by Chris Knickerbocker
You see it all the time in gyms across the world. People join the gym and start working out. These people have never really lifted weights consistently before in the past and all of a sudden are getting results very quickly. They really get into their training. They talk about it all the time and have tons of enthusiasm to train. They get this huge sense of confidence because of the visible changes they can see in their bodies and from all the great comments people make about how good they look. A few months go by and their progress inevitably begins to slow down. They no longer see the quick results they became accustomed to seeing. They lose their motivation to train, their passion for working out, and their enthusiasm. Before you know it they don’t even go the gym any more. Why is it that you see this cycle occur over and over again? It’s simple; they never took the time to set goals.
Goal setting can be the biggest factor for an individual’s continued development over the years. It is also a major motivating factor. Results are always going to come quickly in the beginning, but eventually that progression will slow down. This is when you need concrete goals to work towards to continue to stay motivated. Goal setting…it seems like such a simple concept. Everyone knows it, everyone knows you should do it, everyone knows how helpful it is. Yet still so few people set concrete goals on a regular basis.
Before you begin a serious training program you need to first ask yourself where you want to go. There is a concept developed by Stephen Covey, author of the best-selling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It states, “Begin with the end in mind.” What exactly does that mean, begin with the end in mind? Before you start a project or jump right into performing a long task, first realize what is the ultimate purpose of the project is. Where do you want to end up? When you’re done, what exactly do you want to have accomplished? This question is the key. Before you jump right into a training program, take a few minutes to put into words, whether it be on your computer or in a notebook, what your ultimate goal is. What specifically do you want to accomplish? Write it down, document it, and almost as important, review it. You need to map out directions to reach your destination before you start trying to get there, right? Would you just jump in your car and start driving to a destination that you’ve never been to before without checking a map and planning out your route? Heck no, you’d certainly get lost. You may eventually find your way there, but it will be after hours of frustration and getting lost and taking the wrong roads. The same holds true with your training. First decide your destination, and then map out how to get there before you begin your journey.
It’s not only important to know your destination, but you may find it helpful to see the big picture…Why are you doing this? Often we get caught up in the day-to-day activities of life and we get overwhelmed. We get sick of always having to write down goals, always having to record our workouts, cooking all our healthy food, and cleaning up all the mess. But, when you can see the big picture, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. You see the reason behind all the little details, and you can accomplish these tasks much easier. It’s a good idea to write down what I call your “whys.” By that I mean why you are training, why you are committed to eating “clean,” and why you are motivated to get an outstanding physique. If your “whys” are strong enough you can always figure out the “hows.”
Another good mental trick is to think about how you will feel when you do reach that goal. Close your eyes and imagine for a minute that you have reached your physique goals, and that you're at the peak of your game. How does that make you feel? Are you confident? Strong? Enthusiastic? Unstoppable? Getting in touch with how you’ll feel when you accomplish a goal will help you stay energized and motivated to accomplish that goal.
Now you know your ultimate outcome. You know where you want to end up, and more importantly you know why. You’re ready for your day-to-day concrete goals. I recommend that you begin a training journal. In your training journal you need to plan your workout before you ever set foot in the gym. You need to know exactly what you are going to do, so that when you arrive at the gym you can spend all of your mental energy getting the most effort and focus out of yourself as possible. The last thing you want to have to think about in the gym is what exercise you are going to do next or how many sets or how many reps you have to perform. This information all needs to be planned ahead of time. I recommend that before you begin your week of training you have all your workouts written out in a notebook or in a document on your computer: what exercises, how many sets, how many reps, everything. Write down your entire week of training by day. Then as you prepare to go the gym that day set specific goals in your journal about how much weight you want to lift for each exercise and how many repetitions you want to complete.
You’re half finished; you have set a specific plan of exercises, sets, reps, and how much weight you wanted to lift beforehand. You have completed an effective, well-planned workout. Now you need to come back to that journal and evaluate how well you did. What worked well? What could you have done a better job with? Did you have any new distinctions in your training today that you can use again in the future? Were you quiet and focused? Were you energized or were you tired? By evaluating your workout both mentally and physically, you are accomplishing a few important things. First, you are able to track your progress because it’s documented for future reference. Second, you are setting clear goals to work towards every day. And third, you are holding yourself accountable for your progress. You are going to write in your journal only so many times that you were tired and lazy and trained with lackluster intensity before you make a change and fix it.
Now you’re really starting to make some progress, you know where you’re going and why you’re going there. You had the best workout you’ve had in months because you had a plan; you had specific goals ahead of time and trained like a warrior. You wrote down with pride how much you lifted and how mentally focused you were. Now all you have to do tomorrow is a little more than you did today. With each day that passes, and each goal you knock down you need make that your baseline standard. You should make that awesome workout you just had the very LEAST you will allow yourself to produce in the future. You need to make sure you are continually improving and pushing your limits. What makes you happy now will not necessarily continue to make you happy in the future. It’s only through continual growth that we can remain satisfied.
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