Identifying Your Fitness Goals
Fitness, Health, Wellness – as universal as these terms may be, they are also very (very) personal. Just take a look at yourself in your early twenties; having a bikini body was probably more in line with your goals then you would like to admit. In your mid-twenties it was probably more about learning to shift those goals towards having enough energy to sustain starting a career, a life and still looking and feeling the way you want. In your thirties it shifts further, more of us deal with varied responsibilities and making the stride into motherhood, marriage, and/ or a more stressful and defining career. Of course this continues throughout your life, as responsibilities and values shift so do the things you want for yourself. In fact, if you look at yourself and your own journey your fitness, health and wellness goals have probably shifted greatly in the past decade or two. Similarly, if you look around at friends and colleagues you may find that their goals; lose weight, get strong, healthy, run a marathon, climb Everest and breast feed are as different from yours as night and day.
With all of this in mind it may be startling to think that we typically look at fitness as something distinctly black and white. The things we do in the gym and the way we tend to approach our health and wellness is still very uniform. The problem? While fitness is very standard when it comes to doing a set base of work and receiving a set amount of results, the type of work (approach and routine) you take can and should vary significantly goal to goal and person to person.
Having said all of this, how does one identify what they want and need in fitness, and how does one go about doing the work?
Your Environment Matters
Before identifying your ‘ideals’ you should identify your surroundings. Our environment (like it or not) requires and demands something different of all of us. If you have a highly stressful job that keeps you up at night and working through countless weekends, it is important to note that your workouts will need to be structured around this schedule in a way that will help deal with your lack of stress and give you just enough of a workout to keep you strong and sane, not exhausted and overwhelmed. Therefore, while a priority may be looking great for a vacation in a few months, the underling goal should be to make a standard workout time weekly, to keep it and to make sure it enhances your life instead of add stress to it.
This can apply to anything; busy moms, rising careers, crazy school hours. Anyone that is ultra-busy in their life must first identify the fact that their main goal should always be to get in and do it, and do it well enough to de-compress themselves in the process.
The solution? If this (or any version of this is you) there are a few key things you can do to guarantee success.
First and foremost, do not overreach, instead be practical and honest. If you want to get healthier, stronger, faster, less stressed but are dealing with a time constraint the key goal should be to get a workout in twice a week for four weeks. I know you may be thinking that you ‘can’ or ‘should’ do more, but the very truth is that until you can sustain and maintain a standard level of workouts you should not be over loading your schedule. Once you have sustained a twice a week workout for a month, you can (if time allows) add another day.
The good news is that if you train well, keep your mind on the workout, lift or output progressively heavier and see yourself being better at the things that were originally difficult then you are getting all of the benefits (mental and physical).
Two Step Identification Process
Next up will be a more specific set of goal identifications. They key here is not to overload your plate with wanting to lose sixty pounds, run a marathon in under three hours and do a hand-stand. Sure, you can, technically achieve all of that, but it may not be at the same time. In fact, it surely won’t be. So, the key is to derive a two-step value system for yourself.
• Step one; what’s really important?
• Step two; what is prohibiting you from getting to that important stuff.
You execute step two first and then only after that step is done will you move to your initial goal in step one.
A great example is this;
If you have terrible knee pain and want to run a marathon, you need to first deal with a strength training re-hab routine that gets you out of pain and functioning correctly. Then you can identify the type of training required for a marathon and get to it.
No Goal Is Too Silly or Insignificant
Types of goals differ as well, and aesthetic goals are fine, as well as performance, health and wellness goals (and also perhaps silly goals like a handstand).
First and fore-most you should be honest with yourself and answer a few questions,
Do I want to ___________
• Lose weight?
• Gain weight?
• Gain muscle?
• Reclaim my energy levels?
• Get healthy (disease fighting healthy)?
• Re-design my social life to healthier hobbies?
• Attain a very specific goal; marathon, mud-race, play a sport?
• Regain a sense of self?
• Become stronger physically, and/ or mentally?
• Get pain free?
• Move with more quality?
• Do a mud-race
• Play tennis without getting winded?
• Add anything else you want! (anything)
Some of these may feel like elementary school questions, and many of these may also cross over (it is seldom that someone just wants one thing on the list).
These are also gateway questions that can lead to other more specific goals you may have, or issues you may be struggling with. The best thing I can tell you is that through engaging yourself to tackle any, all or one of your goals you will undoubtedly find new goals and a new sense of self (even if you aren’t looking for one). Through disciplined, regimented and progressive training comes a sense of confidence and inner strength that will seep into every other area of your life.
What’s important to understand in identifying your goals is the fact that you cannot win a body-building competition at the same time you compete in a triathlon. Yes, both athletes are super fit and have put in a great amount of work to be where they are, but there is a difference in the specificity of training that they did to get there.
How Will My Training Vary?
The good news is that all of your goals can be made very simple by understanding the true cornerstones of fitness; the importance of strength training, variance in intensity and a disciplined training routine along-side a solid diet of nutrient rich foods. How you train; sets, reps, prescribed days, the tools and exercises you use are that variance that will help you chip away at those very specific and personal goals you have.
Volume, frequency, exercises, progressions will all vary based on your goals. The good news is that there is a ton of science on all of it, and all of it will take discipline, training and hard (fun) work. Once you identify what you want the map you require to get there will be as easy as hiring a trainer for a program direction, doing some basic scholarly google research and being honest with yourself. All goals will require push-ups, lunges and a bunch of other exercise standards, but it is in the volume, frequency, sets, reps, cadence and weekly abundance in which you do them that will change according to your goal.
As just one example, an ultra-endurance athlete will train very different from a person who is looking to tone up and get stronger in their everyday lives. But the cross-over will be that both individuals will require a weight training and a progressive measurable routine.
You may be asking, hey, if it’s all the same moves why identify my goals?
Well, it’s not really all the same because programing as discussed above will vary significantly. But, it’s also that very important factor of – if you know where you are going, you’ll likely get there. And, if you don’t, then I guess you’ll just be walking around in a circle.
Humans work well when we are goal and task oriented, so identify yours and GET GOING!