What are you after?
That's not a trick question.
Why do you walk into the gym and what are you hoping to achieve from your time there?
The answer is going to vary from person to person. Some folks are athletes seeking to improve their on-field performance. Other people just want to get stronger or faster. And some people are just looking to sweat and lose or gain some weight.
Also, remember that your fitness and reasons will go through changes and different phases. I used to be entirely focused on losing weight; nothing else. I didn't care about performance or strength or speed; I just wanted to be smaller. At that time though, I was weighing in around 400lbs and was a teenager.
So, I at that point, it was vital that I lost weight. It was threatening my health and negatively impacting my quality of life. Through this phase I lost over 200lbs.
But, then what? Where do I go from there?
That middle ground can be a weird thing to navigate for lots of people. You set a goal and have a path and then suddenly you've reached the end of it.
I did it.
I lost the weight.
A lot of it.
I had literally lost 50% of my starting weight. I had lost an entire person. Losing anymore at that point was a bad idea. I also found myself not wanting to lose more. I needed a change a new goal.
Around that time I also found CrossFit and lifting weights and noticed something...
I was incredibly weak.
I realized I had spent all my time and energy on losing weight and not on trying to build on or improve my fitness. I could run pretty well, but I was so weak. When I started CrossFit, I couldn't Deadlift my bodyweight. I weighed around 190lbs.
So, that's where I started on my next path. I wanted to be stronger.
And as it happens, I fell in love with the barbell and the pursuit of getting strength. I'm a student by nature and I absolutely love to learn. I genuinely enjoy the act of being bad at something because it means there is enormous room to grow and develop.
We started lifting.
That was six years ago and I have not looked back since.
You are going to experience similar phases when you train. You're going to have moments and times when you want to be smaller, bigger, stronger, faster, etc. Sometimes we see that sign for a half marathon coming up and wonder, "Could I do that?" Other times it will be a Powerlifting or CrossFit competition and we'll feed that curiosity that's asking, "I wonder how I'd do?" You’re going to find this with nutrition and recovery as well. Eventually what worked wonders before doesn’t get the job done anymore.
The middle ground of navigating these different phases and goals can be weird. They can challenging and sometimes people don't know what to do with it.
My advice in those moments is this: human movement is the simplest thing we can all do and feeding it healthy, real food should be at the top of the list of “good ideas.”
The human body is designed to run, jump, climb, clamor, push, pull, dive, duck; we're designed to move. It's hardwired into our DNA and our evolution. If you find yourself unsure of what you should be doing specifically, then just make sure that you're moving generally. Get up and do something; anything. Movement is the greatest gift you can give your body each day, in my opinion.
And at the end of the day, isn't movement what we're actually after? Making the decision to step into the gym and start a routine, deciding that we want to start training--for whatever reason we have--is essentially the decision that we as people need to move more.
When you're not sure what you want to or should be doing, go back to the base of the pyramid and honor it. Build it up and make it stronger.
Every path comes to an end. It's okay if there isn't a new one immediately waiting for us when we get there.
Sometimes we should just cut left into the woods and see where we end up.
Another path will always find us eventually.