As a young athlete, my focus was always on performance, being able to push my body to excel on the field or ice. Of course, I wanted to look good, but it was never my primary focus. I struggled with body image like most teenage girls but was fortunate to care more about my athletics.
When I transitioned into the fitness industry, it shifted. I started working in a busy downtown gym full of bodybuilders and physique competitors, two sports I knew nothing about until I moved to Toronto. I began to feel more insecure about my body than I ever had, my training changed, and ultimately my relationship with my body changed. I was always comparing my body to others, and I was cruel and unfair. I would focus on the extremes, yo-yo dieting and endless hours of cardio.
I wasn’t as strong as I had been previously, and I was never satisfied with my body.
I had enough. Enough of the culture and my attitude, and decided it was time to get back to my roots. I started working with athletes and gradually began to shift my mindset towards performance, a by-product of being surrounded by professional athletes who pushed their bodies to the limits daily. I started to leave behind my aesthetics only thought process and set strength-based goals. I reconnected with what it meant to listen to my body rather than forcing myself to do cardio day after day because ‘that’s what you’re supposed to do.’
Of course, we all want to look good!
But, the benefits we get from strength and performance far outweigh focusing on every little detail when it comes to our appearance, it is a never-ending and unhealthy cycle. No specific weight or pant size ever fulfilled my happiness, but when I was able to break through barriers and achieve a long-term goal -like repping out ten pull-ups – it filled me with pride and love for my body and mind.
Here are some of the performance-based mantras I use to be kind to my body:
This body is strong AF
This body has overcome major injuries
This body has overcome fears
This body is beautiful
This body is resilient
I am not saying you will never have negative feelings about your body after you shift the focus to performance-based mindset. We are human beings and innately hard on ourselves. But I do know that once you change the focus and achieve your performance-based goals, you’ll experience a feeling like no other.
How do we start to focus on performance-based goals?
Step #1 Awareness
The first step to any change is taking a good hard look at where you are currently.
How are you physically treating your body right now? (Physical Activity, Nutrition, Sleep, Stress Reduction)
Step#2 Set Goals
Figure out what performance goals get you pumped up! Pull-ups do not excite everyone – even though I think they should! – But maybe the idea of running a half marathon or setting a PB (personal best) in your deadlift gets you excited. One of my clients is focusing on getting back on the mat to train jujitsu and feeling strong enough to avoid injury.
Step #3 Take Action
Without a plan, it is hard to take action and get started. It is great to set these performance-based goals, but that is only the start. What small steps can you take daily to reach your goals? I will use the pull-up example. I started with a Dead-Hang, then progressed to Band Assisted Pull-ups, then Negatives, then full rep Pull-ups. It was small, daily steps!
Step #4 Track your Progress
Track your progress. Otherwise, you’ll have no idea where you are, or more importantly how far you’ve come. Seeing your progress will help you to keep going when it gets tough (which it will!). If you have these small wins, they add up to big wins! Focus on the process and daily progress and be sure to track it in a journal, on your phone, or in an app.
Step #5 Keep Going
High Performance never stops; there is no end to performing well in our lives. Keep going, the big problem with just looking at aesthetics goals is that once we arrive, it ends. The months of clean eating give way to a week or two of debauchery, and we slip gradual back to a place of displeasure. Performance goals don’t stop, we keep getting better.
Final Thought –
Remember to stay in your lane. We can get caught up in the comparison trap, even when it comes to performance. Your body is your business, and other’s bodies are their business. We do not know the story of their body, so why are we comparing?
You can still achieve your aesthetic goals with a performance-based focus, but they will be the bonus.
Ps. If you are looking for some help getting on track with your performance goals from a nutrition and lifestyle perspective I am launching my Inner Athlete Coaching program at the beginning of April. Click here to apply and join the wait -list (spots are filling up!)