Fitness is largely about aesthetics. The industry is filled with quick fixes, detoxes, supplements, and workout programs that promise 6-pack abs, stacked shoulders, and “toned” legs all while exerting minimal effort. And we’ve all been there, standing in front of the mirror not liking what we saw attempting to change it with more exercise, less food and a lot of unnecessary money. Truth is, real fitness, real happiness with your body, and real HEALTH doesn’t start and end with the promise of a 6-pack. Real happiness starts with letting go of the way we look and dialing into how we feel and how our body performs. We are so much more than what we look like on the outside and getting to see what your body is capable of DOING is so much cooler.
I once stood on that side of the mirror hating the way my legs always seemed so much bigger than other girls and how un-“toned” my stomach was. Although I’ve grown to love my big legs and realized how directly the food I eat dictates what my stomach looks like, I still sometimes find myself standing in front of the mirror in frustration that my torso is so short and my shoulders won’t grow half as fast as my legs. The thoughts don’t change, but the mindset CAN and it SHOULD. I can’t change my genetic makeup for a short frame and I can’t change the fact that activating my shoulder muscles takes a lot of work. I CAN, however, control how hard I work at building healthy shoulders to be able to push heavy weights over my head and I CAN control how strong I build the core muscles in my short torso to optimize my squat. And as a byproduct of health, happiness and strength I know that my physique will begin to change. Want to look like an athlete? Train like one.
Here are my two cents (or 5) on how we should all shift our mindset to performance-based goals.
1. Realize that working out is a privilege, not a punishment
This realization came to me after I spent a week in a hospital bed hearing too many nurses come into my room asking why I was there because I was far too young to be spending my time bed ridden and sick. I don’t wish for anyone to have to come to this realization by spending a week in the hospital. So next time you find yourself dreading that 6am workout, instead look at it as a blessing to be able to move your body in any way that you want because far too many people would be elated just to walk down the street. Working out is not a punishment for your fat or a punishment for eating too much over the weekend or a punishment for going an entire week on vacation without working out. All of those things are called life and getting to exercise is just a cherry on top.
2. Find something you enjoy doing
Do you like to run, practice yoga, lift heavy weights, cross fit, mountain bike, ski, swim, play sports etc.? Whatever you like doing do more of it! There is nothing that will kill your performance-based goal faster than forcing yourself to do something you hate doing. Hate running? Don’t do it. Hate getting up early for the WOD? Don’t do it. There is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to fitness and what works for one person might not work for the other. So instead of judging one another, we should rejoice in movement together and support all the different fitness goals people may have. Find something that you really love to do and working out will no longer feel like a punishment and it will no longer be a chore.
3. And then find something you want to improve doing
Okay, so you found something you like doing but you quickly realize you aren’t very good at some aspects of it. Take lifting for example. I love to lift. And the great thing about lifting is that you can always lift heavier weights. There will always be a new challenge, a new skill, and more weights to add to the bar. I can continue to challenge my love for something to keep it exciting and fun. I know that every time I walk into the gym I am taking baby steps toward PR’s. So find something you love, then continue improving on that skill and the possibilities for improvement will be endless.
4. Celebrate successes and don’t dwell on failures
Celebrate EVERY single tiny victory because the small ones add up to the really big ones. I’ll take this one back to my stubborn shoulders. I’ve always had shoulder issues. I had terrible scapular winging and incredible pain underneath my shoulder blade and up my neck. I knew it all came from an excessive amount of pressing movements in the hopes of getting my shoulders to grow. So instead of continuing to painfully suffer I spent about a month focusing on getting my shoulders healthy again. The winging diminished, the pain went away, and I was able to understand how to activate my shoulders in the proper way. The tiny victory here is my ability to activate those small muscles in my shoulders. Also, I realized that as soon as I stopped obsessing over how big or small my shoulder muscles looked and focused on how they were performing I began to see a change in them. These tiny victories add up. Don’t think that making it to the gym two days in a week when you normally go four is a victory? It is. Those two days add up. Don’t think your week of healthy eating is a victory after a weekend of over-indulgence? It is. Those days of being consistent add up and those occasional slip-ups are also called LIFE. Small victories are what make up big achievements and failures are all apart of the journey, so accept them.
5. HAVE FUN
I can’t stress this one enough. You hear it all the time but sometimes it gets hard. Motivation is fleeting as it comes and goes but dedication is how true progress is made on any type of goal. Staying dedicated is far easier when you are having fun. So change up your workouts, change-up your goals change up the people and the places that you exercise. If something is no longer fun and doesn’t make you feel good, re-evaluate and make a change.
Living in a world where all that seems to matter is what you look like I know this is easier said than done but let me tell you, the reward is so much greater.