COMING from an athletic background of over 15 years, it has always been easier for me to work with elite level athletes. I’ve worked with athletes coming from the national team, elite level runners who qualify for international marathons, boxers who are very good at what they do, golfers who’ve left the country to compete and study abroad, martial artists who’ve medalled and competed abroad, among a host of other sports. Their goals are to win and compete at a high level. For elite level athletes, shaving a tenth of a second from their sprinting speed takes considerable time and amount of effort, plus obsessive attention to detail to accomplish their goals. It doesn’t help that the competition is just as dedicated and committed to winning as well. It’s not an easy task at all.

On the other hand, regular folks don’t really have it as easy as well. Most of them want to be healthy, but I would say health is probably the number two goal. The number one goal for most people who hit the gym is to look good, and I’ve heard of some that looking good has been more important than actually feeling good.

The overall goal for most guys is to shed fat and gain muscle. Most just want to lose their gut, get abs, get a big chest, well-defined shoulders and guns for arms. With the guys it is straight-forward.

With the ladies, ask 10 different women, you will get 10 different answers. So it isn’t really as clear cut. Most want to lose fat, get smaller arms, make sure that the program emphasizes their curves. They want to get slimmer, but not too much (for 10 different people the line between getting too thin and being just right are going to be different). Some want to have smaller arms, some smaller legs. Some want to have smaller legs while making the hips bigger. Others want well-defined arms but making sure they’re not muscular.

With fitness folk, the exciting part is it is more variable and you’re learning more about the person and what makes him tick. With athletes, you individualize for their sport, their injury history, their current training stage, age, gender, and your assessment of their movement competence. The exciting part for athletes is the competitive nature of what you’re doing.

Let me discuss nutrition for a little bit. Athletes need fuel. With people who want to look good, nutrition is directed to create aesthetic goals come to life. And I must admit, eating to look good naked is definitely much more difficult than eating for performance. Eating to look good might require severe caloric restriction, rigid nutrient timing, and you don’t really have an excuse to carbo-load every day. Eating to perform, well you’re free to eat simple sugars as long as it is within four hours of your training schedule to replenish glycogen.

This was a fun article to write. As far as I’m concerned, it really is different strokes for different folks and we’re trying to learn every day how best to serve our clients, both athletes and people who want to look good.