Numbers Don't Lie – Focus on Performance. Not the Mirror or the Scale

I can’t tell you how many times I hear or read; “I want his/her body!” or “How do I get that body?”. The focus is entirely on their physical appearance and they just want to hear how to achieve that “look“. Well, I have a shocking revelation for you. You don’t get that body by focusing on how you look or how much you weigh. That body is the byproduct of focusing on something else entirely: Your Performance. Take a look at the people below and tell me what they all have in common.

CrossFit Woman on the Rings Male Gymnast Rings
Olympic Female Swimmer Olympic Male Swimmers
Crossfit Female Weightlifter Crossfit Male Masters Division

Have you guessed what it is? These are people who focus on their performance. They focus on getting stronger. They focus on getting faster. They don’t exercise to get great abs, or firmer legs, or nice arms, or a nice butt. They workout to get better at what they do. Their great bodies are simply a byproduct of that focus.

They focus on eating for performance too. They don’t diet. They don’t put crap into their body, because they know that will hurt their performance. Do you think Michael Phelps diets to get those abs? Ummmm, he eats 12,000 calories per day! Research any long-term, serious athlete (especially us older athletes) and you will learn that they take their “fuel” very seriously. They have learned over the years what foods help them grow muscle, increase their energy levels, and be at peak performance for their events. They have also learned to avoid foods that make them feel lethargic, hinder muscle growth, or hurt performance.

The lesson here is that if you focus on how you look in the mirror, you will fail. You will cut corners and do the wrong things to fix that image in the mirror. Plus, using the mirror as your goal is a dangerous game to play. You will never be happy with what you see in the mirror, if all you do is focus on the mirror. That is a certain path to body dysmorphic disorder. I’ve fallen for this myself. Over the past year, I was at first quite happy that my arms were getting bigger. Then, it seemed that they were no longer growing or sometimes it even seemed like I was losing muscle. I was wrong. They actually were still growing, as confirmed by a tape measure. The mirror lies. Your perception of yourself in the mirror lies. Don’t fall for it.

You also should know by now that if you focus on how much you weigh, you will fail. The scale lies too. As you start to lose fat and gain muscle by doing the right things (e.g., weightlifting), your weight is going to fluctuate. It will fluctuate hourly, daily, and weekly. You may find yourself weighing more, but looking and feeling great (muscle is heavy, dense stuff). Don’t fall for the lies of the scale.

But, performance numbers don’t lie. You are either lifting more weight (e.g., heavier, faster, more reps) or you are not. You are either running a mile faster or not. Put together a plan, track your performance, and focus on your numbers. That’s what matters. Ignore the mirror. Ignore the scale. Ignore other people’s numbers too. Your numbers and your progress is all that matters. Are you getting stronger? Good! That means you are building muscle and reshaping your body as a byproduct. Are you getting faster? Good! That means you are building your cardio fitness and, again, reshaping your body as a byproduct. Seeing your numbers improve month after month is the most motivational thing that I have ever discovered.

Get stronger. Get faster. Eat smarter. The rest will fall into place naturally. And, hey, it is ok to take a peek in the mirror every once in awhile. I think you’ll be much happier with what you see, once you start focusing on the right things.


  1. Robert G on June 6, 2012 at 10:26 am

    I totally agree with you here. Since getting in to crossfit my focus has been on improving my performance rather than my appearance. However, along with improving my performance over the year my body appearance is much better than when I was training just for “looks.” Not only do I look fit and strong – I can actually back it up with solid performance!

  2. […] you weigh. That body is the byproduct of focusing on something else entirely: Your Performance. Read full post… Posted on June 5, 2012 by […]

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