Who is the audience for your training?
When we take a moment to consider this, and be honest about it, the answer may make us feel pride or shame.
As we train, we envision our future, “bettered” selves in relation to the audience for our training:
The amateur athlete training for their coach or peers.
The fitness nerd training for their Strava community.
The yoga student training for their teacher.
The yoga teacher training for their students.
Anyone training for their mirror.
Each of these people strive for something or someone external to themselves, though their audiences are rarely satisfied.
External Motivation vs. Internal Motivation
When we train for an external audience, the results are the ends and our bodies are the means. In other words, we prioritize the community over our well-being.
Of course this is how it is. We’ve been trained to compete and rank ourselves against the world around us. Externalizing our motivation, we fantasize about how we will be perceived.
Yet, when you’re the only person in the room you’re trying to impress, the decision making process changes. In my experience, training in this space is not only freeing, but also far more powerful and sustainable.
Elite athletes face different circumstances. Their livelihood depends on their performance relative to others. For them, the opinion of others and their recognition truly matter so, in their case, it may make sense to push the body beyond its limits.
For the rest of us, our performance has very little impact on what comes next. No matter what yoga pose we force ourselves into, or how much weight we lift, we still have to wash the dishes after class.
For me, I’m happy with modest and natural improvements that improve my quality of life. I’m not willing to risk a major setback for a major leap. I train in modalities I enjoy and look forward to, never pushing through what feels wrong or what’s “for someone else”.
The most potent shift has been in my experience of training. Decision after decision, getting closer and closer to understanding my deepest motivations. If I’m not doing it for anyone else, then what am I doing it for?
From this place, I look forward to the experience of training. Whether I’m pushing hard or taking it easy, I understand why. I meet my training where I am that day, moving with a purpose that’s wholly my own.