It’s no secret that I have zero issue with training specifically for aesthetics. It’s been my main training goal for years now, and it also tends to be that of many of my clients. Sure, I train to be strong too, but first and foremost, I’m training to get jacked.
There’s a lot of pushback around this whole idea, and I was guilty of it myself for quite some time. Many people think that training specifically for aesthetics is not a worthy goal, and that training for strength or performance is far more worthwhile. A lot of folks out there think training for aesthetics is vain and selfish. And to those folks, I say: yep, it sure is.
And I will argue to the death that taking a few hours a week to be totally vain and selfish is one of the best things you’ll ever do for yourself.
I get it – we’re in a place where, especially as women, we’re finally just starting to unravel the old ways of thinking. We’re becoming conscious that society and the media have tried to tell us for generations exactly how we should look. And beyond that, that how we look is the most important thing about us. It can be hard to navigate this, and not to see these two things as conflicting.
What I have found, though, is that in exploring the feelings behind these expectations and “the look” – whatever look that may be for you – there’s a certain power to be discovered. It’s not about physical attractiveness mattering above all. It’s about discovering what physical attractiveness means to you and for you, and then choosing how it plays a role in your life.
For me, of course it started with a pull to “look the part” as a trainer. (Whether it’s bullshit or not, there’s still a certain expectation that a coach look like a coach in the fitness industry, even though I’m not actually sure what a coach looks like.) That evolved into performance, then into seeing what I could do with my strength, and eventually, into working for size. But for me, there was always an undercurrent and an emphasis on physique and aesthetics.
At first, I didn’t know. I truly did not know what that really meant to me. I hadn’t yet explored the feelings behind my goals. I just knew “the look” I wanted for myself. Until I started training specifically for size and aesthetics, I didn’t have a clue about what else was going to happen, and how it was going to affect my life. Then several unexpected things happened.
First, I learned what it meant to get jacked. It meant hard work, bigger muscles, lots of food, clothing size changes, seeing my highest scale weight ever, having the most fun I’ve ever had in the gym, being more motivated than ever, and lots and lots of gym selfies and mirror checks. Because damn girl, you lookin’ fiiiiiine.
Second, I learned that getting bigger and working toward a specific physique was challenging sometimes. Because of all those social norms and expectations, I still struggled from time to time. But more often than not, I fully embraced my increased size and and bulging muscles, and in fact, yearned for more. (More, more!)
Third, working through those struggles around increasing my physical size helped me build a lot more than muscles. They increased my body confidence – and overall confidence – by a factor of about a million. At the exact same time I was placing the most emphasis on aesthetics, my desired aesthetic was also evolving, and my confidence around my body was growing dramatically. Whereas I used to detest my big arms and shoulders, they became the very thing that I drew the most confidence and power from, and my arms quickly became my favorite body part to train (and flex).
Fourth, I learned that narrowing my focus on aesthetics physically was widening my focus elsewhere. The type of training I was doing in the gym was helping me to really connect with my muscles, with how I felt while working out. But the time I spent absorbed in my world and my body was also helping me connect with how I felt outside of the gym. I started delving into feminism and activism. I started working on personal growth and relationships. I started honing in on my business vision and message more completely and directly. I started absolutely owning my voice, my big, loud shhhhh-I’m-right-here-you-don’t-have-to-talk-so-loud voice. (And right about now? That’s that’s the stuff I want to be spending my energy on, not worrying about my body image.)
And finally, I learned that in all of the above, I could love myself more than ever before, inside and out. (See aforementioned section on gym selfies and mirror checks.) By strictly focusing on myself, my selfish, totally vain goals, I became stronger, more comfortable in my skin, and way more solid – mentally, physically, and emotionally – than I had ever imagined possible.
Turns out, there’s value beyond measure in loving the way you look.
So yeah, I’m 100% cool with vanity goals as primary goals. Because I know that you may think that getting jacked is just about getting jacked. But I know better. That’s just the beginning. Getting jacked is about all that other magical, intangible stuff, whether you know it or not, and it won’t be long before you start to work your way through it just like I did. Of course, choosing your training goals is highly personal, and no matter what you choose for yourself, your goals are meaningful.
But before you write off training for aesthetics – for yourself or someone else – as too vain or selfish, try to be a little more open-minded. Maybe even go for it. I’m here to tell you, along with a whole slew of gym rat friends, that getting jacked is, indeed, a worthy goal. In the end, it was likely never just about getting jacked. There’s always more than what meets the eye – even if what meets the eye already looks pretty good.