By VANESSA HAMPTON
As we enter spring and summer, there are endless options in races, competitions, and various other fitness related events to consider participating in. I, for one, love to set goals as well as encourage my clients to set goals, and all these races and events that are offered provide a great opportunity to do just that. Setting these goals can be a major positive, and the right thing for some personalities and places in life. However, they can also serve to be a major negative and completely wrong for others.
When I first decided to dip my toes in the water of fitness goals, I jumped head first in with figure class bodybuilding competitions. A little extreme for a first goal. I know, but it proved to be exactly what I needed at the time. No, I wasn’t looking forward to stepping on stage in 5-inch heels and very little clothing. I also knew that, in reality, I would not be very competitive. After all, I had spent my entire life overweight and insecure and had only been traveling along on my journey to health for a little over a year. What I desperately needed, however, was a plan. Something where I could dig my heels in and plow forward. Something that would provide me a feeling of control during a time where I held on to a deep fear of going backwards and ending up back in the place of being overweight and insecure. That’s exactly what 12 weeks of training for a competition would give me.
I am an “all in” kind of personality. Set me to task and, as my brother would always say, “she will do it or die trying”. With the training, I loved knowing exactly what I needed to accomplish each day in my exercise, as well as my eating, in order to be able to step foot on stage. Because I thrive on a challenge, I really didn’t have any problems with the extreme discipline of the training. So, that was the positive part. It provided me with motivation and a feeling of control. Now here’s the negative…Post goal fear.
For me, I needed that feeling of control that I had with the 12- week training plan so desperately that I was terrified of not having it. That meant I went to an unhealthy place mentally and ended up doing 5 shows in a row. A full year and a half of constant training. It was entirely too hard on my body and, mentally, was only putting a band aid on my fears and delaying the inevitable. This type of extreme in constant physical and mental exertion would prove to be a major negative for most any type of goal setting. I believe a challenge is healthy for both the body and the mind. Never giving either one of those rest, though, is the opposite.
I finally moved away from bodybuilding shows because I realized that I was not treating myself well either physically or mentally. I began to set new goals. I started CrossFit and began competing in local competitions. I also began doing 5k’s, obstacle runs, ½ marathons, and even a powerlifting meet. For a while, I felt like I needed to have a goal all the time. It was completely exhausting but I just kept on. It took me a long time to feel confident enough in my commitment to my health to let go of the fear of going backwards and to give myself a rest.
I have seen this same cycle happen with my clients. We will set a goal to spark motivation and get a plan in place. After weeks and months of the whole focus being on that one particular day and special event, I begin to warn them that we need to start thinking and planning for what’s next. Not necessarily another specific goal, but a mindset to prepare them for the post goal let down, and feeling of being lost, after such a long period of focus. It’s totally a thing for many of us if we set a big enough goal, and it’s a head space that’s difficult to navigate, especially if you are experiencing it for the first time.
Last year, I didn’t set multiple goals, but I did complete my third ½ marathon with very specific parameters in mind. I went into it with a different mindset than in years past. A little older, a little wiser. I didn’t need this goal in order to feel like I had my weight under control or because I was trying to prove something. I did it because I honestly wanted to and, amazingly, enjoyed the entire process. I think when we stop enjoying the process, it’s time to move on, and this is where many of us get stuck. We continue setting the wrong goals because we are trying to prove something or because we think we have to for one reason or the other. This can result in feeling defeated, being extremely abusive to ourselves mentally, and putting our bodies at high risk for over use and injury.
If you are considering setting a goal for yourself, take a moment to reflect on your “Why”. If it is something that sparks a fire in you, then you absolutely should do it. Own it, enjoy it, and be proud of your pursuit. However, if it’s something that you do not look forward to at all and aren’t really certain of the reason you are doing it, then maybe reconsider. Maybe look to a different goal or prioritizing some self-care and self-discovery instead, to determine why you are pushing something that only brings negativity into your life. After all, as we always say, being healthy means taking care of your whole self; mind, body, and spirit.
Vanessa Hampton, owner of Body Balance with V and Body Balance Massage & Wellness, is a personal trainer, yoga instructor, Fitness Coach, and CrossFit coach (CrossFit Cool Springs, Brentwood). Follow her on Facebook or Instagram @bodybalancewithv @bbmassageandwellness or email her at email@example.com.