“I want to get toned,” This is the siren song of countless people who come to see me, and it takes a bit of effort on my part not to scream every time I hear this phrase. Why do I react as if someone is dragging gardening tools across a chalkboard? Well, the reason it irks me when people use words like “toned” or ” firm” or “ripped” is because those words have no definable meaning. What one person thinks of as “toned” is another person’s “firm,” and don’t even get me started on all the different meanings of “ripped.” That word should be banned from the english language, if only to force muscle magazines to actually start using the thesaurus feature on their word processors.
Then why are these words used so freely when discussing fitness goals? I think it all boils down to advertising. To cater to broader audiences, health clubs and gyms promote classes that guarantee “a butt-blasting” workout, or weight training facilities that will get you “toned and firm” in no time. Maybe I’m being too literal, but the image of my butt being blasted by a sixty-minute workout sounds both terrifying and unrealistic. Although I might occasionally disagree with its size, I like my booty right where it is, not blasted to smithereens.
So how do these words actually fit in to my fitness goals? The answer is they don’t. Then again, they kind of do. Basically these gyms are spewing out exciting buzz words that appeal to everyone’s ideas of fitness without really targeting any specific goal. Classes advertising “High intensity calisthenics to burn excess body fat” or “heavy resistance training to build muscle” just don’t sound quite as catchy, even if they are a more accurate description. Health clubs are not looking for accuracy, they just want to get people involved.
So why do I care? Well, the first and most important step in any fitness program is to set goals. Not setting goals is like getting into an airplane without a navigation system; you’ll be able to take off, but you’ll have no idea where to land. That’s why when someone says, “I want to get into shape,” its tough not to come back with, “square, circle or triangle?” I have no interest in turning you into a hexagon, so you want to get in shape, you’d better figure out what that shape looks like.
The best way to clarify fitness goals is to keep asking yourself questions. What does in shape mean to you? Are you trying to change the way your body looks? What do you like/dislike about how you look now? How would you like to look? How do you feel? How would you like to feel? What can you do now? What would you like to be able to do? The answers to these questions inevitably lead to what I’ve been trying to beat out of you all along. Specific goals. Measurable goals. REALISTIC goals. Answer these questions, and you will start to get a pretty clear picture of what you are actually looking for, whether it’s building muscle, reducing body fat, or just being more active. Just try not to get caught up in all the silly jargon out there, because if you really want to make a change, you need to know what that change is.
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