Fitness and Strength Training: It's A Process

Posted on 11 Jan 2011 17:29

I am in the process of transferring some old posts from the old "GUStrength's Blog" to here. This post was written in August 2009 and like many of the posts over there was never really seen. I think it is a good one and worth having more visibility, but I'll let you be the judge. It concerns a subject that we often discuss here at GUS, which comes down to the question of being a "task-oriented" or "outcome-oriented" person. This has been mentioned in numerous forum discussions and articles, so we must think it is a fairly important distinction. Here, I am trying to clear up just why that is.

A related discussion can be found in Barry Schwartz on Practical Wisdom and Our Loss of it. That discussion concerns, more specifically, incentives and 'external motivation' versus 'intrinsic' motivation.

Are you a task-oriented or outcome-oriented individual?

Chances are that's not a question you've ever asked yourself. Well, you should because it has everything to do with your success in whatever you do and especially things like strength training, fatloss, and "fitness".

I wrote some about this in my post, Getting in the Zone. You may have heard task versus outcome orientation referred to as results versus action oriented. Same thing.

Most everything to me is a "process". I tend to fall heavily on the task-oriented side of things even when it would be perfectly feasible and suitable to "focus on results". And I suspect that most people will tend to be mixed in their approach but lean more heavily one way or the other.

An example of this in my personal (domestic) life has to do with laundry. My wife often gets annoyed at what she sees as bad, even slovenly, laundry habits.

Our laundry is done in the basement. Our bedroom is on the second floor. When my wife takes off clothing she places it in the hamper upstairs. When I take off clothing I throw it down the stairs to the first landing (I aim for the corner so nobody trips).

Then, at some point, when I am passing that way I take the discarded clothing to the basement. Pretty simple. It's a two-step process that results in the laundry accumulating in the most convenient location: next to the washer. The stair landing is the 'in between' part of the process and in all I think it is pretty efficient. Or, at least that is how I rationalize it.

My wife thinks it is a bad habit. To her there is no 'in between'. The laundry is either upstairs or in the basement. In this way she is a outcome-oriented person. I use little, convenient habits to get the laundry to its destination without ever really thinking about it. This is a little thing and either way, it gets done.

But consider just a bit more, if your willing, for there is a point to this. With my wife's way the laundry, invariably, doesn't just fill the hamper - it overflows from it. When it finally gets carried down (in two trips) it is because the overflowing pile of laundry FORCES one of us to do it. The laundry is done in a fit of action.

For my wife, this means that the process requires a whole lot of her attention and energy. More, from my perspective, than laundry deserves. She must drag two or three loads from the second floor to our decidedly non-functional basement and then spend a bunch of time sorting it and putting on a load. And she will spend a whole evening trying to 'catch up' on it.

Since she thinks I don't know how to wash clothes, this usually means the laundry is never 'caught up'.

All this parallels the typical fitness failure. We wait until our weight, lack of conditioning, weakness, etc. "piles up" and becomes impossible to ignore and then we GET MOTIVATED and launch into a fit, no, a FRENZY of action focusing on a result. Being thin. Being "in shape". Deadlifting like we did in college.

Except with one major difference. Doing laundry is a simple thing with very quick results. Laundry piles up. We get to it. A couple of hours later…results.

So let's equate the state of your body to your house. If, in general, you are pretty neat and you are able to keep on top of the cleaning then the process you use for laundry is no big deal. Just one thing in a system that, for the most part, works. But add to laundry piles of dirty dishes, papers and books everywhere, accumulated 'stuff' that should have been discarded, dirt, dust, filth…you get the picture.

You've got a problem and one big fit of cleaning ain't gonna solve it. Your house will get sort of cleaner but you will ultimately FAIL to keep a clean house. The process of cleaning (getting in shape) becomes overwhelming, requiring too much energy and focus. And what's more, you don't succeed! It's more than you can do in a fit of spring cleaning and you are left LESS motivated and more depressed about your cleaning habits than before.

If I could venture a guess, I'd say that many people who are both critical of physically fit people and also unwilling to change their own fitness think that this is how physically fit people operate - in a constant frenzy of obsessive fitness activity. Television shows like The Biggest Loser perpetuate this misconception. Well, I'm here to tell you that that ain't how most physically fit people operate. It is not an endless series of races to the finish line.

Remember, fat loss, strength, fitness: these are not events; these are PROCESSES. Some other related posts on this subject are The Rudy Effect: How Goals are Really Reached and Strength Training Motivation and Goal Setting.

This page created 11 Jan 2011 17:29
Last updated 19 Mar 2018 21:44

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