Many folks hit the gym at this time of year to “get in shape.”’ But that concept is usually just a visual fantasy. Men think of big gleaming muscles. Women think of a rounded butt and a smaller waist.
Often, the mental image is not even connected to their own body. The reason is simple — the act of working out to attain some vague better shape — is meaningless. It has no goal. It has no end point. Repetitive cardio may melt fat, and weightlifting may build muscles, but then what? Are you stronger or faster? Is your body more functional?
If you want your workout program to be successful, set a goal that actually improves your body. Perhaps your movements have slowed down because you spend a lot of time inactive; sitting at a desk or looking after young children. Maybe your lifestyle interferes with spare time to practice being agile. A lot of folks don’t appreciate their agility until it’s replaced by klutziness.
When planning your conditioning routine, you’ll have more chance of success if you think of making your body better, by improving some quality that has begun to decline. For example, my friend Daisy (not her real name) is an expert skier who has always loved skiing through the trees after a snowstorm.
But now she has three young children. She doesn’t get the outdoor exercise she once did, and her core and thighs have lost a lot of the strength they once had. She scuffs around her home in loose-fitting shoes, and her feet have lost precision when it comes to guiding her skis.
The result is that Daisy no longer feels confident enough to weave through the resort’s pine groves like a smooth breeze. She stays on groomed trails and doesn’t have near as much fun as she previously did.
Fitness is important to Daisy and her husband. They separately go to the gym three times a week. Daisy’s husband has the mental image of building back the physique he had in college. But he doesn’t follow a program that would accomplish this. Instead, he slowly does casual sets of traditional exercises like biceps curls and machine leg presses, then gets discouraged because his inner Adonis isn’t manifesting itself.
Daisy is working out with the image of a flat-bellied super model in her mind. She hasn’t given thought to designing a program that would work to rebuild the skills she needs to return to her former level of tree skiing.
What about you? What do you want from your body that a planned training program can give you? Do you want to be able to ride your bike up hills easily again? Or be able to run a mile or more without gasping for breath? Do you wish you had more strength in your grip or your overhead reach? Do you simply want to be more athletic overall?
These are the kind of physical improvements on which to build your training. You can search online to find exercises that will help accomplish your goals, or consult with a trainer to have a custom program designed. But try not to go to the gym with a vague objective — or no objective at all.
Have a goal. Use a training routine that gets you there. Hit the gym with a plan to make your body function better, not some vague goal such as “lose weight” or “get in shape.” An actual objective is something you can aim for during your time in the gym. Planning it out will make it happen.
Wina Sturgeon is the editor of the online magazine Adventure Sports Weekly (adventuresportsweekly.com), which offers the latest training, diet and athletic information.