Performance Vs. Aesthetics

Oh, how we love to make fun of arm curls. What joy we take in scoffing at tricep extensions. How lovely it is to point and laugh at calf raises.

It's so easy for those of us who prefer training for performance to poke fun at our aesthetics training brothers and sisters.


What's so wrong with wanting to work on glamor muscles? What's so horrible about caring about your 6-pack abs?

After all, if you've been to the local Walmart, you know that there are worse things than being a gym rat who cares solely about training for aesthetics.

By way of necessity these faithful physique fans are avoiding obesity with their diets, and moving around enough to forego the use of electric scooters much longer than the average American.

After thinking about it, my major concern with aesthetics training is that many of them are fighting a losing game. I fear that they'll wrap their self-worth up in their appearance, that they'll live a life of discontent as they pursue the perfect physique, or that they'll end up doing something dangerous or unhealthy for short-term goals.

So what's the answer? To chase performance, right? To train in a way that allows you to have an enormous work capacity, right? Well, not so fast.

I do think training for performance vs. aesthetics is a step in the right direction, but can we take so many steps toward the right direction that we blow past it?

I think we can.

I have concerns about aesthetics training, but I have concerns about training for performance as well.

I fear that they'll wrap their self-worth up in their WOD results. That they'll live a life of discontent as they pursue PR after PR, or that they'll end up doing something dangerous or unhealthy for short-term goals.

As King Solomon wrote...

"And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind."

Whether you've got a goal to be the hottest fitness model to ever strut across the stage in her teeny-bikini, or you've got a goal to stand on top of the podium at a competition, your attractive appearance, AND your level of functional fitness will both eventually fade.

So what is left to do? Is it all worthless? Should we all just throw in the towel, and spend the rest of our lives languishing on the couch in a pile of empty Nutella jars and chocolate donettes?

Of course not. (Sadly)

I think we have an obligation to ourselves, and the world around us to use the bodies we've been given in a healthy way.

I'd be lying if I told you that I've found all the answers, or that I've mastered the art of navigating these pride-filled waters, but I can say this...

If I'm ever feeling ungrateful for the way I look, or discontent after a performance where I know I've done my very best...I'm wrong.

Our bodies are beautiful. They are wonderfully made. We should marvel at their design, AND their function.

To be ungrateful for the shape of our body, or dissatisfied with our body's performance after we've given our best effort, is to follow a soul-sucking path to misery.

So, which is better – training for performance or aesthetics? Well, if either are of the utmost importance, I would say neither.

We should exercise to take care of ourselves, and recognize that doing physical work is meant to be part of a full and abundant life.

Whether you land on the aesthetics side, or prefer training for performance, I hope you'll join me in fighting our urge to be unsatisfied, and work to be grateful and content with whatever is reflected in the mirror or scrawled on the whiteboard.

Have a WONDERFUL day!

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