In an ever-social world where everyone is posting every accomplishment – from their workouts to their food to their sporting adventures – it’s easy to get distracted from your own fitness journey.
All those results others are getting look so dang good, you find yourself wanting all of them. But distraction is the devil when it comes to reaching, and being satisfied by, your own fitness pursuits.
Desire. We’ve done it since we were kids – another kid playing with a toy makes that toy infinitely more intriguing to you. A friend gets the new iphone and all of a sudden your iphone that’s two years old seems lame. A fellow class member hits a squat PR & all of a sudden you want a squat PR too, when just a moment before, you were content with your goal of ‘complete my first half marathon’.
When we desire a fitness goal, we’re desiring not just the end goal, but also how we think we’ll feel when we achieve that goal.
To see someone else achieving…we want to achieve, too! We want to be awesome, too! We want to be accomplished, too!
We want all of the fitness!
Consider though, that the word “fitness” covers a massive berth of end-goals – you can be fit and be as sculpted as a Greek god statue for a physique competition. You can be fit and be un-sculpted but be capable of carrying heavy loads over a great distance. You can be incapable of picking up a heavy weight, but you can run 26.2 miles and beyond with relative ease. You can never run 26.2 miles but you’ve not had low back pain for a year now after having it monthly for a decade.
These are all forms of fitness, my friend.
To avoid trying to do it all (impossible) and have it all (also impossible), you must consider: what actually do you want from your workout program?
Clarity Brings Quality
You must get clear on what your main goal is and what you want to excel at (whatever “excel” means to you).
Not only will that spur your motivation, it will make it easier to decide what’s worth spending time on and what isn’t when you set up your fitness program.
I’ll use a recent new client as an example: they came to me wanting to achieve a new level of performance in swimming that currently eluded them.
Prior to working with me, they were swimming a few times a week, and they were doing a bootcamp that met 5 days a week & was the most intense workouts of this client’s week.
I was curious why they were doing a 5 day a week bootcamp that was more intense and consistent than their swimming workouts, when swimming was the main goal they were trying to achieve.
My client eventually shared that they desired a body shape that was similar to that of the bootcamp instructor. Ah. I understand better now.
There was another goal poking around in this person’s head that – in working to achieve it – they were putting themselves in the hole energetically when it came time to do the workouts that focused on their first goal of being a high-performing swimmer.
This person was working two goals in the hopes of achieving them, when in fact, one was detracting from the other.
We had a good chat about each goal, and while it would have been totally fine if she decided that ‘actually, the swimming goal wasn’t as important as the aesthetic goal’, it turned out that, for this client, improving her swimming was still her number one even after taking a good hard look at both goals.
With that, I was able to help the client restructure her program so any strength work we were doing was supportive to, and not distracting from, the quality and intensity needed to do the swimming workouts.
The client was happier too because she started seeing progress on her swimming goal now that the right amount of energy was focused on the workouts most conducive to eliciting the physiological response they needed to become a better swimmer.
Let Biology Do Its Thing
To achieve any change in your body’s performance or physique, you’ve got to place a stimulus on your body. That stimulus will elicit a response from your body; and depending on where on the fitness spectrum your stimulus came from, will determine the response you get.
And you don’t get to have the entire fitness spectrum at once.
For real, you aren’t going to have all of the fitness at all times.
Here’s why. To excel at one thing means you’re shifting focus away from something else. If you want to train to achieve a new personal best in distance running, you’re not likely to be putting in the time and training stimulus to hit a new PR at a powerlifting meet.
Fitness is a spectrum, and the biological adaptations required to get to one end of the fitness spectrum are going to be different from the bio adaptations that are going to get you to the other end of the spectrum,.
And here’s the critical part: to get good at one, you’ve got to let go (at least a bit) of the other.
Trying to hold on to all of the fitness is like trying to hold water in a clenched fist.
It will slip right through your fingers and you’ll find none of your fitness moving to the ‘excels at’ category.
For example, to excel at powerlifting – where you’re applying force to hundreds of pounds and moving that weight as explosively as possible – you must develop your energy system to be able to flex your muscles with incredible speed and force. Where as with endurance sports, you’d be on the opposite end of the spectrum, having developed your energy system to be able to flex your muscles repeatedly at a lower intensity for a very, very, long time.
Remember, your body is simply responding to the signals you give it.
The more consistent the signal, the more response in that direction your body will elicit. Thus, if your signal is consistently telling your body to upgrade its efficiency in its aerobic pathways and type I muscle fibers (as would happen when training for an endurance event), it will also take note that you are not stimulating your anaerobic pathways and type II muscle fibers as much, leading it to downgrade its efficiency in those areas.
“But I want to train a little of both of those things so that I can achieve them both!”
That middle ground of the fitness spectrum – where you can do a bit of running, you can lift a bit of weight, you’ve got a bit of skill at a sport – that can be your fitness goal. Just know that with that goal, like any other, you will be letting go of other parts of the fitness spectrum as you work to attain it.
There are biological limitations to how many different aspects of fitness you can hold on to at the same time. If you want to have a little bit of a bunch of fitness, then know that you’re not going to have a top-end amount of fitness in any one area.
Finding Satisfaction In Your Progress
If you want to improve at a sport that is glycogen-demanding, like weightlifting, sprinting, or gymnastics, get excited by the fact that you’re changing your physiology to do that. It’s silly to put any emotion towards the fact that in doing so, you’ll likely lose some of your fitness at running for distance.
If you’re coming off a major life stressor and ‘consistent workouts’ and ‘incredible health’ are your top goals, don’t waste time envying the 6-pack abs that a friend has achieved because they had the time, energy, desire, and low-stress life, to achieve.
Do not let someone else’s fitness accomplishment distract you from your end-goal & desired feeling of accomplishment.
Someone else’s Ironman training workouts in no way detract from what you’re doing on your journey toward healing your aches and getting into a better relationship with your body.
Letting someone else’s fitness detract from your own means chipping away at the very thing that a fitness goal is designed to give you – self confidence…by way of a personal best in a fitness pursuit.
And once you’ve decided on a goal, put the blinders on and get to work. In 18 years of working with clients, time and again, the ones you do the best are the ones who pick one or two goals, and diligently and consistently work on them.
The ones who struggle are the ones who, every four or five weeks come up with some new thing to work for. These folks must learn to make the ‘doing’ of the goal as much fun as the ‘planning’ for the goal.
You can’t have all of the fitness all of the time.
But what you can have is a deep dedication to your own fitness journey. What someone else posts online about their fitness in no way alters the quality of what you’re working to achieve.
Your fitness journey is yours, and much like the rest of life, when it comes to fitness, you don’t need to keep up with the Joneses.
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