirely up to you do the best you can with whatever is available to you.

Andy Wooten M.A. Counseling – A Certified Life Coach In Aspen Colorado

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photo credit: Old Idaho State Penitentiary — Boise, ID via photopin (license)

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