Know your goal and keep it in mind at all times! If you don’t know where you’re going then you’ll never get there. Are you training to help you with a specific sport? Do you just want to get lean? Do you want to add muscle mass? Here are some examples of the specific types of goals you should be making to be successful in fitness:
|strength||power-lifting||Increase bench press 1 rep max to 315lbs by September|
|muscle mass||bodybuilding||Increase chest measurement to 55″ by 2008|
|endurance||marathon||Be able to run marathon without stopping by 2012|
|speed||swimming||Shave 5s off my time for 400M freestyle time by July 4th|
|flexibility||yoga||Increase hamstring flexibility by 10 degrees in the next year|
|body-fat||aerobic exercise||Reduce skin-fold measurement by 3mm in next 6 months|
|coordination||gymnastics||land double half-twist flawlessly 10x in a row|
|explosive strength||basketball||increase vertical jump by 4″ in the next year|
Some very important things to keep in mind when you are setting your fitness goals because poor goals lead to failure. A good fitness goal is:
- Time Bounded
Realistic Unrealistic goals are the #1 reason that people give up lifting weights. New years day people buy their gym memberships with dreams of looking like Arnold or Taylor Lautner by summer. By March its apparent that they have failed and they lose interest. The media and advertisers have warped reality about what is and is not possible. Please read about muscle gain expectations before you set any gains involving adding muscle mass so you can make sure they are realistic! Similarly, if you weigh 280 pounds and your new years resolution is to have washboard abs by Memorial Day, that is just not realistic. Why? Fast weight loss not only causes you to lose muscle mass but it can be dangerous as well. How fast can you lose weight? Use my calorie calculator to tell you, set in a 20% caloric deficit in step 6 and then look at the weight loss chart to see how much you will lose each month. Losing weight takes longer than you think. More importantly, if you are very obese it can take six months to several years for the excess skin folds to be re-absorbed into the body. The more obese you are, the more time you need to allow before attending that high school reunion beach party.
Time Bounded You need time bounds to give yourself the proper sense of urgency. When that alarm goes off at 5 am for your workout, the last thing you need is an excuse to hit the snooze button. If you don’t have a firm date in mind, its easy to say “I’ll start tomorrow”. Remember the realistic part from above! Use my calculators and come up with realistic times for the goals you want to obtain. Having a time in mind really helps with competitive goals because it allows you to work backwards. Here is real personal example of mine from last year. One of my fitness goals was to complete a 200 mile bike race in 2012. In January I sat down and looked at the race schedule for the year. As I had to cross off one race after another because of scheduling conflicts with other events in my life, I started to get more worried. September, nope. August, nope. July, nope. June, nope. May, nope. YIKES!! April, nope. May!!! Oh no! I have only till May to prepare for this 200 mile bike race! Start at the goal date and work backward making your fitness plan, this will do two things. It will tell you if its realistic or not and it gives you a blueprint for success.
Measurable “I want to get muscular and ripped by the end of the year.” Well, thats *almost* a good goal but how muscular is muscular and how lean qualifies as ripped? You need to be specific so that you know when you have achieved your goal otherwise you might just be chasing butterflies. “I want to increase my lean body mass by ten pounds and decrease my bodyfat to 8% by the end of the year” adds the measurable quality that is required for good goals.
Specific Many people fail this one on their new years resolutions with statements like wanting to be “toned”, “jacked” or “strong”. Those words mean a hundred different things to a hundred different people. But you say “strong” is measurable? Well who is stronger, Bruce Lee or Arnold Schwartzenneger? Arnold could bench press a bus but Bruce Lee could punch thru walls. There is ballistic strength and their is “static” strength. Again, be specific.
I didn’t include this in my list of four qualities of a good fitness goal but there is fifth. A good fitness goal is internal and not external. What do I mean by that? The goal is for you and not for someone else. Lets take a look at an external goal. “I want to get buff so this hot woman in History class will date me”. That is an external goal, and its a horrible goal. Why? Because she has total control of your success. How buff do you have to be before she dates you? What if you gain 20lbs muscle in a year (an awesome success in my book) and she still wont date you. You have failed. You don’t even know why she wont date you. Maybe its because you have bad breath, maybe its because you have no self confidence. A good fitness goal is for YOU and YOU alone, it will not contain a reference to another person, not your girlfriend/boyfriend, husband/wife, buddies, mother or father.
Now that you know what you are trying to achieve, its time to plan how your are going to achieve your goal. Do lots of research and keep an open mind, don’t assume you know everything already! Its very backwards but most people think nothing of going to the gym day after day, year after year, in the quest for strength/mass but they never make time to do even a few minutes research which could drastically improve their results.
Make a specific plan as to how you will achieve your goal. How many days a week are you going to work out and for how long? What body parts are you doing on each day and what exercises? What days are you doing cardio? Know what you are doing, don’t just show up at the gym and decide. Sit down once a week for about half an hour and come up with a workout plan for that week. If you have made good gains in reps or weight that week, perhaps you will keep it the same. If you have plateaued, its time to do some new exercises or change your method, for example, if you have been lifting really heavy without results, then switch to high-rep.