mens health physiqueAll of us (at least us men) would love to have such an awesome physique that we could be a Men’s Health™ cover model.  For the most part, those guys look amazing and definitely fit the physique we are going for.  They’re strong, they’re healthy – I have no idea whether they’re happy or not – but they do embody the physicalness that we strive for.

But at the same time, in a very practical sense, only 1% or 2% of us will ever achieve that physique.  And maintaining that as we age can be tough.  Some of us, a big percentage, could never get there no matter how hard we worked, because our genetic proportions just aren’t quite “perfect”.

Enter:  The Paradox

So on the one hand, these guys are inspiring.  On the other hand, they are depressing!

When you set up a mental image that is that far out of reach, it can be demoralizing. So that’s why it’s a paradox:  it’s fantastic to hold that type of physique up as a goal to strive for; but if that’s really your objective, chances are you’ll never reach it. Just like if your objective is to be president of the United States, there’s nothing wrong with trying to do that; but at the same time, on some level, reality has to factor in.

The Ultimate Fitness Goal – Look, Feel, Do

A goal is something you achieve and allows steps toward achievement.  Your “ultimate fitness goal” (or UFG) is your ideal, so that’s the vision, and you hold that vision in your mind throughout your life and throughout your eating habits and exercise routines.  The routines themselves are not your ultimate fitness goal.  They are step-goals or process-goals that lead you toward your UFG.

Take a moment and close your eyes.  Yes, I’m saying literally close your eyes after reading this paragraph and do these steps.  Picture how you will look, how you will feel, and what you will be able to physically perform when you achieve your ultimate physical goal.  Really imagine that you have achieved it and imagine yourself looking, feeling, and doing.

There’s a very good chance that the “looking” portion is pretty similar to that Men’s Fitness cover model, right?

But we just established that that is unlikely.  So what do you do?

I say, keep those goals anyway. I don’t care how unrealistic they are, your ultimate fitness goals (look, feel, do) need to be your own personal vision for ideal.  Realistic or not, they are what will keep driving you.  But maybe you had a hard time visioning your ultimate fitness goal.  Let me help.

Examples of Other Ultimate Fitness Goals

Goals like, “I want to develop a lean muscle mass of less than 15% body fat” are realistic but hard to “vision”.  So think with pictures here.  Pictures of how you look, how you feel, and what you can do.  Some examples:

  • Maybe your objective is to feel really good in your clothes and feeling confident when you’re out in the world. It means not being embarrassed to take your shirt off at the beach.
  • Maybe your ultimate fitness goal is about being strong enough, about being able to throw your kids in the air – as a game, of course!  It could be about being able to keep up with your kids as they progress into teenage years.
  • Or being strong enough to live the way humans were meant to live, which is not to sit behind a desk, although most of us do that. Things like being able to climb trees!  Haul logs!  Hunt bison!
  • And if you don’t have strength and flexibility you’re going to get injured, so that’s another point. It’s about preventing injury.
  • The older you get, you’ve got other objectives.  Things like bone density and stability, and trying to slow sarcopenia.  Or to ward off disease (building muscle mass has been shown to ward off diseases; particularly, there’s a high correlation between muscle mass and reduced risk of many types of cancer).
  • Or maybe you want to slim down your waist.  (Side note – unless you are obese, you might not want to have goals that are about weight loss, because if you’re exercising properly you’re replacing fat with muscle and muscle weighs more.  You may look, feel, and do great even if you’re not going to see dramatic weight reduction.)
  • Or to beef up your scrawny legs. That’s an ok high-level UFG, but possibly a little too short term.   Then you can refine it later into measurable, timebound goals like “increase the size of my thighs by an inch before June 30”.
  • I’d caution against UFGs like having every woman drool and every guy envy you, (although that’s a good marketing slogan, if you’re trying to get somebody to buy some of your fitness products!).  Those are really things outside yourself.  If that’s truly your objective, then I’m not sure you’re part of my audience anyway.

So in the end, there’s nothing wrong with holding out the Men’s Health models as your ideal.  Whatever it is, you need a UFG. Then set your goals incrementally as things you can achieve, and then when you achieve them, then set the next higher goals. That builds confidence and keeps you on track. I’ll post again soon on how to have measurable, time-bound goals that bring you closer to your UFG.  Till then, keep the bigger picture of your UFG in mind every day.

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