“In Shape” might be one of the worst terms in fitness. It does not mean anything.
Now, when someone tells me that they want to get in shape I get the idea of what they mean. In order to really reach your goals some further digging is needed.
Two people may want to start training and they both want to get in shape. One may put more of a focus on strength, while another may want to lose fat. These are two different goals that are hidden by a blanket statement.
When it comes to sports the term is often used appropriately. If you try to play hockey without skating in a while you need to get back in hockey shape. Simple, done.
In sport there is also a strange perception in the United States. Mark Rippetoe points out that in the U.S. we play sports to get in shape (again for what?) while Russians get in shape for sport (no follow up questions).
“In Shape” cannot be your end goal. You must determine how you define in shape and how you are going to accomplish it.
Common goals are: increase strength, fat loss, increased flexibility, reduction of pain, run longer, and improve sports performance.
Combining these goals can be done but there must be one primary goal to direct training towards. As Eric Cressey says, you can’t ride two horses with one saddle.
No one can be the best at everything. Well rounded is possible, but there must be an emphasis for training.
If you are impressed by people deadlifting huge weights, maybe you really want to get stronger. With a cleaner diet weight loss would be a byproduct. Your goal has just been shaped into deadlifting a house, to give a realistic example.
Maybe you are good at running and want to run a marathon. There is your goal: In shape to run a marathon.
Many people do not reach their goals at the gym because they never actually had a goal to begin with. A goal to get stronger is not typically going to be met. There is no direction for that goal. Increasing lower body strength is better, and squatting 225 is better than that. The more narrow the goal the more likely you are to reach it.
A weight loss goal is usually helped when it is combined with a secondary goal. Weight loss without a defined method usually means that someone is going to spend some time running, biking, maybe lift a weight here and there, elliptical from time to time and wonder why their efforts seem to go nowhere.
The program needs consistency and complete follow through to be effective.
When you decide to get in shape, the very next words should answer how. “I want to lose weight by eating better and total body strength training” is a much better goal that answers what the goal is and how it is going to be accomplished.
Why do you go to the gym? What do you like to do most at the gym? How do you define success at the gym?
Answer these questions and think about your goals in a different, positive way.