Why Female Fitness Transformations Are About So Much More Than Pictures
Feeling good within and about your body can both be significant sources of motivation when it comes to starting a new fitness routine and staying active, and for many people, a simple way to try and measure if your hard work is paying off is by taking photos.
If building muscle or improving your body composition is a goal of yours (and it isn’t for everyone), before-and-after photos have been part and parcel of that journey in the fitness world for years. While they can be a source of inspiration, motivation and satisfaction, there is so much more to female fitness transformations than a picture can tell us, and this is something we know our trainers and Sweat Community are adamant about, too.
Because even if your journey starts with the desire for an impressive before-and-after shot, it doesn’t take long until you realise the impact fitness has on your entire life - and often in ways that a camera could never capture.
We caught up with trainer Katie Martin and two Sweat Community members, Janelle and Miranda, to talk about why a picture can never tell the full story.
Stronger from within
For Katie, the trainer behind Sweat’s popular Strength & Sculpt program, pictures will never show all the internal changes and daily wins that happen during your health and fitness journey.
“This could be an increase in your iron levels, regaining your period, improved sleep, energy and mental clarity, a better relationship with food, lifting things with ease, more confidence, better posture… the list goes on! The physical results of training are just one component of your journey and definitely shouldn’t be the only results you focus on.”
Sweat Community member Janelle echoes this sentiment, reflecting on what kickstarted her fitness journey and how far she has come.
“I was at my heaviest, I wasn’t sleeping well and started to get a lot of lower back problems. I had a very unhealthy relationship with food and alcohol. It was at that moment I realised something had to change because I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror,” she says.
Although her weight and body composition have changed, she now knows that a picture is such a small glimpse into the process - a tiny snippet from a moment in time.
“A picture doesn’t show the struggles, frustration, tears, or the celebrations when you finally achieve a goal. It also doesn’t show other positive changes like feeling more confident, and it doesn’t show how far you’ve come or what you had to do to get where you are.”
Miranda, a mother of five, couldn’t agree more. She has memories from 2017 of feeling unconfident, weak and sore - with even simple tasks like sweeping or sitting down causing her pain. Determined to feel better, she began following Kayla Itsines’ programs.
She’s no stranger to taking a before-and-after photo, but says they never served her well and she stopped using them to document her journey a long time ago.
“They could never show how I felt during my workouts or that I was stronger and more confident than ever. They don’t show how many workouts I had completed or the hours of dedication put in.”
Life made better
Aside from the huge boost of confidence, Miranda says a photo could also never capture just how much fitness has transformed her attitude, future and relationships.
“I don’t quit when things get hard anymore and I truly feel my fitness journey is to thank for that. My whole life, I would bail out of hard things and never finish anything. Fitness taught me that even when it feels impossible, I can keep going and push through,” she says.
“Feeling more confident, I then said yes to opportunities which led me to gain employment for the first time since having children, and fitness has also enriched my relationship and love life with my husband. Things have never been better!”
The connection between exercise and emotional wellbeing is a huge drawcard for Katie, and the sense of accomplishment she feels after each workout has noticeable ripple effects.
“I can show up as my most happy, productive, optimistic and energised self, which allows me to be a better business owner, coach, girlfriend, daughter and friend to those around me.”
Expanding your vision so you can better recognise all of these positive impacts on your overall wellbeing can also keep you going when physical changes don’t seem to be happening. Instead of throwing in the towel, you can see plenty of amazing reasons to keep going and reevaluate your why.
While Miranda recognises it can be discouraging when your body isn’t changing when that was your initial motivation for movement, don’t take it as a reason to give up.
“You have to remember how far you’ve come and all the other ways your life is changing, whether it’s better sleep, strength, speed, energy, mindset or the confidence to do things you wouldn’t have before.”
Tweak your perspective
If you find it difficult to celebrate any change that can’t be captured in a photo, Katie suggests asking yourself five questions throughout your journey to shift your perspective and see all the changes that may have occurred without you noticing.
- Has my mental health improved?
- Have my sleep patterns improved?
- Has my nutrition or my relationship with food improved?
- Has my energy or productivity improved?
- Has my fitness improved?
“Our bodies adapt slowly over weeks and months, making these changes often feel insignificant or unnoticeable. Taking time to reflect on the pillars of your health that cannot be measured by your size or weight is extremely motivating and creates the foundation for a long-lasting commitment to a healthy lifestyle,” she says.
Miranda adds that it’s important to realise that being fit doesn’t look the same on everyone, nor does fitness or strength equate to leanness.
“Changes in the mirror are only a small part of it - the mental transformation and feeling inside is way more satisfying and reliable than changes to your physical appearance.”
Be empowered by your goal
“Whether this be achieving a new personal best on my squat weight, hitting my hydration target, getting through a workout when I don’t feel like it, prepping my meals or going to bed on time - goals keep me going.”
“I’m at a point now I look forward to my workouts, it sometimes can be the best part of my day seeing how far I can push myself!”
While Katie is all for setting achievable physical goals and says there’s no shame in wanting to look or feel a certain way in your skin, she encourages women to have at least one performance goal, too.
“I personally find these are actually more rewarding than a physical goal as they are more definitive and less subjective. You either do or do not squat 50kg. You either do or do not run 10km in under an hour. When it comes to physical goals, being lean or toned or muscular is so subjective, hard to measure and often less rewarding,” she says.
When it comes to measuring your progress through performance, don’t forget it takes time to see these results. While you’ll notice some changes in the first few weeks, others can take up to three months and beyond.
Make today your day one
If you’ve been wanting to make a positive change by beginning your fitness journey or changing how you think about your relationship with fitness, why not start today?
“It’s never too late,” says Miranda. “I started when I was over 35 and had given birth to five children. Today is the perfect day to start.”
“Keep a positive mindset,” says Janelle. “And don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it - not even yourself.”
* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.