6 minutes reading time (1232 words)

Performance Goals: Why and How


Whether you're just starting out in your fitness journey or have been training for quite some time now, I always always ALWAYS encourage performance-based goals. Why? Performance-based goals are objective, numbers-driven, and you typically have more control over the outcomes than you do for aesthetic-based or more subjective goals. Performance-based goals also drive more effort in the gym, have a more measureable result, and, in my opinion, are a better overall display of true progress. Plus when we are doing all the things we need to do to improve our performance, our aesthetics will tend to improve as well.

... when you do the things you need to do in order to perform better, get stronger, and get fitter, you'll be doing the exact same things you need to do in order to lose fat, build muscle, and look and feel better overall.

So how can you start setting performance-based goals and hold yourself accountable to them?

First, determine what you'd like to accomplish. What would make you feel good about doing? Is it running a 5k? Squatting your bodyweight? Hiking without feeling winded every ten minutes? Your goal can be as huge as climbing Mount Everest or running a 100 mile race. Or it can be as simple as running for 10 minutes straight without stopping. Remember that no goal is too big or too small. Also remember that no one will care as much about your goals as you do.

You need to decide what you'd like to achieve. Because without a goal or something you want to accomplish, we have no direction in which we can make a plan. And without a plan, we have no action.

Now we make a plan. This can be harder than actually setting a goal. This is where a lot of people get halted in their tracks, frozen by indecision. Sure, you want to squat your bodyweight, but how do you even start?

This is where hiring a professional can be extremely helpful. 1 - so you don't waste time and, 2 - so you stay safe and as injury-free as possible. 

Let's say you have a goal to squat your bodyweight by your birthday which is in 2 months. Is that doable? Yes. Realistic? Yes. Timely? Also yes. But in order to accomplish this goal, you know you have to be on top of it. You have to stay commited. You have to not give up.

So your next step is to determine what you have to do to accomplish this goal. Again, hiring a strength coach will be extremely helpful for this and will let you take more of the brain work out of it. You'll be able to commit yourself to your training sessions without second guessing yourself or your plan.

Let's say you do hire a coach and start strength training twice a week, start consuming more protein to help repair your muscles after grueling lifting sessions, increase the amount of sleep you're getting in order to recover, and begin to take your accessory exercises more seriously so you don't get sidetracked by a preventable injury.

You're lifting heavy, you're eating at least your bodyweight in grams of protein, you're sleeping at least 7 hours a night, and you're progressing in the "boring" exercises in the gym.

Psst! Guess what. You're doing everything you need to be doing for even an aesthetic-based goal.

The biggest point that I want to make is that setting performance-based goals should happen even if you're trying to achieve a certain look or trying to lose weight. Why? Because when you do the things you need to do in order to perform better, get stronger, and get fitter, you'll be doing the exact same things you need to do in order to lose fat, build muscle, and look and feel better overall. 

Performance-based goals also shift your focus from calorie-burning sweat sessions to workouts that actually let you recover and get results. When we stop focusing on how much we weigh, how many calories we've burned, what our body fat percentage is, and critizing ourselves for how we look, we begin to actually enjoy exercising. We begin to be able to see what your body is capable of doing. You're able to look back at where you were a month ago and realize that the 15 pound dumbbell that was so hard to lift above your head is actually pretty easy now. You can shift perspective and realize how amazing the body truly is and appreciate it for what it's done for you.

Remember that when it comes to achieving goals, it's never an overnight process. There will be ups and downs, roadblocks, struggles, and moments in life where we fall off track for a bit. But that's okay. You pick back up and try again, every single time. We can't expect ourselves to be perfect, so why expect your progress to be lightning fast? If you can truly learn how to exercise and eat in a sustainable, health-supportive fashion, then whatever you want to accomplish will seem just that much more in your grasp.

So what is your next performance goal going to be? What are you going to challenge yourself to achieve next? Don't make it too easy on yourself. Don't be afraid to push your body. And weight loss? Burning calories? Shrinking your waist? Ask why. Ask why that appeals to you. Really dig deep and ask if it truly matters. Does being a smaller version of yourself actually beat trying to become stronger, fitter, and more capable?

I hope that if you take away anything, it's what your goals do not have to be aesthetic-based. You don't have to focus on losing fat. You don't have to focus on burning calories in the gym. No, you can train to be stronger. You can train with the intention of learning more about exercise and of yourself. You can be powerful and possess a sort of strength, the kind that people will wonder where you got it from.

About the Author

Laura Su, BS Exercise Science, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, Powerlifter, Entreprenuer

I'm just a girl who fell in love with movement in high school and now wants to bring the freedom that exercise brings to everyone else.

I started working out with the desire to look a certain way but eventually found the sense of accomplishment and clarity that training for performance brought. Now I want to help everyone, especially women, to learn how to train and eat for their health and performance and realize that when you do that, the looks you desire are simply a positive side effect.

In my spare time, I enjoy powerlifting, horseback riding, sleeping, and hanging out with my boyfriend. I hope you enjoy my posts and keep reading along!

You can reach me on Instagram @littlelaurlifts or email me directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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