There will always be things battling for your time: Family, work, social life, exercise, playing, etc. Prioritizing and defining what is really important for the life you want to live is a must and can keep you on track when circumstances change or get tough.
It can take a while for people who are new to a work-out routine to find their training purpose. This is pretty general, but from what I have experienced, when asked, most people getting into fitness will have goals that sound very similar, like “lose weight,” “gain muscle,” “tone up,” “look better in a swim suit,” and “to get into better shape.” Every now and then I run into people with a clearer definition of what they want in life and understand how important their fitness is to leading that healthy life, but for the most part, beginners are trying to change their physical appearance. Wanting to look better is usually a good enough training purpose to get people started through the first few months, but for most people, they will start to realize that it is very hard work to look like models on magazine covers and most people’s lives cannot sustain the lifestyle needed for it. If your training purpose does not evolve, you are at risk of life getting in the way and losing everything you have worked so hard for. You risk slipping back into a sedentary life and let your fitness and health deteriorate because of it. For most people, vanity does not provide the long-term training purpose needed to be healthy and can lead you down fitness paths that do not transfer to real life skills. For example, the method to get your individual muscles as big as possible is very different than the method to get your muscles to work together as best as possible. The method to get you as skinny as possible with no muscle is different than the method to get you looking healthy.
Everyone should be creating a balance of life with priorities which lead to living happy and healthy in a way they can maintain forever. Just like fad diets are a waste of time, fad exercise routines are a waste if you cannot sustain a lifetime of it. Once someone has found high-intensity work-out program focusing on functional movements and correcting mobility issues, after a short while, especially if they have started eating a healthier diet, most people experience drastic changes in their body composition. This is great, but more importantly, they will start realizing they can do things they did not think capable of themselves and they start getting a handle of their chronic nagging pains.
Within the first year of starting an exercise routine, most people have had something in their life compete with their training time: a chronic nagging pain, a more serious injury, a vacation that takes you away from the gym for a few weeks, craziness at work, a new baby, relationships, etc. Most people will survive their first test, but as life event after life event stack up, eventually people become the fitness drop-out, quitting all together. There will always be other priorities that conflict with your gym life and, if you have not clearly defined why you are putting yourself through the stresses of exercise, then you are at high risk for dropping-out.
Your exercise program should give you results that go beyond body composition. You should find anecdotes from your everyday life in which your life is healthier, more enjoyable, easier, and less painful, than without your exercise program. The training needed for these additional benefits should be in line with your training purpose and life’s priorities.
Your training goals can be things like lose 10lbs, be able to do a pull-up, or squatting a certain weight, but these are not a long-term justification for why you put yourself through it. You need to define why you want to be able to do those things and why you think your life will be better for it. For example, I recommend something that goes beyond just wanting to run a marathon. Why will being able to run a marathon line up with your training purpose? When training for your marathon, there will be a number of life events that crop-up and you will need the more philosophical training purpose to fall back on during those hard work-outs. What does being able to run marathons do for your life? Is it something you want to achieve to prove it to yourself, do you want to be identified as someone who runs marathons, or does the ability to run a marathon allow you to participate in more things you enjoy in life? Drilling down to the deeper reason will give you the mental strength to keep progressing when things in life pop-up or training get hard. After you have defined this you must pick an exercise program that: 1) Will meet your goals and 2) fits in with your life priorities, time, and training purpose.
I enjoy CrossFit and have seen amazing results over the many years I have trained with it. I recently got caught up in targeting my biggest weakness, my maximal strength. I started targeting my strength and adding in a little extra work before and after my gym’s regular programming. I was seeing amazing results, feeling great, and getting stronger, hitting a PR on a squat/deadlift variation and a press variation every week while not missing a step with my overall fitness. After months of grinding, not missing a work-out, and training like a professional athlete, I started to get burned-out. I started not doing things I enjoy outside of the gym to save myself for my work-out. I would skip playing golf or meeting some friends for lunch because it interfered with my work-out program. I needed to fall back on my training purpose.
Now, when defining why I use CrossFit programming and put so much effort into my fitness, you cannot ignore that fact that I own a gym, so that alone is motivation enough to get into the gym to work-out to progress my efficacy on every movement and fix any weaknesses I can find. You do not need to be a great athlete to coach, but the experience and respect of being an athlete yourself goes a long way in building trust as a coach and being more relatable to clients. Beyond being an owner, I use CrossFit programming because I enjoy it and it allows me to do anything I want to do in my life. If it is a mud race, a volleyball social league, or rock climbing, no matter what the randomness of life throws my way, with no warning my fitness allows me to participate, and be reasonably good, in anything I want.
My training purpose: To be healthy, enjoy training, and never be reasonably limited by CrossFit’s 10 General Physical skills in anything I do in life: strength, agility, accuracy, power, speed, coordination, endurance, stamina, balance, or flexibility. If the randomness of life requires something physical from me, I do not want a glaring hole in any of these skills to be a reason I cannot enjoy participating fully.
Your training purpose keeps you on track for the longevity of life. There were a couple of months where I got my priorities mixed-up and I lost focus on why I do what I do. I started dedicating more time to my training, which obviously gave me less free time. Fitting in a trail run, lunch with a friend, or a round of golf during the day got put on hold as I was on a quest to get as strong as possible. Although I was seeing amazing results, my overall life was becoming marginally less enjoyable because training was becoming a little less fun. I was not balancing the get fit with the use your fitness for what I wanted my life to be. When I reviewed my training purpose and decided it still reflected my priorities, I started thinking about my overall strength, and besides wanting to be stronger to complete every WOD as prescribed, there was absolutely nothing in my life that was limited by my strength. With CrossFit, I have always gotten stronger, so, after taking a step back and re-evaluating how my training lined up with my training purpose, I was able to get back the balance of my life in and out of the gym. I am still targeting my overall strength as I continue my CrossFit, mobility, gymnastics, Olympic lifting, endurance and journeys of sports and games, but I am taking my training a little less serious and allowing myself more time to use my fitness and play.
There are always things that come up in life that can interfere with your training. If you have a clearly defined training purpose that you re-evaluate every so often with what you are doing, you will be able to maintain your balance of training with your life’s priorities. Your own health should always be towards the top of your life’s priorities, so find something that fits, so you do not become another fitness drop-out.