Last year, I wrote about the coming onslaught of resolutioners in the gym, and once again, I find myself thinking about the coming weeks of mismatched and hidden dumbbells, of Pinterest-researched workout plans that include Bosu balls and movements never before seen… and I feel sad.
Sure, we joke- some people go a bit too far, into malicious and discouraging territory, unfortunately. Those of us who have been in the gym for a while, and have see the Resolution Kittens come and go, we know the drill.
But what if it was different? What if, instead of this asinine idea of resolutions, people started thinking in terms of goals. And not “goals,” like, “I want to lose weight,” or “I want to be healthier,” no, those are bullshit, noncommittal soundbites. Forget that shit. I’m talking about concrete, realistic, attainable goals. Ones that didn’t lead to weird injuries in the gym and giving up by March, ones that led to real results and sustainable changes.
So what’s the difference?
Let’s take the all-too-common resolution:
“I’m going to lose weight.”
Ok great, sounds more like a punishment than a goal, to me. Taking that statement on it’s own, what do we know? I’ll save you the trouble: not a goddamn thing. We don’t know how much weight, we don’t know how you’ll do so, we don’t know how you’ll know when you’ve achieved that goal, we don’t know by when you will achieve it… it’s pretty open ended. Where’s the accountability? You could have just as easily said “I’m going to fly to the moon,” which sounds like a lot more fun, but gives us the same amount of information as the resolution.
So let’s reframe that original “resolution,” and make it a goal. While we’re at it, let’s take some of the drudgery and detestation out of it. Nobody wants to be saddled with a sentence like that to start a new year, so let’s give this a positive spin.
Original resolution: “I’m going to lose weight.”
How much? How much weight would be realistic for you to lose. Don’t pick something arbitrary- 20 pounds, out of nowhere. Do a bit of research. Figure out, perhaps, roughly what your body fat percentage is via a BodPod or DEXA scan if you’re willing to shell out, or at least get a rough estimate using a calipers, which you can use to gauge progress, and base your goal on that. What does your ultimate goal look like? Likely, it’s not a weight- it’s an aesthetic appearance, and the scale is not going to give you that, so I recommend focusing on body composition rather than weight, in this case. Do some research, before deciding what your ultimate goal will be, before deciding arbitrarily on something that my not be quite what you’re actually looking to accomplish.
Consider also what is sustainable. If you have a lot of body fat to lose, you might be able to lose more at a quicker rate initially, but going about things, particularly in terms of your body- whether weight loss, muscle gain, athletic abilities, or otherwise- going at breakneck speeds is LITERALLY NEVER the right approach. This is how burnout, injury, exhaustion, and lasting ill-effects on things like metabolism and mindset happen. Remember- this is a goal now, you’re in this for the long haul, not the two month resolution time period. So, don’t go “easy” on yourself, per se, but don’t be unreasonable, either. You aren’t going to lose 10 pounds a month for an entire year. You aren’t going to gain 10 pounds of muscle in a year either. Biology simply doesn’t work like that.
Revision 1: “I’m going to lose 10% body fat this year.”
That’s a little better. A bit more specific, and we got rid of that detestable word, “weight,” that seems to hang heavy (PUN, IT’S A PUN) over everyone this time of year. Already, I’m feeling more positive about this! Let’s push forward and see how much better we can make it even.
If you’re anything like me, you need something you hold you accountable. Left to my own devices, I can set a thousand goals, but, if there’s nothing measuring my progress, no end date in sight, I’ll never meet them. This is easily solved. Now, I’m not recommending everyone sign up for a bodybuilding competition by any means, but at least figure out some way to record your progress. Sticking with the weight loss resolution, I recommend going beyond just the scale. While the scale is a useful measure, it hardly tells the whole story. I recommend taking other measurements, as well, which may include tape measure circumferences or body fat measurements. Write. It. Down. Use a notebook, use an app, shit, if you’re me, use like 5 fucking apps that rule your life and then write all that shit down in a notebook too for redundancy’s sake. SOON YOUR WHOLE LIFE IS MADE OUT OF SPREADSHEETS. But you need to be able to see patterns. Each entry won’t tell the whole story- progress is never linear- but the patterns, when they emerge, tell a much clearer story. Also, setting an end goal, and at least one intermediate “checkpoint” goal will help you gauge your progress.
