Why are you exercising?
That is a question that everyone needs to ponder on when setting goals in the gym. There are many different answers, and some of you may even have multiple answers to that question. There are no wrong answers per se, but there are healthier choices than other ones. The depth of your purpose for exercise is one that should be much deeper than the goal of “I want to look good.”
Now don’t get me wrong; I have aesthetics in mind when I step into the fitness world. I am not going to be one of those fitness bloggers that is going to appease you by saying how you look doesn’t matter. It does matter to a point, and being in good shape will naturally bring about a conscious and subconscious boost in your self-esteem. Overall though, setting fitness goals based on aesthetics will undoubtedly lead to unfulfillment and potential burnout. I have experienced this personally.
Another reason some people may go to the gym is to be physically stronger! Now, this is not necessarily a wrong path to set yourself upon in fitness. Still, it can get off track very quickly, especially when you ignore the proper form in the pursuit of higher weights, faster times, and longer workouts. As you may have guessed, I have also experienced the negative side of chasing numbers in the gym.
Up until about two years ago, I was your stereotypical meathead in the gym. I was in a constant state of competition with myself and everyone around me. I had to be the strongest, fastest, and best-looking person in the gym. Goals like these are what I would refer to as shallow goals. Mostly, they are goals that may make you appear healthy on the surface, but can easily take you down a path of self-destruction. During this time of my life, I would sacrifice sleep to hit the gym, load on more weight even if I was hurt, and ignore signs of fatigue because of the pursuit of looking good with my shirt off. Eventually, these times of intense and borderline crazy working out would get shut down by injury, or loss of ambition after it got cold outside. The back and forth between extreme fitness goals and forced rest put me on a rollercoaster that got old very quickly.
On the opposite side would be what I consider deep goals in fitness; health, balance, longevity, mental stability, energy, etc. These are targets that will lead a person down a path of wellness. Quite similar to the Buddhist notion of the “middle path,” goals of wellness will involve moderation and balance to give you the most out of life. Now there is a great deal of focus on rest, recovery, flexibility, and stability in all the facets of my physical fitness. My entire approach to fitness and nutrition is doing what is going to make me feel good, and not worrying about if I will look good. The funny thing is that now I find it much easier to keep a good physique and maintain performance in the gym than ever before. A simple change in the “why” completely changed my whole fit life.
All of this is the reason why I will now push people away from goals that revolve around looking good. In my experience, it will never lead to overall satisfaction. You may look good for that vacation, but as soon as you get back to life, motivation will fail. Pretty soon, you will find yourself in a negative feedback loop daydreaming about getting back to how great you looked at that one time in your life. Knowing the intensity and sacrifice it took for you to get there makes it that much harder to get started again. Shallow goals are fast and miserable. Deep goals are slow, consistent, and enjoyable.
So to those of you that are reading this, I implore you to ask the question of why. Sit and think about how you want to feel in 20 years instead of how you want to look in 20 weeks. Are your fitness goals reflecting this idea? How can you change things to bring about a life of wellness instead of a life of vanity? What are more profound struggles causing you to put a higher priority on looks than health?
These are all questions that took me years to figure out. The process of finding deeper meaning in fitness will not be an overnight thing. Hopefully, it will be a lot faster than the ten years it took me. If fitness isn’t a part of your life, then you are in an advantageous place to skip over all the mistakes other gym rats make. It is starting with a solid “why” for your fitness journey is key to establishing healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
If you have any questions on this topic or want to sort through some ideas with me, please reach out (you are welcome to DM me on instagram @wellnessrob). It is articles like these where I am trying to help others avoid the mistakes I have made. This site aims to bring wellness to the everyday person in this modern world. I believe that through healthy and educated habits, we can all be a happier and better society.
With Big Love,