This article was written by guest contributor Nia Shanks. The views expressed herein are hers. For more on Nia and her training advice, visit her website and follow her on Twitter.

You should focus on nothing but your performance at the gym. Don’t worry about burning calories or working yourself to exhaustion. I don’t care if all you want is to look better naked or to simply improve your quality of life— no matter what your goal, focus on achieving a better workout than the time before. That can simply mean using more weight or performing more reps than last time. Keeping this goal in mind can have great consequences for your body composition (less body fat and more muscle), training goals, and overall health.

Focus on Performance

Photo by Ann Razonski

Here are some of the most important reasons to concentrate on improving your performance:

Training specifically for improved performance is the best way to reach your goals. Even if your goal is to look better in a swimsuit, focus on getting stronger and improving your performance in the gym.

This is just one of several Beautiful Badass Strength Training Principles that I encourage my clients and fellow Beautiful Badasses to adopt. When I tell my clients we’re simply going to focus on increasing their overall strength, many respond saying, “I don’t care about getting stronger! I just want to look better!” But, after a few weeks of performing exercises they once weren’t capable of doing, they tell me, “I’ve lost inches off my body, my clothes are looser, I have more energy, and I feel amazing!”

Find greater motivation to train consistently. Almost anyone can start a training program, but not everyone sticks with it. Many people get bored, burned out, or simply don’t get the results they hoped for. So they quit just as fast as they began.

But if you focus on improving your performance, you’ll be motivated to return to the gym week after week, and month after month. This goal is a positive motivator— as opposed to something like trying to lose weight. Instead of going to the gym trying to burn as many calories as possible, you’ll aim to do better than last time— performing an extra rep or adding more weight to the bar. That’s the ultimate way to achieve the results you want because you know exactly what to accomplish every time you’re in the gym and you can easily track your progress.

Build self-confidence. Most people don’t realize the tremendous impact strength training and performance can have on confidence. In general, you’ll become aware of what you are able to achieve physically. Feats of strength such as bodyweight chin-ups, parallel bar dips, and deadlifting twice your bodyweight may seem unrealistic, but reaching those goals will take your confidence to new levels.

Simple Ways to Improve Your Performance

Get stronger. This is the simplest and easiest way to improve your performance. Each time you repeat a training session, try to perform at least one more rep than last time with the same weight. You can also add more weight to the bar or use a heavier dumbbell, kettlebell, or whatever tool(s) you use in your training.

My main goal is a triple bodyweight deadlift. As I work toward that goal, my body composition has improved, my self-confidence has increased, and I continue to learn what I am capable of achieving. Check out this video of my progress.

Train to achieve feats of strength you aren’t currently able to perform. Maybe you can only perform push-ups on your knees or you think a bodyweight pull-up will never happen. Follow a sound training program to achieve those milestones. You’ll have a stronger body and mind once you’re able to perform bodyweight exercises like push-ups, parallel bar dips, inverted rows, chin-ups, and pistols.

Take the Performance Challenge

The challenge I present is very simple: Go to the gym with the sole purpose of improving your performance. This goal will keep you focused and motivated. After a few weeks, you’ll notice the developments in your strength, body composition, and confidence. Ultimately, you’ll achieve your training and health goals.