There are three goals for most movement paths: Aesthetic, Athletic, and Therapeutic. Whether your goals are focused on one or a blend, you have to keep your head in check. Of all the obstacles in life, none are more challenging or ever present than our own head devils. Here are some tactics for staying on target for all three:

Aesthetic Goals

Here are two common aesthetic goals. While they overlap they are most definitely not the same.

Weight loss comes from good food patterns and consistency. You have to make sustainable changes to diet. You can’t increase intensity sustainably, and too much intensity will lead to injury, and that will ruin consistency. Here’s a bulletproof equation:

The right food and rest patterns (for you) every day + useful intensity a few days a week + low intensity (e.g., walking or hiking) most days.

And you might remove the idea of a particular number, or a particular shape as your “end goal” — especially if it’s associated with your past. Live for you: who you are now and who you will be tomorrow. Remember too that people see themselves harshly, through the lens of what they dislike. What if you started your concept of self with what you and your friends and family loved? How would that change your way forward?

Building Tone / Muscle comes from applying good intensity, good rest, and not subverting progress with bad food. You can’t just show up and go through the motions and expect changes, you have to dig in. And if you are digging in, you need to rest and remember that progress happens while you rest.

If your food isn’t aligned with your toning or building goals, you will be swimming hard against the current. If your mileage is keeping you from digging in, then you have to confront that first. Ignoring it is no way forward.

Finally, confront your head: is that extra muscle / tone going to finally make you content or just reinforce your discontent? There are other reasons for being awesome.

Athletic Goals

Building athletic ability takes intensity. But it also takes subtlety. Especially if you want it to last beyond a single event or goal. Many strength and conditioning programs make common mistakes: pushing too much intensity, an over reliance on quantitative fitness, a mindset of putting the blinders on and bearing down, or treating all athletes like max strength athletes (because that’s what their strength coaches and trainers love to do, or all they know).

Athleticism is a heady mix of capacity for various strength intensities and movement complexities. Don’t drown in the sea of single-dimensional intensity. It feels good to be in the deep end, but an athlete needs to practice many things: complete intensity, self and movement awareness, complete movement patterning, rooting and springing, balance and flow. The more breadth and depth your path delivers, the better and deeper your abilities will be–and last. We are all more powerfully motivated by short-term rewards than long term. The most successful people in all avenues of life still hold the long-term rewards up higher.

Therapeutic Goals

To benefit from the therapeutic benefits of any movement practice, you have to let go of intensity and embrace awareness and complexity. Many goal-oriented personalities have a hard time with this. Plus, movement is a drug. Once you start moving, the flush of chemicals and feeling can cloud your better judgment. And we have fight or flight mechanisms that quiet signals that are trying to tell us to slow down (e.g., pain).

Movement has healing properties equal to and beyond many expensive passive drugs and manipulative therapies, but only if you can harness it correctly. If you have an injury, you downshift. You might even need to see a talented therapist to get over the pain. When the pain is gone, the root of the injury still isn’t healed–you have to build your intensity back up slowly, incrementally. You can’t just leap back in. And if that injury came from weakness or a range of strength restriction, you take care of that deeper issue. Unresolved deep issues don’t go away.

Confront Your Truth

Any successful approach to your own path depends on confronting the truth: your goals, your body, and it’s mileage. Here are two lessons I, and many others, have learned the hard way (maybe it’s not the only way).

  1. Don’t set goals, meditate on them. A little honest introspection may help you come to pull apart what you think you want and what you actually, truly want. A clouded compass will not lead you to the correct path. And goals–especially ones built on the whispers of a head devil–are the best means of increasing dissatisfaction and lead you to run yourself ragged. Work instead on dealing with your roots, on creating the patterns to keep you on your path. The destination will take care of itself.
  2. Take ownership of your path. It’s tempting to want to unload responsibility for your stumbles (or your success!) onto another person, or a program. But it’s not what’s really going on. For years, I blamed rowing and heavy barbells on my gangly frame for my debilitating back injury. Sure, I can tell you exactly how those paths can lead to pain, and why they contributed to mine. But the real truth is my own ego led me to push myself for years even when chronic pain increased. I wrapped my identity up in those momentary abilities. In order to do so, I also rationalized that my that short-term, max athletic capacity also meant health. I see the power of irrational rationalization being applied to many stumbling physical paths.

When my body finally collapsed, it still took me years to let go of ego and output ability as drivers of my movement path. I had to remove the idea that every time I trained, I had to go for broke. I had to change what working out felt like and more importantly–what it meant to me. I had to change my reasons for training. No one could do that for me. To quote our Coach-turned-Geologist Alison, “You have to do you for you.” This is no easy business.

Have a hard time finding your way? Let’s talk about it. We’ve had many long consultations with people who have struggled to find their way across a spectrum of goals. We don’t promise a prescription, but maybe we can help you find your way. We’d be honored. Email us.