Everyone comes into the gym because they want to look better. The vast majority of clients that trainers work with are slightly overweight people who want to look better and lose somewhere in the range of 5-20 pounds. Then we get occasional others: a sprinkling of athletes (weekend warriors and youth more likely than professional), the occasional elderly client looking to maintain function, and every now and then someone looking to bulk up, gain muscle or strength, or with some vague health ideal in mind.
I think that there’s something about that that fundamentally doesn’t work out. Not everyone has the genetics to look perfectly amazing from working out. In no way does genetics prevent you from getting where you want to go, it only determines the effectiveness of your workouts and thus the results you get from them. You can always be better than you were the day before, even if you can’t be as good as some other person. Don’t judge yourself based on others. Judge yourself only based on your own progress.
So many people think they want to look better, when I think that they really want to feel happier and more comfortable in their bodies. So the question is, do you really need to lose weight and get lean in order to feel comfortable? Or would you rather take it a little bit easier, enjoy yourself a little more, and have fun while adding strength, size, and endurance? When you’re stronger and more durable, you feel better, have higher energy levels, and are much more capable of handling daily tasks that come to you. That’s massively empowering.
Ultimately, I think the gym would be a much better place if people exercised not to look better, but to feel better. Sometimes the two are the same, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But many other times, I think it would be just as great if we could all just try to be stronger versions of ourselves. The funniest thing is that when we do that, stuff like looking better tends to follow.
The metrics of progress for stuff like strength and endurance are generally much more visible than those for looking good: you can lose weight but also lose muscle, or you can gain weight and muscle and still look leaner than you did when you were at the original weight. Meanwhile, we can have very specific and meaningful numbers about how much we can, say, bench press. Or how quickly we can blast out a WOD. Tracking consistent progress in performance goals means you keep seeing more and more results, and that means that provided that you’re progressing properly, you’re going to see changes in physique as well.
Funny how that works.