Appearance versus performance

Why do you exercise? Health? Fitness?  Or simply because you want to look good?   First of all, there is no “right” answer and there is no shame in working out to look and feel your best.   There are still health benefits to training and eating well, whether you are into competitive sport or just want to fit into your pants.

On the other hand, focusing on your physical self to the exclusion of all else can be detrimental.  Your friends & family love you for who you are as a person, not what you look like (and you should too!)  While it’s great to have goals and work hard to achieve them, don’t beat yourself up about not being perfect.  Having one cookie after a 5 mile run is not going to magically turn into 10 extra lb overnight!

Do you have unrealistic expectations? Are you really willing to do what it takes to achieve your goals?  How much time and money do you have for fitness/athletics right now?  Some sports and activities cost next to nothing, while others require investing in equipment, paying registration fees for events, and spending money for travel & accommodations.  What fits with your life right now?    If running a marathon is your goal, you can plan your own route, train for it, and even have your own race day with friends.  You don’t have to go to Boston or DisneyWorld to make it an accomplishment! 

Another important factor is work (or school) – life balance.  If you are a busy person who doesn’t have much time you can get more “bang for your buck” by doing high-intensity training than by spending hours and hours doing cardio, but again, it depends on what you want to get out of your workouts.  If you want to do a triathlon, I’m pretty sure 30min of high intensity circuit training 3x/week is not going to cut it!  Again, assess whether or not your goal makes sense for your life right now.

Strength training = the key to success. Whatever your goals are, strength training will help you.  It is far more effective for burning fat than cardio, it will help you increase muscle mass if that is your goal, and no matter what sport you do, increasing your maximal strength will improve your performance if done effectively.  Start with 2-3 sets of 8-10 repetitions of 8-10 exercises if you are a beginner.

Bring back the joy to your workouts! February is the cruelest month and working out can feel like a chore sometimes.  Try to break out of your routine by doing something different.  Hot yoga, aerobics classes, swimming, or even a workout DVD from the library can help spice it up a bit.

Give yourself a high five. Embrace your body and all that it does for you.   Being faster, stronger, leaner, or bigger are all great goals to strive for but don’t let your dreams get in the way of loving yourself and your life right now!   Your body does so much for you. For example, your heart beats 40-72 beats a minute, every minute, every day.  That is amazing.  You are a miracle.