First Things First…
Ask yourself Why…and then be specific.
You are about to Get Fit. You’ve signed up for the gym membership, hired the trainer, scheduled the session, laced up your new kicks and there you sit, staring into the face of optimism, who is staring back at you with a clip board in their hand asking you, “so what are your goals?”
Ahhh. Fitness goals. I chuckle a little as I even write those words, because damn, that’s a loaded term. If I let myself think about it too long, my headed would explode. It’s like trying to contemplate infinity, the universe, or people’s obsession with the Kardashians. The topic is broad, the possibilities are endless, and most of it is still a mystery.
But they’re important right? Is fitness important? Yes! Are goals important? Of course! So we can’t just toss them aside as unreachable pleasantries- something that’s “nice to have, but come on, why bother.” We just need to figure out how to make them work.
Which is why we need to get specific. And the best path to specificity begins with a step toward understanding what we’re after in the first place. Otherwise we will walk, run or ellipticize in circles, directionless and bored and often unsatisfied with the results from our efforts.
I’ve been the face of optimism and I’ve been the one sitting on the other side as well; eager to change my life for the better and excited for a reason to buy new workout gear. And I have come to find that an efficient way to understand choices, processes and motivations, is to ask Why. It’s a perfect little tool to unlock reasonable and rational thinking. When we can start to understand why we are doing something, we’re better equipped to correct, redirect and align our desires and actions. The creation of an honest and authentic fitness goal can be a beacon of light in the daunting abyss of the free weight spandex jungle.
So what does this look like? It begins with getting a piece of paper, a pen, and then writing down the list of your goals. The big question Why can and should be inserted anywhere and everywhere. And then get busy investigating and responding. Here are 10 common examples:
- Write down fitness goals. (Why?)
- Improve overall fitness. (Why?)
- Get stronger. (Why?)
- Lose 10 (or more) pounds. (Why?)
- Tone arms, shoulders, abs and ass. (Why?)
- Do 30-60 minutes of cardio 5 days a week. (Why?)
- I just want to feel better. (Why?)
- Get rid of nagging back, knee, shoulder (or whatever ails you) pain. (Why?)
- Improve my Yoga practice. (Why?)
- Run a marathon. (Why?)
These are all goals that I have written down on the behalf of clients or myself at some point. It’s funny, because at first glance, it seems silly to question these. They are excellent goals, and it seems obvious to have them. But here is the zinger, many of us have great difficulty ever achieving them, or sustaining them if we even catch a glimpse of them. Why??
I think it’s because there is a undetected disconnect between our motivations and actions.
For example I had a friend complain to me about low back pain, and wondered what he could do about it. This otherwise fit male with a very healthy body composition, reported running on the treadmill for 60 minutes, 5 days a week. I asked him Why he was doing that. He said he read somewhere in Men’s Health that he should.
This was the perfect opportunity to have him take a look at what he was doing and why he was doing it. Here he was performing an action, that was potentially hurting him, hoping to achieve an ambiguous and undefined fitness goal, and his response to Why, was because he read it somewhere. Yikes. But all too familiar, right?
Why do we allow this disconnect to remain as an ever broadening gap between what we want and what we have? Especially when it leaves us lost, unfilled and frustrated? I think it’s because we make decisions based from fear. Fear of what might happen to us if we don’t do it. Fear of not measuring up to what everyone else is doing. These are two horrible causes to which we devote our energy, sacrificing our own well being. Why am I going off track into philosophical babble? Because I know that this can be at the root of something as basic as deciding to run on the treadmill 60 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
If we instead take the time to make a list, and undergo some careful, possibly uncomfortable introspection, answering our Why’s, the following can happen. We can:
- Learn about ourselves and who we really are in these little bodies of flesh and bones
- Uncover deeper desires
- Identify and release unhealthy habits and patterns in our behavior
- Stop wasting time and restore our energy
- Become more efficient
- Use our new found time and energy to devote to other satisfying activities
- Intelligently align our actions with our goals, seeking appropriate support when needed
- Get out of ruts
- Prevent further pain and injury
- Get results and feel GOOD!
Take it from me, don’t waste your time training for a marathon, when deep down inside what you’re really seeking is the approval of others. If you receive it at all, it’s fleeting. Don’t deprive yourself of nutrients and calories because being skinny equals being loved. Please stop breaking yourselves by going deeper in Pigeon Pose or any asana for that matter, simply because your yoga teacher suggested it.
Trust me, I don’t know what your answers will be by going through this process, but understanding Why we are doing something unlocks and opens up options to each of us. It’s empowering to be committed to our own personal intentions, and to understand we don’t need to be in pain, if we don’t want to. To be embodied in our own selves, taking calculated steps with discernment, while navigating our own paths is ridiculously satisfying. Asking the question Why is an important first step, and one that often gets missed.