I started working out when I was about 17 years old and have been doing some form of structured workout since then (I’m currently 36 so that’s about 19 years of workouts).
In that time I’ve gone through my functional training phase, my powerlifting phase, my bodybuilding phase (drugs and all), my olympic lifting phase, and some form of what is now called crossfit (back then it was just called cross training, but now it’s got a cult associated with it)
One thing that was never in question was that I was going to do some sort of working out no matter what it was. What kept changing was my local and short term focus…my long term focus was always to improve/maintain the look and shape (and to some degree cardiovascular condition) of my body.
In general I think many people who workout go through similar phases where they explore each style of training and the different social groups they lead you into. No doubt that things like bodybuilding, powerlifting, running (and now ‘crossfitting’) are lifestyles/cultures and not just a style of exercise.
But in the end everyone wants to look better, and some of these training styles don’t necessarily lend to an improvement in the look or shape of your body as much as they just lead you into a social group that may or may not value the same things as you do about improving your body…and at some level that includes the way your body looks.
There seems to be value in adopting some sort of structure to workout in if that is what you need to keep you motivated to workout, but the issue arises when you get side tracked from your original goal and in some cases end up going the opposite direction.
Nobody would workout if it made them look worse (even if it improved some other measure of health).
Powerlifters are a good example of people who become purists about the workout itself and forget why they started working out in the first place…and in most cases it was to improve the look and shape of their body.
I think this is a simple example of goal hijacking that is adopted by people who are not getting the results they want from their workout. Namely their body is not looking like the lean chiseled muscular physique they were hoping for, so they turn their focus to a strength goal, or an endurance goal, or some other performance metric that doesn’t require a look, and frankly doesn’t require as much effort (specifically on the diet side).
Working out is only one part of the equation that is required for getting into shape. The other part is diet…but effective dieting is much harder than effective training. Lots of people can get strong, not very many people ever really get in great shape.
Finding ways to stay motivated to workout is a great idea and if that means setting some other performance goal like strength or endurance or a distance run then go for it. Just be clear what you real goal is and if the look and shape of your body is still headed in the direction you want it to.