I used to want six-pack abs.

Back when I first started my weight loss journey in February 2011, I thought that a washboard stomach would be the final goal on the way to my perfect body. I thought that I got pretty close to that goal, too. After losing 100 lbs and getting down to a lean 180 lbs,  I felt certain that this fitness ideal lay just around the corner. The fat was gone! A few more crunches would have me rubbing my ripped stomach in no time. After all, this is what happens when you go to the gym, right?

“I don’t want to get big and bulky”

I hear some version of this statement at least once a week. I’ve heard it from obese middle-aged men. I’ve heard it from slender young women. You’ve probably said it yourself at some point. A lot of us seem to equate lifting weights with looking like Chris Evans (Captain America) or Kate Upton (Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover model) : all muscular and lean and perfect. True confession: I used to look at pictures of Captain America on my phone and think, “That’s going to be me one of these days.” After all, what’s the point of going to the gym if we can’t look perfect when we get done?

If that’s really where you want to get to in your fitness journey, then more power to you. You’re looking at months, if not years, of strenuous training and regimented eating habits. For the rest of us, I’ve also got great news: you don’t have to work towards becoming a perfect physical specimen in order to hit the weights. Here’s four goals that my people come to the gym to work towards every week. Which one works for you?

1) Build strength.

Clayton likes to lift heavy. An office worker and former college athlete, he enjoys the confidence that comes with pushing his physical limits on the deadlift, bench press, and back squat. Clayton doesn’t feel the need to get swole like Schwarzenneger or jacked like Johnson; he just wants to build muscle to feel more capable in his daily life.

2) Boost metabolism.

Gail has a weight loss goal: 8 lbs, to be exact. She originally began training at the gym to shed 15 lbs from her slender frame. Along with losing half her intended weight so far, Gail discovered that a combination of free weights and circuit-based training raises her metabolism. This boosts her energy every day, before and after her grueling workouts. She’s been so successful at her training regimen that Gail’s cyclist husband now calls her “Muscles” for her newly toned arms.

3) Age gracefully.

Deborah thought that her fibromyalgia would impact her life forever. The chronic pain left her feeling weaker and less active than she would like. Within two months of beginning weight training, Deborah’s daily fibro symptoms disappeared, leaving her pain-free and focused on beating back osteoporosis, strengthening her bones to prevent easy fractures as she glides through her 50s.

4) Improve movement.

Cathy might describe herself as a bit accident-prone. A lifetime of working a desk job left her movement untested, opening her up to micro-fractures in her legs from osteoporosis. By working twice a week with suspension bands, Cathy improves her natural balance safely while moving in unstable settings. The consistent effort also strengthens her bone density and helps Cathy drop a dress size in the first three months of working out.

Baby Steps

As you can see, each of these people benefit greatly from pursuing their own workout routine. Those highly sought-after “gains” promised by the fitness magazines actually make themselves available for everyone. If you haven’t started your own fitness journey yet, use these stories to ask yourself what “gains” you’ll want to see from your time in the gym, then ask your trainer how to get started.


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