Last year a friend and I took up a workout challenge on YouTube that spanned 21 days and promised to deliver an hour-glass figure. Alongside the challenge, I decided to try a revised diet plan and made a note of my weight in order to monitor my progress. Three weeks later, after more planks than I care to remember, I felt better both mentally and physically – that is until I stepped onto the scales and saw that my weight had not made the drastic change I was expecting.
Like many people, I’ve always had a difficult relationship with workout targets and goals. For some of us setting numerical goalposts can be beneficial in keeping us motivated and allowing us to track our progress. Feelings of fulfilment are instilled when we achieve these goals, and we’re more likely to continue with the actions having seen numerical results. On the flipside however, there is the potential to become fixated on the numbers to the point where they control our emotions and override the initial purpose for these goals – case in point: my disappointment upon reading the scales despite having felt good about my progress moments before.
Fast forward to now and, in hopes of rekindling my love of fitness and bettering myself, I wanted to look into the idea of setting goals and being proactive without becoming fixated on numbers.
In a recent episode of the On Reflection Beauty Podcast, British Vogue contributing editor and beauty writer Funmi Fetto and her guest George Driver, discussed the rise of apps and gadgets in fitness and how many are now used to confirm or corroborate our progress when it comes to goals. Driver noted that she prefers to avoid these tracking applications, instead believing her boosted self-esteem and the positive feeling she gets after going for a run for example to be enough of a result that she doesn’t need scales to ‘confirm or refute’ any effect it’s had on her technical weight.
This sentiment is echoed by Gina Obeng, a personal trainer and founder of the Just Green fitness brand. Running the successful Train to Slay workouts and regularly advising and coaching clients, she sheds some light on the idea of setting targets and their importance in achieving success in this area.
Rather than putting an emphasis on scales in regard to weight-based targets, Gina encourages her clients to take progress pictures and focus on how they feel and look in clothes, commenting that many times our body compositions can be changing in ways that can be more accurately seen visually than calculated on a scale. “In a technical sense, the scale isn’t always a true reflection of what’s happening on the inside - she notes - You could actually be gaining more muscle mass or retaining more water meaning your weight appears heavier even when you haven’t gained any fat.”
On the subject of becoming fixated on goals and targets, Gina reminds me that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, particularly when discussing the subject of weight and how we monitor and measure it. Speaking from experience she tells me: “It’s definitely possible to achieve successful results without strictly monitoring your actions but it depends on the individual. While some people may find they allow for more leeway when they aren’t strict, others don’t like to put too much pressure on themselves and find that setting goals such as ‘work out three times the week’ is enough.”
This instantly reminds me of the friend I took up the workout challenge with. Where I faltered and soon fell off the fitness wagon, she continued to progress into a self-professed fitness fanatic. And the key to her success? A strict regime and clear target.
In a similar way to Gina’s community, my friend allowed visual changes to play a large role in her progress tracking – choosing a pair of jeans as a way of monitoring the changes in her physique. Unlike George Driver, my friend’s personal journey was one that did involve scales and she found that using a fitness app to track her meals provided incentive to eat better and be more thoughtful about what she consumed.
Ultimately there is no correct way to set fitness targets and in some cases a numbers-based goal may not be necessary at all. I know simply deciding to workout at all is already a step forward for me. Ensuring that the way in which we monitor our progress and the results we receive do not consume or override our purpose is important to keep in mind when setting goals both within the world of fitness and beyond – after that, it is an individual task of discerning what works for us personally.
Written by Natasha Chisabingo