Why I’m Rejecting Aesthetic Fitness Goals

When starting to work on your health and fitness, goal setting is an important step in the process. It provides direction, motivation and a measure. But are you really setting the right goals and will they really get you what you want?

Women Doing ChinUps

Goals Based On Your Mirror Aren’t The Best Idea

When first starting a new fitness program, many people set goals based on appearance related outcomes such as losing belly fat or toning up arms.

And whilst both of these are perfectly reasonable goals, my personal and professional experience has led me to believe that too many people tie their self-worth to their appearance and get caught up in the idea of a “perfect” or “ideal” body that, in reality, doesn’t exist. And whilst I completely understand someone wanting to change their body or ‘look better’, after all, I’m not here to tell you what you should feel or want, I do believe this style of goal setting can more often than not lead to obsessive, esteem eroding behaviours and thinking… sometimes to the point of a person, often unknowingly, placing their mental or physical health at the expensive of their appearance goals.

It’s not surprising these goals are the initial motivators for many people taking to fitness however, as aesthetics goals are visual, and thereby easily promoted by visual media outlets and fitpos alike.

Unfortunately, the focus on aesthetic goals often leads to the overshadowing of powerful performance based goals which are invaluable when creating a training program.

Performance based goals can range from wanting to have the mobility to tie your own shoes to trying to set a world record in a specific event.

Performance based goals include:

  • Improved joint mobility
  • Increased body control
  • Increased strength
  • Increased endurance
  • Improvements in stability
  • Increased cardiovascular capacity
  • Increased speed
  • Increased power
  • Increased agility, and
  • Mastering a new movement pattern

To achieve these goals, specific, purposeful exercises are required such as resistance training to improve strength.

Aesthetic goals on the other hand are very subjective, making it difficult to know whether you’re progressing towards your goal.

They are also difficult to measure. Bodyweight for example which is a common yet ineffective measurement, does not reflect changes within body composition such as muscle or fat lose and gain. So even if you increase your muscle mass and decrease your body fat, your overall bodyweight may stay the same despite the fact that you’ve improved your body composition.

I’ve seen this occur multiple times with clients, where they’ve come to me disheartened after weighing themselves at home, yet, their improved ability to perform a chin-up suggests their body composition has changed to include an increase in strength and therefore muscle mass.

This is why I’m so passionate about performance based goals, as unlike aesthetic goals, they are critical when training for optimal fitness and wellness.

And I guess that’s the greatest difference and trade off…

Performance based goals unlike aesthetic goals truly reflect improvements in health and wellness.

Some examples of performance-based goals include:

  • Performing 1 chin-up
  • Performing 10 consecutive push-ups
  • Running a 10km fun run
  • Deadlifting your bodyweight

As you can see, these performance goals are:

  1. Objective: You can tell when you’ve performed 1 or 5 push-ups.
  2. Measurable. You can quantify and record your performance by using an objective measure such as volume of weight deadlifted, number of push-ups or the time it took to run 5km.
  3. Quick and continuous wins: Improvements can be seen relatively quickly, especially applied to those beginning a new fitness program. This can prove to be very motivating and rewarding.

And all of that is pretty awesome!

I think it’s also important to acknowledge that training for performance doesn’t mean that a person’s physical appearance will not also improve. In fact, physical appearance can often improve more so when a person is focused on performance based goals due to the decreased likelihood of becoming disheartened and therefore increased likelihood of maintaining the training over time.

Training for performance doesn’t mean that your physical appearance will not also improve. In fact, your physical appearance is more likely to improve because training for performance increases your likelihood of maintaining your training over time and making progressive gains.

I guess in the end, the biggest reason I like to advocate for performance based goals is that no matter what someone is trying to achieve through their training, working on performance-based goals are more likely to get them to their ultimate goal, be it an improvement in aesthetics and/or performance.

So if you’d like to succeed in 2019 and become happier, healthier, fitter and more confident, become part of the Konquer Fitness community and receive weekly updates on the latest tips, advice and knowledge to help you hit all your health and fitness goals.

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Struggled with achieving your aesthetic goals in the past? Found a method or tool that helped you overcome this barrier? I’d love to know more about your experience… Leave me a comment below and let me know!

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