Written by Jonathan Jorgenson

This post is to expand on my original idea featured in the last paragraph of my most recent blog post HERE. I have received feedback from a few of you over the last couple weeks about it and I wanted to give a clearer picture about the idea of setting fitness goals vs. aesthetics goals.


A few years back we hung a couple of whiteboards in the gym for our athletes and clients to openly list the yearly goals they wanted to achieve. We thought it would be a great way to not only foster the community, but also to help our athletes improve their fitness. If you’ve ever attended a motivational talk or read a motivational book, one of the most important things taught is to physically write down your goals. Writing them down not only forces us to establish what we want to achieve, but also orients our thoughts and actions to the things necessary to attaining those goals. It helps to start taking action.


So, our athletes began filling up one of the boards with their yearly goals. ‘Get a muscle-up’, ‘run a mile in under 7 minutes’, ‘perform 30 double unders unbroken’, were all very common goals I saw as I read them. While our athletes were busy working throughout the year towards those goals, the other board was slowly starting to fill up with goals of those that were finishing our On-ramp beginners class.


One day as I read them I noticed a huge contrast in the goals between the two boards. Our new members were posting almost entirely aesthetics goals (lose 10 pounds, gain 5 pounds of muscle…etc) while our veteran members held the fitness goals. You see, even though most of us start fitness programs to lose weight, gain muscle, and be healthy, it’s those that are chasing fitness that actually stick around long enough to achieve the aesthetics goals.


Our bodies must change for the better in order to accommodate the fitness goals we set for ourselves. In other words, it’s very difficult to both run a mile in under 7 minutes and have the capacity to perform a double bodyweight back squat while being overweight and unhealthy.


This is because as we become more fit, our muscles grow, our fat decreases, and our metabolism grows, all in an effort to meet the demands we’re placing on our bodies. For a quick analogy, consider your body is a car engine, and food is the gasoline. You can rev a geo metro to moon all day long, but at the end of the day it won’t burn much fuel. However, think about what happens when you put the pedal to the metal in a sports car or big truck. It’s a crude analogy, but has a lot of carryover to our topic. The stronger you can make your engine the more fuel you will burn, thus making it easier to keep muscle, and keep away fat.


I know it might sound crazy, but I spend very little time thinking about my overall weight or body fat percentage. Sure, I like to look good as everyone does, but I’ve found that the more time I spend trying to figure out how to get better at my weaknesses in fitness, the more I’m rewarded with higher levels of muscle and lower levels of fat. Maybe you don’t have certain skills that we program. Or maybe you suffer when the workouts are heavy and short, or light and long. Or maybe you have a mobility deficit disabling you from moving any substantial weight (yes, working on mobility can indirectly help you lose weight). Going after whatever limits you have in fitness can and will have the most profound affect on your body.


Take some time to consider your mindset in regards to your goals. Are you content just showing up to the gym each day with no regard for how much effort you’re putting forth? Do you have a clear vision of where you want your fitness to be in 3, 6, or 12 months from now? Do you record your workouts and results each day? If you do, you might find that you want to add another 5lbs to your back squat sets next time it’s programmed.


If you’ve been subbing more advanced movements for lesser skill movements in an effort to ‘get a good workout’ you are leaving some results on the table. Spending some extra time working on skills will allow you to workout at a greater intensity the next time double-unders, chest-to-bar pull-ups, or handstand pushups are programmed.


Of course, as CrossFitters we choose fitness goals because there is always the elements of accomplishment and fun weaved into them and it’s not our place as coaches to tell people what their goals should and shouldn’t be. But, maybe looking at it from this angle will give you a better understanding of how you will achieve the goals you’ve established for yourself.


Life can get crazy, and sometimes just showing up IS putting forth your best effort. But if you are always content with just showing up, you must also be content with the result that it produces.

Comments ( 2 )

  • Gayle

    Great advice Jonathan, practical and inspiring. One of the things I found that I liked most about crossfit in the beginning was the lack of mirrors on the walls. Very different from traditional gyms. Focus is on form and feeling your movements instead of watching yourself in a mirror. It’s much more fun to let go of worrying about how you look during your workout and just getting into it, digging deep and letting yourself go and concentrating on movement and energy. Honestly, most of us can get some pretty unattractive facial expressions going on when we’re digging deep, the absence of mirrors is probably a good thing. See you soon!

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