By Eleanor Baranofsky
It is more than common in the fitness industry to pull up a photo or video of someone as you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed and think to yourself, “I would do anything to look like that”.
I do it almost daily.
I look at people with boulder shoulders or defined quads and compare myself to them, often forgetting the years of training it took them to get there. While there is no issue in having aesthetic or strength-based goals, it is important to keep in mind the body you have now and how it’s working for you.
It takes a little more research than simply scrolling through the “Explore” page of Instagram to do.
The first step in assessing your fitness goals is figuring out what you want from your body.
Everyone defines this differently.
Some want to be fast runners, with sinewy leg muscles and be able to run long distances as well.
Some want to have broad shoulders that force them to turn sideways in doorways. Others want to barbell lunge 150 lbs for sets of 20.
Whether you want strength, speed, looks, or a mix of all, you must figure out how to make them complement each other while working with your body and what it can do.
The next step is also assessing your limitations.
For example, the runners mentioned earlier could also have knee pain from weakness, thus requiring cross-training with strength-based workouts.
They won’t be able to really compare themselves to an ultra-marathon runner and expect to get there easily. Those who want a large upper body may be limited by their natural frame and need more time and more intensity in the gym to achieve their overall physique goals.
Or they could have shoulder pain from years ago that they must learn to workaround.
Those who want to lunge heavy may have trouble with ankle stability, thus throwing off their balance. They may have to tailor their load and begin a little lower or include other movements that build their stability overall.
Your goals may need adjustments after you recognize your limitations. Anyone with the drive for their goals could push past these limitations, reach them, and end up with bad form and more pain but anyone serious about sustaining their goals will put in the time it takes to acquire and keep them.
Listen and Study
The third step is remaining flexible and listening to your body as you progress.
Maybe the runners get sick of listening to hours of podcasts and end up liking their cross-training in the gym more. Or maybe they realize a full marathon isn’t for them due to the stress on their body or the time it takes out of their life – but they kick ass at half marathons and can keep up doing those.
Those who want big shoulders may feel “out of balance” after or disproportionate and need to add in lower body or cut back on the lateral flies and face pulls.
The heavy barbell lunge folks may be neglecting their upper body strength and need to build that to complement and progress in their lunges.
The amazing thing about fitness is how personal it can be.
In a world of easy comparison, this individuality with fitness goals is easily misconstrued.
What often makes the person you look up to for fitness goals stand out is their unique spin on workouts or their revolutionary new movement that can be easily incorporated in the gym.
But when you compare yourself to these people and strive to lift, look, or lunge like them, you forget that you’re their body and your body are not often built the same.
There will not be instant gratification from the results of just a few weeks of their workouts you have been trying. Other muscles of yours may activate easier and your growth may not look the same as theirs.
Those individuals and you will have different limitations, different wear over time, different recovery, and different results.
What your body can do should be celebrated.
Opposed to knocking yourself for goals you miss, the work you put into your body is yours to take pride in, even when results may vary.
Tailor your goals to both your strengths and limitations and you will not only get to know your body more but be able to appreciate every setback along with the milestones.
So next time you compare yourself to someone in the gym or online, consider that they too have setbacks they are overcoming. They too, likely don’t look or lift or run like their idol.
Appreciate the drive of others and the accomplishment of their goals while recognizing that they may not exactly align with yours. Then consider that you, too, maybe someone else’s goal.