Let’s not kid ourselves, one of the reasons you started working out is to look better naked. Sure, the health benefits, the increased energy, the greater functional capacity and the improved mood are a plus, but looks are often a major motivator. Each person has their own vision of what a “perfect body” looks like. They cross-reference that with how much they’re willing to suffer and figure out what their goal is. That mentality can greatly affect your self esteem.
First, let’s talk about having looks as a goal. There’s a whole sport revolving around the idea of having a perfect body, called “bodybuilding”. Even though people’s idea of what looks good is different, bodybuilding focus on creating a geometrically pleasing body. Bodybuilders try to mold their bodies by isolating group muscles to be worked at. Their goal is to increase muscle mass in certain areas, maybe decrease size in other areas, in order to achieve a certain look. That process is very different than other exercise routines.
In CrossFit, a fit body is a side effect of our main goal: functional capacity. The idea is to improve your athletic performance. We want to prepare your body to be able to accomplish any physical task. Want to run fast? Or Lift heavy? Climb stuff, perhaps? We want you to be capable of doing all of those and more. To maximize what your body can do. Our mentality is to improve what your body can do, more than what it looks like.
Focusing on performance will make you fitter, and look fitter. Focusing on looking fitter might not increase performance. By analyzing your performance you get a real idea of where your fitness is. If you only look at how you look you might not get the whole story (maybe your legs got smaller because you lost muscle there and not fat).
Looks are subjective. Performance is universal.
There is definitely a place for bodybuilding in CrossFit. It is a great method for prehab and rehab. It can correct imbalances and help you strengthen a weak area. There is also a place for look-driven goals. Afterall, we all started this to look better naked. But do not get caught up in this idea that how you look says everything you need to know about your fitness.
The important message in all of this is about self esteem. It is not uncommon for athletes to talk about physical aspects. “I want to lose another 10 inches”, “I haven’t put on any muscle in this area”, “I can’t see any difference in my body”. But what they fail to see is that they started with a PVC pipe, and now they do movements with a heavy bar. Or that they had to walk every time they went for a 200m run and they are now able to run 400m no problem. Or that they are now able to do things, inside and outside the gym, that they weren’t able to do before.
Cherish what your body is now able to do because of your hard work. Be proud of your physical capacities, no matter your size or shape. Focus on your fitness and looks will follow.
by Coach Matt