Revision 2: “I’m going to lose 2-3% body fat by March, 6-8% by June, and 10% by November.”
Damn, it’s going to feel good when you hit that 2% in March. You’re going to taste that little victory and it’s going to push you forward towards the next, reinvigorated! Success! You’re touched it! You want more of it! And you have the proof right there in your notebook/app(s)/spreadsheets/progress pictures!
One last thing… you have this goal. You have thought it out carefully, researched it to make sure it’s realistic, to make sure you can stick with it, but, what about the how? I think that this is where most people get tripped up.
“I’m going to eat clean!”
“I’m going to exercise!”
“I’m going to stop drinking beer!”
See, now we are right back where we started.
Are these realistic? You’re really going to “eat clean,” (whatever the fuck that means,) and never drink beer again for the rest of your life? You’re willing to sacrifice this much of your quality of life in pursuit of… abs? C’mon. Be realistic here. Sustainability is the name of the game, remember? There is a balance, and it may take a bit of time to find, but don’t set yourself up for failure by giving up things you love entirely.
Unless you love meth. You should definitely quit that. Cold turkey. Like, yesterday.
And what is this “exercise,” everyone keeps talking about? Sounds loathsome.
Be more specific, and make it fun! Hate running? Me too. So I don’t do it. But if you don’t hate it, by all means, hit the pavement. Other options might be lifting weights 2-3 days per week after work, taking a pole or aerial arts class on Sunday mornings, walking the dog for 30 minutes after dinner each day, or meeting a friend to go indoor rock climbing two days a week after work. Note how very specific these are, in terms of times and days each week, and how varied in activity. Exercise can be whatever you want it to be. Have fun with it- this will set you up to stick with it, and you won’t even realize your’e exercising.
Final Revision: “I am going to lift weights Monday and Wednesday morning and take one yoga class each weekend in order to meet my goals of losing 2-3% body fat by March, 6-8% by June, and ultimately 10% by November, so that by this time next year I am stronger, healthier, and happier.”
Now doesn’t that feel nicer? We have all the information we need, right there in a single, positively framed statement. You’ve set yourself up for success along the way, building up to the ultimate goal.
Of course, this same process can be used for any goal: strength goals, aesthetic goals, educational goals, relationship goals, you name it. Take your broad, abstract goal and break it down, be specific. How will you get there, what are the steps, and is the process a sustainable one? How will you measure it, how will you know you’ve achieved your goal? And most importantly, have you framed it as an accomplishment, rather than a punishment, for yourself?
Pretty much all of this boils down to:
Be a reasonable, and be kind to yourself, body and mind.
Set yourself up for success throughout the process, and keep yourself accountable.
So for accountability purposes, here are the goals I’ve set up for myself in 2016:
- I will train for, with the weekly help of the coaches at Deadweight Strength, and compete in the March 5, 2016 South Bay Open powerlifting meet in the 123 weight class, where I will beat my previous meet record on bench press and deadlift, bringing my total into the 670s, at least. My goal with squats is to continue to fix my form and weaknesses, so I am not setting a PR goal for that particular lift.
- I will compete in at least two WNBF figure shows. I have dates for three on my calendar already, and an eye on two other potential ones, but am holding myself to one in either May or June, depending on how my body is looking when I get back from Australia in early April, and at least one later in the fall, probably November.
- I will begin the process of getting my coaching certification, specifically in nutrition, so that I can more capably help the numerous people who message me for advice each week. In order to establish myself more securely as a knowledgeable source of information, I will have enrolled in a program by February, and complete the certification by the end of the year.
So how about you? What’ve you got planned for the year?
Happy goal-setting, Kittens.
For more perspective on goal-setting, check out DJ’s post on New Year’s Resolutions at Mens Fortis, as well!