What comes to mind when you hear these types of goals?
“I want to deadlift two times my body weight.”
“I want to run a sub X minute mile.”
“I want to row a sub X minute 2k.”
“I want to do X number of pull ups or push ups.”
“I want to summit a 4000 ft mountain.”
Most people probably associate these sentences with something an athlete would say, they are not goals of someone looking to improve their body composition.
What if I told you that if your goal is to improve your body composition you should have similar goals?
You probably think I am crazy, right? You are not an athlete, you just want to lose some weight and get healthy, why should you care about how you perform?
Well I may be crazy…but hear me out.
When I work with weight loss clients and ask them what their goals are, every single one gives me a number on the scale they want to reach. The first thing I then assign them to do is to come up with other goals
The scale is just too volatile. The number on the scale is not a reflection of health and oftentimes is not even an accurate way to measure the goal they are after. I have had a number of clients lose fat and gain muscle without the scale moving at all. If they kept the goal of the number on the scale they might say they never reached their goal and become disheartened and give up, yet in actuality, they completely changed their body composition.
Performance goals are very black or white. You can either meet the goal or not, they don’t lie.
Don’t be turned off by the word “performance” either. Performance goals don’t have to be daunting athletic feats, they can be anything physical you have trouble doing. Here are some examples…
“I want to be able to play tag with my grandchildren.”
“I want to be able to do the monkey bars at the park.”
“I want to be able to carry my own groceries and put them in the car myself.”
“I want to be able to sit in a squat position comfortably.”
“I want to be able to jog to the end of the road and back.”
“I want to be able to hang from the pull up bar for 1 minute.”
“I want to be able to pull a wagon with my kids in it.”
“I want to be able to place the family Christmas tree on the car myself this year.”
These are not major athletic feats, however they might be incredibly hard for someone to do and would require a lot of effort to achieve.
At this point you might be saying “How does reaching a performance goal mean I am changing my body composition?”
That’s true, whether or not you can reach your performance goals says nothing about how much fat or muscle you have lost/gained.
However, the magic is in the process of getting to the performance goal.
As I said, if the scale is your only metric of success it can be quite deceptive. The scale can stay the same or even go up while you completely shift your body composition by losing fat and gaining muscle. If you instead focus on achieving your performance goal, you can easily measure it, but the nice thing is that you don’t measure it every day, instead you measure it once every 4-6 weeks. Along the way it is all about putting in the “training” to get there. As long as you put in the training you can be sure you will be making progress. This forces you to think long term and not get distracted by the day to day changes of the scale.
The other thing about performance goals is that there is no end. When you set a “goal weight” what happens when you get to that weight? Without a goal people can lose motivation and suddenly you are back to your old habits, and weight.
When you have a performance goal, there is always another performance goal to move on to. For example, if you hit your push up goal, you can then either set the goal to be able to do more pushups or more challenging versions of a pushup, or you can completely switch your performance goal to something else entirely. In other words there is always another goal to keep you motivated, to keep you on track….you’re always improving!
Performance goals also make you focus on movement and exercise as well as diet. If you are only focused on what the scale is doing you can easily rely on diet alone to get the scale to move in the right direction. However, we know that if you put yourself in a caloric deficit without incorporating some kind of resistance training you are going to lose muscle. In some cases the scale may go down but a portion of that weight loss could be muscle. If you lose too much muscle mass you might reach your weight goal but end up with a WORSE body composition! In the long run that is probably worse for your health than if you were to maintain a heavier weight with more muscle because more muscle means better metabolic health and longevity.
When you focus on a performance goal while maintaining a caloric deficit you can greatly mitigate any muscle loss and even in some cases gain muscle while losing fat. This puts you in a much better spot from a metabolic health point of view as well as a longevity point of view.
Performance goals also shift your focus from external gratification to internal gratification. Oftentimes we want to lose weight for others, we think that if we lose weight people will think we are more attractive or healthier. A performance based goal is all about you. Most people are not going to care that you can do a pull up, or run a mile, or deadlift your bodyweight, or put your own luggage in the overhead bin on an airplane….BUT YOU DO!
The driver of a performance goal comes from within and it makes you feel proud of yourself. This can be much more motivating than caring what other people think of you. Eventually when things get hard you are not going to care what others think of you, but you will care about what you think about yourself!
If you have been struggling to reach a weight loss goal and constantly find yourself making progress but losing steam, try switching to a performance goal and ditch the focus on the scale. Put the scale away for a few months and instead focus on how strong, powerful, fast, and independent you can be. I guarantee you will not only feel better about yourself, gain muscle, and improve your metabolic health, you will also get yourself closer to the body composition you desire!
If you are looking for more ways you can reframe your mindset in order to make reaching your goals even easier, sign up for my newsletter using the form below and each week I will send you a few emails with actionable tips to make you more successful!