Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Setting Goals

I've touched on it a handful of times over the last few posts but this one is dedicated entirely to this oh-so-simple but oft forgotten principle. If you want to achieve something real, you need to set some concrete goals. There's a couple of reasons for this.

REASONS: (Yes, angry-shouty caps are required here.)
1) Accountability
It's easy to sign up for a gym membership. Actually going is something quite different. I am a firm believer that in the beginning you should keep your goals simple but specific. "I will go to the gym 3x this week," is something you can accomplish and then be proud of. "I'm going to start going to the gym," is nebulous and doesn't have an expiration date. So many people say they want to start a diet but again, you can always just put it off 'til tomorrow. Don't be that guy. If you want to change your diet tell yourself you're going to go a week, a month, whatever. Start small. Pick something specific, realistic and achievable. Now stick with it. It's hard to stick with something that doesn't really exist.

2) Motivation
I read a book a while back that was a sociological study on the underpinnings of happiness. They looked at a lot of factors but the one running theme was happy people accomplish tasks. It could be anything from cleaning your room to graduating with a PhD but it seems we are happier when we complete tasks with appreciable results. Personally, I couldn't agree more.

You told yourself last week you would go 3x and you did. Take a minute and be proud. Now move on to the next goal. If you've established a routine, set goals within that routine. Last week you went to the gym 3x, this week you're going to go 4x and do two days of strength training and two days of cardio. Again, if you're just beginning, the specifics of how or what you're doing are not nearly as important as getting it done. With every little achievement your confidence will grow. Setting goals will help you feel rewarded.

Or maybe you didn't reach your goal. Maybe you came up a little short. That's fine. Go read my post on standing up and then do it. Get over it. So you let it beat you last time. This time you're not going to. Get a little angry. Let it drive you to do better.

3)Training Specificity
So you've been doing this fitness thing for a while and you're ready to take it to the next level. That's awesome. How are you going to do that? What EXACTLY is it that you want?
The human body has a very specific response to exercise. If you want to get stronger you have to do resistive work. If you want to get faster you have to do speed work. If you want to learn how to do a backflip you're going to need to try some gymnastics because running for thirty minutes three days a week isn't gonna cut it. This may seem painfully obvious but trust me, in practice, it really isn't.

Now as much as I admonish people against picking goals like, "I want a six pack," and such this example is actually useful here. Say you're a guy and you want to look like an action hero. That's cool, me too. You need to pick a goal (or series of goals) specific to that task. Start by being realistic about where you're at. If you look like Captain America pre-super soldier juice then you're biggest issue is packing on some size. That means some serious strength training and a decent calorie surplus from lean protein sources (you need to eat more than you burn for your muscles to grow. Your body needs those leftover calories to use as construction material.)

As to what program you'll use, go back to my post on educating yourself and start with the basic foundation for a 3 day a week strength program. Now within that, set some goals for yourself. Don't worry about how big your guns are or how closely your stomach resembles a civil war era laundry machine, focus on the numbers.

See where you're at with your lifts and set attainable goals like increasing your squat by ten lbs. a week or upping your bench by five lbs. a workout and start chipping away. When your numbers start going up, your physique is going to start showing progress as well. This is also where a training log comes in handy. Data is the foundation of any scientific approach including training. This also gives you something to go back and look at if you aren't hitting the goals you're looking for.

This same principle applies to a heavy person trying to lose weight. Your main focus should be burning extra calories. Specificity, specificity, specificity. Say it with me now...SPE-CI-FI-CI-TY.

I hear a lot of women complain about how their bodies aren't changing the way they want them to. If all you're doing is long term steady state cardio or focusing on burning calories, your body isn't getting the right stimulus to change it's shape. You need to build some muscle for that. Muscle growth requires resistance. Now, you can get that from strength training if you want to go right at it, but you can also get that stimulus from yoga, Pilates or even classical dance training like ballet or modern (have you ever seen the legs on dancers? Because good god damn...).

So let me be clear: working out to burn calories does just that and only that (well it typically also increases your cardiovascular conditioning but that's semi-irrelevant at the moment). If you really want to see your abs or get rid of the fat on your arms, you need to give your body a reason to change. I'm probably going to dedicate an entire article to this subject at a later date.

Yea. Look. I know I'm repeating myself but the reality is that motivation is the cornerstone behind goal setting. You're starting a journey to a better you and by setting goals you're giving yourself a destination. Now you have something to work towards and a pay off to look forward to. That's huge.
I have a friend who likes to sign up for adventure races. (She aslo recently wrote a blog that's a brilliant demonstration/journal on setting and achieving goals: I Can Do Anything for 30 Days) I really like the idea of it being trendy and cool to be a beast and go jump in the mud but races have never really been my thing (not enough heavy lifting....). That being said, these races have motivated her to bust her ass in the gym and get in better shape than she's ever been. She's doing this GoRuck 12hr endurance race this weekend which is boss as hell and I can guarantee you that knowing she's going to have to suffer through 12 hours of grueling punishment at the hands of a bunch of semi-sadistic former military personnel drives her to push herself to her limits. Let's be honest, survival is a pretty important goal. Maybe try that. Sign up for something crazy and train like your life depends on it. Who knows? Someday it might.

So that's all I've got for today. Goals matter. They give us direction and purpose and measurable benchmarks to see where were at. Without real goals you're kind of just fumbling around in the dark and hoping for the best. While that may seem like a great way to spend a Saturday night, it's a tiring and frustrating way to go through life.

So, what did you do to reach your goals today?


Today's Workout:
Dynamic Warm Up 10-15 min
Foam Roller 3-5 min (my legs are still jacked up from Monday)
Crossfit WOD 130402:

All exercises are performed with an olympic barbell loaded to 115lbs
Shoulder Press x10
Overhead Squat x15
Push Press x20
Front Squat x25
Push Jerk x30
Back Squat x35
For Time

Additional Work:
Wide Grip Pull Up x5
Close Grip Pull Up x5
Parallel Grip Pull Up x5
Chin Up x10

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