You Can’t Have All Of The Fitness All Of The Time

In an ever-social world where everyone is posting everything from new workout PRs to new workout clothes, it’s easy to get distracted from your own fitness journey.

All those results others are getting look so dang good, you find yourself wanting all of them. But distraction is the devil when it comes to reaching, and being satisfied by, your own fitness pursuits.

Desire. We’ve done it since we were kids – another kid playing with a toy makes that toy infinitely more intriguing to you. A friend gets a new car and all of a sudden your car seems not-so-great anymore. A fellow class member hits a squat PR & all of a sudden you want a squat PR too, when just a moment before, you were content with your goal of ‘accomplish an Ironman triathlon’.

When we desire a fitness goal, we’re desiring not just the end goal, but also how we think we’ll feel when we achieve that goal.

To see someone else achieving…we want to achieve too! We want to be awesome, we want to be accomplished, we want all of the fitness!

Consider though, that the word “fitness” covers a massive berth of end-goals – you can be fit and be as sculpted as a Greek god statue for a physique competition. You can be fit and be unsculpted but be capable of jerking hundreds of pounds over your head. You can be incapable of moving a massive weight, but you can run 26.2 miles and beyond with relative ease and that is a form of fitness. You can never run 26.2 miles but you’re fit because you are a technical master in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

These are just four of what is essentially a bottomless well of fitness goals you could select from.

The key here is to decide, what actually do you want from your fitness program?

Clarity Brings Quality

You must get clear on what your main goal is and what you want to excel at (whatever “excel” means to you).

Not only will that spur your motivation, it will make it easier to decide what’s worth spending time on and what isn’t when you set up your fitness program.

I’ll use a recent new client as an example: they came to me wanting to achieve a new level of performance in swimming that currently eluded them.

Prior to working with me, they were swimming a few times a week, and they were doing a bootcamp that met 5 days a week & was the most intense workouts of this client’s week.

I asked the client why they were doing a 5 day a week bootcamp that was more intense and consistent than their swimming workouts when swimming was the main goal.

They then indicated that getting a body similar to that of the instructor was also a goal that was poking around in their head. Ah. There’s the issue.

The client wants a second goal, that in working to achieve it, (a body like that of the instructor), they were putting themselves in the hole when it came time to do the workouts that focused on their first goal of being a high-performing swimmer.

This person was working two goals in the hopes of achieving them, when in fact, one was detracting from the other.

Once we got totally clear on which goal was priority #1 (swimming), I was able to help the client restructure her program so any strength work we were doing was supportive to, and not distracting from, the quality and intensity needed to do the swimming workouts.

The client was happier too because she started seeing progress on her swimming goal now that the right amount of energy was focused on the workouts most conducive to eliciting the physiological response they needed to become a better swimmer.

The other goal was moved off the plate for now, yet despite that, the client actually started commenting on how she noticed and enjoyed how her body changed as she improved at swimming!

Let Biology Do Its Thing

To achieve any change in your body’s performance or physique, you’ve got to place a stimulus on your body. That stimulus will elicit a response from your body; and depending on where on the fitness spectrum your stimulus came from, will determine the response you get.

And you don’t get to have the entire fitness spectrum at once.

You actually aren’t going to have all of the fitness at all times.

Here’s why. To excel at one thing, like achieving a marathon PR, means you’re shifting focus away from something else, perhaps a new clean & jerk PR.

Fitness is a spectrum, and the biology required to get to one end of the fitness spectrum, in this case, “endurance running PR” is going to be different from what is going to get you to the other end of the spectrum, here, “maximal weight-lifting power”.

And here’s the critical part – to get good at one, you’ve got to let go (at least a bit) of the other.

Trying to hold on to all of the fitness is like trying to hold water in a clenched fist.


It will slip right through your fingers and you’ll find none of your fitness moving to the ‘excels at’ category.

For example, to excel at Olympic weightlifting, where you’re applying force to hundreds of pounds and moving that weight as explosively as possible, you must develop your adenosine triphosphate–creatine phosphate (ATP-CP) system.

Whereas with endurance running, you’d be on the far opposite end of the spectrum, having developed your aerobic metabolic pathway to be extremely efficient.

Remember, your body is simply listening for, and responding to, the signals you give it.

The more consistent the signal, the more response in that direction it will elicit.

Thus, if your signal is consistently telling your body to upgrade its efficiency in its aerobic pathways and slow-twitch muscle fibers (as would happen when training for an endurance event), it will also take note that you are not stimulating its anaerobic pathways and fast-twitch fibers as much, leading it to downgrade its efficiency & strength in those areas.

“But I want to train a little of both of those things so that I can achieve them both!”

That middle ground of the fitness spectrum – where you can do a bit of running, you can lift a bit of weight, you have a bit of definition – that can totally be your fitness goal. Just know that with that goal, like any other, you will be letting go of other parts of the fitness spectrum as you work to attain it.

There are biological limitations to how many different aspects of fitness you can hold on to at the same time. If you want to have a little bit of a bunch of fitness, then know that you’re not going to have a top-end amount of fitness in any one area.

Finding Satisfaction In Your Progress

If you want to improve at a sport that is glycogen-demanding, like weightlifting, sprinting, or gymnastics, get excited by the fact that you’re changing your physiology to do that. It’s silly to put any emotion towards the fact that in doing so, you’ll likely lose some of your fitness at running for distance.

If you’re coming off a major life stressor and ‘consistent workouts’ and ‘incredible health’ are your top goals, don’t waste time envying the 6-pack of abs that a friend has achieved which they have been dialed into their training for months to achieve.

You’re not at the same place as them, and you’re coming from a different place as them; apples, oranges, don’t compare.

Do not let someone else’s fitness accomplishment distract you from your end-goal & desired feeling of accomplishment.

Someone else’s Ironman training workouts in no way detract from what you’re doing on your journey toward your first legit pull-up.

Letting someone else’s fitness detract from your own means chipping away at the very thing that a fitness goal is designed to give you – self confidence…by way of a personal best in a fitness pursuit.

Once you’ve decided on a goal, put the blinders on and get to work. In 13 years of working with clients, time and again, the ones you do the best are the ones who pick one or two goals, and diligently and consistently work on them.

The ones who struggle are the ones who, every four or five weeks, come up with some new thing to work for. These folks must learn to make the ‘doing’ of the goal as much fun as the ‘planning’ for the goal.

You can’t have all of the fitness all of the time.

But what you can have is a deep dedication to your own fitness journey. What someone else posts online about their fitness in no way alters the quality of what you’re working to achieve.

Your fitness journey is yours, and much like the rest of life, when it comes to fitness, you don’t need to keep up with the Joneses.

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