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Principles vs. goals 

Weigh these important factors for long-term success

by Kevin Perrone


I love seeing people make progress. It’s the main reason I got into fitness training. Over the years, I’ve learned that there are two main ideologies that inspire people to make progress: Some are encouraged by goals, while others are driven by principles.


Which one are you? Are you motivated by goals or principles? Not quite sure what I mean? How about the common phrase, “It’s the journey, not the destination.” It’s a reminder that if we focus solely on the end, then we’ll likely miss out on how we got there. In essence, the end product is secondary to the means by which we attain it.


This is an essential mentality when it comes to fitness training. Weight-loss or strength goals are great markers of improvement, but if you focus only on the outcome then you’re missing the bigger picture.


Having a goal-centered focus is similar to making a purchase: Once you reach your goal, it’s yours; you bought it, you own it and you earned it. Conversely, having a principle-centered focus is similar to making an investment. By investing, you no longer have goals as end points; they now serve as stepping stones. Each new task further enhances and solidifies a base upon which you can build to continue to reach new goals. Consider your education. Once you obtain your degree, does that imply that you’ll be successful? Or is it how you apply what you’ve learned that will dictate your outcome?


Tools for success

When focused on principles almost any goal is attainable, regardless of the tools used to accomplish them. Here are three main elements to consider when weighing the effectiveness of an exercise program:


  • Progress begins with consistency first and intensity second. Get into the habit of showing up and then worrying about how hard to push yourself. All too often, people attempt to compensate for not working out for the past few months, years or decades by cramming it all in during their first workout. This type of binge-and-purge exercising can lead to frustration and failure. By initially having intensity as a secondary focus, you’re able to concentrate on form and technique. This creates a scenario in which you can safely add intensity when appropriate.
  • Avoid pain but not effort. Replace the no-pain, no-gain mentality with a no-effort, no-reward mantra. Pain is your body’s warning signal that something is wrong. Listen to it. You can make your body do things that it doesn’t want to do, but that success is only temporary.
  • What you do between exercise sessions is just as important — and sometimes even more important — as what you do during workouts. If you exercise for three hours each week, then that leaves 165 hours left to mess things up. Two percent of your time spent on something good can’t counterbalance 98 percent of something bad. What you eat, how you sleep and how much stress you subject yourself to can greatly skew your results.


Whether you use a pair of running shoes, a bicycle, or a kettlebell, focus on how and why you’re using them. Stick to principles, and no matter what method or instrument you choose, you’ll realize your goals. 


Kevin Perrone is a personal trainer, massage therapist and group kettlebell instructor at Rapid Results Fitness in Durham. For more information on the business, which was founded by owner Betsy Collie, call (919) 403-8651 or visit