The Truth About Setting Fitness Goals
No professional is going to tell you this, because it doesn’t make anybody any money. But the truth is that there is no rulebook stating that in order to be fit and healthy you must be pursuing either weight loss, muscle gain or overall a slimmer physique as fitness goals. There is no ultimate fitness wizard declaring you must strive to squat twice your bodyweight, beat the deadlift world record or even just perform one full pull-up. You don’t have to want to run a marathon or compete in a bikini competition. You don’t even have to belong to a gym.
What you do have to do is something, anything active, and the options for this are far more limitless than current capitalist fitness culture wants you to understand.
The Truth About Health & Fitness
Here’s the real deal about what we know to be irrefutably true in the health and fitness industry: regular, moderate physical activity and balanced nutrition, in addition to proper rest, stress management, and social environments lead to a decreased chance of disease and an increased overall quality of life. Anything more specific than this statement has been minimally studied. Most fitness research still involves an extreme lack of diversity and representation. Most studies don’t even include women because those pesky hormones “interfere” with results.
So what does this mean for all the “facts” we see out there claiming to be the secret to fat loss?
Primarily, they are mostly unsubstantiated and used as a marketing ploy to appeal to consumers.
Does that mean they never work?
Of course not. But it is important to know that just because something claims to be the next big fitness secret, doesn’t mean it will work for people who aren’t already relatively healthy young men. We just don’t have the research to back it up.
Something we do know about the human body, however, is that once we build muscle, it is relatively easy to maintain it. Most trainers will want you to think your “gains” will disappear in a matter of weeks or even days, but that science is just not the case. Pushing ourselves is a great way to achieve growth and remain stimulated in life; but constantly reaching for new heights, especially with your fitness goals, is far from necessary.
Maintenance As A Fitness Goal
I am here to tell you that maintenance is a completely acceptable fitness goal, especially if you have already put in work to strengthen and mobilize your body over time. Because while being regularly physically active is one of the most important things you can do for your health and overall quality of life, the methods you use to achieve that are completely up to you.
Obviously, I’m a personal trainer and advocate for everyone to work with a coach at some point in life. We are not taught in school, typically, how to be aware of our bodies and move them properly. We are not taught how to build strength and protect ourselves from injury. There are also ways our bodies begin to break down after a certain age, and building and maintaining muscle is key in decreasing chances for osteoporosis later in life.
Your Fitness Goals Don’t Have to Look Like A Fitness Obsession
The point is: exercise is important for your health and happiness, but it doesn’t have to look like a fitness obsession. It doesn’t have to take over your life. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing and it doesn’t have to be your top priority.
This message isn’t for the folks who are in the gym exercising every day and loving it. You are allowed to have as many fitness goals as you want if that’s your jam. But for a lot of us, there are more things outside the gym that end up taking priority overreaching a certain body fat percentage or deadlift one-rep max. And the assumption that we should want to hit those fitness goals is what inadvertently leads us to fail again and again.
Because here’s a secret: getting to 15% body fat probably isn’t actually your goal, even if it’s the ideal body composition Tina Tight-Ass with the 250K Instagram followers and Skinny Tea promo wants to hit.
To achieve any goal, you have to want it bad enough to put in the work it takes to get there. It takes a lot of non-stop effort to have washboard abs, for example, and they are honestly nearly impossible to maintain long-term. The people with those physiques work very hard for it and have built their lives around fitness, not the other way around.
How To Choose Your Fitness Goals
So… what do you want?
To feel better? Maybe not to be so tired all the time? To have confidence in your body and feel sexy for yourself and spouse? Maybe you want to be able to go on hikes, play in the ocean with your kids and generally keep up with the rest of the family, and guess what! Those goals are extremely achievable. And will ultimately improve your overall quality of life far more than achieving a certain body weight or aesthetic goal ever will.
Most of the time when we set goals it is because we are unhappy in our current situations. We want change, and having a goal to reach for what we really want keeps us motivated. Where a lot of us get caught up is letting other people set goals for us, because we don’t know how to articulate what we actually want. We think being skinnier will solve our problems because media and advertising and Tina Tight-Ass make us feel like not being skinny is our biggest problem.
Allow yourself to step outside of what you think you should want based on what society is asking of you, and ask yourself what you really need. Find something active that brings you joy and is easily implemented into the life you already have. And, if you have a significant amount of weight to lose for medical reasons, try to remember that there is no rush or finish line to achieving better health. The best form of exercise is the one you will actually do.