Here’s a passage I came across today from “A Trainer Gets Brutally Honest about Why You Aren’t Seeing Results” by Brandi Kupchella on Popsugar Fitness:
“…you have to be honest with yourself and set reasonable expectations. You can’t do 1,000 burpees in 10 minutes and you will never change the basic biology of your body. If you are bottom heavy, you will likely always trend that way when gaining weight. If all the women in your family get saggy underarms by the time they are 40, guess what? You probably will too. And no amount of treadmill work will change your DNA… There are many ways you can improve the body you have. But no amount of exercise will completely transform you into someone else… You were made to be you, unique and special. You can be the best you possible… Once you accept that, you can stop fighting your body and start working with it to achieve your goals.”
On this concept, I wholeheartedly agree with Brandi. Some of her other opinions in this article, not so much. For example, “Instructors know how hard you are working, and that you probably aren’t working hard enough.” I say this all depends.
If the ultimate goal is something extrinsic like flat abs, removal of a muffin top, fitting into a particular clothing size or any other strictly aesthetic dream, then, yes, I believe that happens a lot. In those cases, we’re driven by vanity and the vehicle we’re in is to be seen. We want to be seen attending the class, we want to make it look like we’re working as hard as everyone else and we believe that simply showing up and going through the motions means we’ll eventually attain (or maintain) the fill-in-the-blank feature that we want and everyone else will envy. But, when it comes to fitness, vanity may get us part-way, perhaps even fully, there. But it’ll never keep us there.
If, however, our motivation is intrinsic as in health-related terms like blood glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, blood pressure, and normal function of the heart, brain and hormones then merely showing up won’t satisfy us. If exercise makes us feel stronger physically, mentally and emotionally then we’re intrinsically motivated to workout to our potential on any given day no matter how hard the person next to us in class is working or what she looks like. In fact, fitness-focused people are less likely to compare themselves to, or even notice, others in class. When our motivation and goals are primarily intrinsic as opposed to extrinsic, we’re much more likely to know our potential, workout to our potential and feel the results each and every time. And, as such, we tend to realize our goals and maintain them for a lifetime.
Are you intrinsically or extrinsically motivated? You may need to do some soul-searching to answer that question. If you believe you’re motivated for fitness and not vanity but you find yourself less enamored of your workouts or cutting corners lately, then it may be that you’ve reached a plateau or that you’ve gone as far as you can with a particular routine. It may be time to change things up. Change can be scary, particularly after you’ve made huge strides in your fitness. But, it can also be really exciting. And, if you remember why you’re here in the first place, you can accept that your body is telling you it needs to be challenged in a new way to be stronger and healthier.
If, however, you think you’re extrinsically motivated, then it’s time to find new reasons for working out. If vanity is the only thing lighting a fire under you, that wick is going to burn out sooner or later. Take it from someone approaching the 50 year mark, eventually Mother Nature and Father Time conspire to do unpleasant things to your body regardless of excellent diet and exercise habits. If your main motivation is making the mirror your best friend, you’ll quickly learn there’s little payoff to sweating next to people half your age or trading ice cream for carrot sticks.
I acknowledge this is easier said than done. Though I’m predominantly intrinsically motivated towards fitness, I struggle with my own vanity demons. It’s human nature and society norms don’t help. There’s a high value, figuratively and literally, placed on how we look to the outside world. It’s an uphill battle for all of us. But, we can’t be truly healthy and happy unless we’re comfortable in our own skins. We can and should be motivated to keep what lies beneath the skin – mind, body and soul – as healthy as possible. When we do, we’ll be confident that what we present to the world is authentic, beautiful, strong and worthy inside and out.