Let’s start off with a simple question – why do you go to the gym? Most people might say, “to increase fitness”, “to build muscle”, “to lose weight”, “to lose fat” (notice I used both weight and fat because they are two separate things – more on that later), “to look good for beach season.” What you don’t typically hear is “to set personal records” or “to build strength/power/endurance for competition” Why do you think that is? Because majority of people get caught up on goal generalization versus developing a long term plan, what I call “having a purpose”. Now, I am not saying those are bad goals, but what is missing is the Why? Why do you want to increase fitness, why do you want to build muscle, why do you want to lose fat? For what purpose?
What we sometimes forget is, fitness is a lifestyle and a 3 month or 6 month goal is only part of it. When you stop, the results stop. Sure, someone might want to lose weight for an upcoming wedding, but what is next? Where can you go from there? Did you really just spend 3-5 days a week in the gym and evaluating what you ate for the past 6 months to only give up and go backwards? Find a bigger purpose.
This is where someone like myself can help, it’s not always easy to look at the bigger picture on your own. Let’s simplify how this works in 6 steps:
- Find a purpose.
- Set short term and long term goals
- Research “HOW” to accomplish your short term and long term goals.
- GET TO WORK!
- Track your progress (This includes food and gym activity)
- Continuously reassess/tweak goals and progress to challenge yourself a little bit more each time.
1. FINDING A PURPOSE: Ask yourself this, what drives you? What is something that will keep you motivated to stay in your zone, throughout the ups and downs, the good and the bad? Yes, there are good days and bad days on this journey. Just remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Nothing blooms overnight and you can’t beat yourself up over it. The bad days only enhance the good days. For me it’s all about being the best I can be each time I step on to a platform. While I have goals set for my upcoming meet (short term), what about the next three meets. The sport of powerlifting has become my purpose, it is never ending and I will challenge myself with each meet I compete in. For another person, it might be running weekend 5K’s. Their purpose is to not just run them, but to challenge themselves to do better each time they do. It’s a short term goal to run just one, it’s a journey to compete in multiple throughout the year(s). The short term goal then becomes what he/she wants to accomplish at each one. Now can you work out to just work out, sure… but how will you ever know what progress you have made? What is your purpose?
2. GOAL SETTING: As crazy as it sounds, I have goals set for 12 weeks at a time! That’s because of my training cycle is set up that way. Within that 12 weeks (long term), I have weekly goals and four week goals (short term). Now do I ever miss a goal within the short term cycle? Sure, but I never lose track of the bigger picture. For example, last week I was scheduled to hit 240X1 on my back squat. Sadly, I didn’t hit it. But did I quit? No! I did what I could and will aim for it again or higher next week. The end goal is still the same, “do the best I can when it is time to step on the platform.” The benefit to having goals set for 12 weeks at a time, is that I can tweak them as I go based on my progress. This allows me to know what’s ahead and what I need to do to get there. Start with some easy smart goals (Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time based).
- Specific – To lose 5% body fat by May 25th, 2017
- Measurable – Measured through skin fold calipers (Before, half way, end date).
- Attainable – Is this goal relative, does it make sense?
- Realistic – Is this goal possible with the resources available and the time given to achieve it?
- Time Based – Set a specific date to achieve this goal by.
This SMART goal theory should be applied to both your short term and long term goals. Start with the big picture and work backwards. If my long term goal is to bench 145X1 on my 3rd attempt on meet day and I currently bench 135X1, I will then set smaller goals to work to that 145 prior to meet day. (If I am going to hit it on meet day, I need to be able to hit it a few weeks before hand – that is for another post). The point is, set your goals!
3. RESEARCH: This is where it can get complicated. There are so many ways to attain your goals. For instance, I can’t count on one hand how many different methods I explored when developing my current powerlifting program. This is trial and error, but it doesn’t have to be so complicated (Simplifying programming will be discussed in a future blog – keep a look out!). If you are just getting starting, it is worth every penny to reach out to a professional. Invest in yourself! You don’t cut your own hair to save money do you? Doing your own research is good, but how do you know what is true and what isn’t. What is safe and what is not? Unless you have a background in fitness, it is hard to tell with everything that is out there today. Even for me – In addition to using my current knowledge and researching methods of training, I’ve reached out to quite a few competitors with experience in the sport because I want to exceed. I need to know what works and what is a waste of time. A coach or trainer doesn’t have to be expensive, but when you find a good one, it is worth every penny. Whether its for a simple consult or a long term relationship, it’s worth it.
4. GET TO WORK!: To get the results, you have to do the work! Develop your game plan or have someone develop it for you, and go give it 100%. This is also where it can get tricky. How do you know what you should be doing to reach your goals? You have a few options:
- Hire a personal trainer/coach who can develop a game plan for you and provide you with knowledge on how to accomplish the goals you have set. As a personal trainer/strength coach myself – this is your best option. Not because I am a personal trainer, but because this provides you with the most resources and value for your time. A coach is someone who is with you for the long haul. It’s a support system that doesn’t allow you to give up. Personal training/coaching can be done in various ways
- Online Coaching – this provides you with an online program to complete and communication from your coach using video chat or email. Communication may include program updates/tweaks based on progress, shared videos of workouts to help critique proper technique and ensure progress, and a basic support system through video chat. (This is best if you know your way around the gym, but need direction and critiquing for continued progress).
- One on One training – this provides you with all of the above, but in addition you have someone supervising you throughout the workouts, teaching you how to use the equipment in the gym/training facility, ensuring your safety, and pushing you with every session. (This is best for you if you need that extra in person push and have less knowledge of how to use gym equipment properly).
- You can always go from one on one training to online coaching. Online coaching is typically the cheaper option.
- Take guided tour at your local gym/box and learn how to use the equipment from a professional. Once you know the equipment and proper techniques, next is research how and what programs make sense for you. This is the trial and error method and accountability is all on you!
What not to do:
- What YouTube videos all day long and hope you are doing it right (please don’t use this option, especially if you are weightlifting)
- Pull a random program offline from Jo Schmo and hope that you complete it without getting injured.
5. TRACKING: Every variable counts when it comes to progress. Now that is not to say you can make an excuse for every time you miss your goal. But by tracking certain variables, you will know what needs to be adjusted to ensure you don’t take another step backwards. Important variables to track might be:
- Workout Completed – Weights lifted, Total sets per exercise, Reps completed per set, Distance ran, Time it took to run the distance, # of intervals completed and so on.
- Food Consumption – This includes everything! What you ate, When you ate it, and how you felt.
- Amount of sleep received prior to workout.
- Time of workout.
- Amount of activity other than working out.
- How you felt after the workout (Good, Exhausted, or still had some left in the tank).
Each one of these variables can play a role in whether or not you reached your goal for the day. They are not excuses, they are simply indicators of what needs to be adjusted if anything at all.
6. REASSESS – Our goals and purposes may be forever changing, but our progress should always continue. If you aren’t working with a trainer/coach (he/she will reassess your goals with you to ensure continued to progress or at least they should), then every couple of months or each time you hit a specific long term goal, you need to sit down and review the road traveled. Look at the variables you tracked and how you progressed throughout. Make sure you are still on a good path! What were the ups and downs and how did you overcome them? Are you still in pursuit of the same goals? Has your purpose changed? Once you can answer those, it’s time to pick back up and put more work in!
I hope this helps to simplify the process of getting started! Don’t over complicate the steps and remember it’s never to late to find your purpose in the gym. Invest in yourself!
Stay tuned for program simplification!