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Why You Should Train For Performance

I'm a Trainer, and This Is Why I Want You to Stop Training For Aesthetics to Transform Your Body

As a trainer and someone who's immersed in the world of fitness, one of the most common things I see people training for is aesthetics. Don't get me wrong; I fully support people wanting to look and feel their best, but whenever I hear people training for the sole purpose of getting "skinnier arms" — aka trying to spot-reduce — I cringe. It's not that I don't think you shouldn't want to work on and improve specific areas; it's the mentality that comes with it. Instead of obsessing over areas that "need improvement," I wish people would start training for performance and function.

I played sports my entire life, and one thing I have to credit my coaches for is the relationship they taught my teammates and me to have with our bodies as young women. I've heard disturbing stories of coaches telling their athletes they need to lose weight and eat less if they want to be the best, and I'm so thankful I never had to experience those negative remarks. Instead, my coaches taught me that my body had a specific purpose: to be powerful and fast, and that's what I was training for.

For example, I remember the day my teammate and I discovered we had stretch marks — I was 10 years old. It was a blistering, dry afternoon in Arizona, we were both in Soffe shorts (before cute workout gear was a thing), and we were talking about the weird lines we had found on our butt and legs. Curious as to what those marks meant, we showed our discovery to our coach. He could have easily dismissed our concerns or told us we were gaining weight, but instead, he told us that they were a sign of a strength. He said that our stretch marks were proof that we were building muscle, getting stronger and faster. After that day, we never worried about our stretch marks again. Our goal was to be the best sprinters possible, even if that meant acquiring stretch marks along the way.

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Over the years, my coaches encouraged us to not worry about how our bodies looked but how our bodies performed. They wanted us to focus on the bigger picture — how our biceps, glutes, hamstrings, back, abs, and the rest of our muscles worked together helping us as athletes and in our day-to-day lives. We were taught to train for function and performance — speed, explosive power, balance, agility, mental strength — not for our arms to look a specific way.

Whenever I hear people obsessing over "fixing" specific areas on their body, I always revert back to that story with hopes of changing their thought process. Fitness is about more than losing belly fat. And if you switch your mindset from training for looks to training for function and performance, you'll be surprised at how your body transforms overall. By training for a specific function like running faster, being able to walk up 10 flights of stairs without feeling exhausted, and squatting more than 75 pounds, you'll have to work multiple muscle groups in your body, which will not only target "problem areas" but also help improve your overall fitness levels.

I'm not saying completely forget about wanting your butt to look better; there's a time and place for that type of motivation. What I'm saying is that by focusing on the bigger picture — function and performance — you'll ultimately achieve your original goal and then some.

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