Getting started is half the battle. When we embark on a new training cycle, it’s tough to take that first step toward an often distant goal. Whether you want to add 40 pounds to your squat or prepare for your first competition, the attainment of the end goal often seems too far off, thus paralyzing us in our quest to better ourselves.
So how do we overcome the fear of tackling a seemingly insurmountable goal? First, let’s assume that you’re using an effective program to reach these goals (within the walls of any reputable strength and conditioning gym, this should be the case – if programming is the issue with your progress, that’s a whole different article/discussion). Once we’ve established this, let’s look to the two biggest issues when it comes to reaching your potential or obtaining your training goals:
- Program Compliance
- Program Abandonment
Program Compliance – Whether it’s nutrition or training sessions, we see it time and time again. Athletes are dedicated and excited for the first 1-2 weeks of a new training cycle. Never missing a session and maintaining strict compliance to food quality, quantity, and timing. Yet once the newness fades, sessions become more sporadic, sets, reps, and percentages become more lax, and diet goes out the window. The athlete continues to follow the general guidelines of the program, but at about 60-80% compliance.
Program Abandonment – Program abandonment is simple, and odds are we’ve all been guilty of it at some point in time. This is when athletes get about 4 weeks into a strength cycle then decide to abandon it for a power/speed cycle, endurance cycle, or the like. Or often with novice athletes it’s abandonment from a current cycle to no cycle at all.
So how do we stick with a program or cycle? The answer is as simple as setting goals and tracking progress. Seems obvious, right? Even so, adhering to a program is more often the issue than poor programming. Even if these are things we know, it’s good to be reminded of these principles and take some simple action to stay motivated.
So are you ready for some homework? No? Come one, grab a piece of paper or a notebook and try it.
Your goals should be multifaceted – Too often we set ourselves on a singular path (weight loss is probably the most classic example). Understand that you’re doing much more than improving your external appearance when you embark on a healthier journey. You’re giving yourself more energy and more confidence. You’re improving your sleep quality. You’re improving your blood pressure and your cholesterol. You’re achieving multiple things that you’ve never achieved before.
Homework: Write down at least 5 things you hope to achieve along the way to your overall goal. Maybe it’s getting that first pull-up or maybe it’s a deeper measure of health and fitness like eliminating blood pressure medication.
Set intermediate goals – You’re not going to reach your end goal in a week. Understand that there are several milestones along the way. The key to reaching a long term goal is knowing that continual progress is all we can ask for. I recently had an athlete who was recovering from a severe leg injury. She had a very specific goal she wanted to reach by a specific date. She came up short of this goal, but has improved her performance by 100% in the past few months. She was discouraged, but after discussing the several intermediate goals she had achieved along the way, she realized that her improvement and progress was quite phenomenal and thus has stayed motivated and hasn’t wavered from working toward her end goal.
Homework: Understand that progress is progress. Revisit your goals once every week. List any intermittent goals or accomplishments that you’ve achieved. These can be goals that you had in mind, or things you may not have thought of at the beginning of your journey.
Track your progress – Use several numerical indicators, pictures, and even some subjective measures to track your progress. The biggest paradigm to break is that the scale is the almighty indicator of success. At our gym, we track weight, body fat percentage, benchmark workouts, improvement on lifts, other performance indicators, and even guide members toward ideal blood work numbers. This gives us a holistic view of a members progress and keeps a well-rounded focus toward intermediate milestones and multifaceted goals. Touching on the subjective measures mentioned above (depending on your program goals); track how you feel throughout each week. Are you more energetic? Do you feel stronger? Has your general mood improved? Is your sleep quality improving? Etc…
Homework: List at least 5 numerical goals that you hope to achieve. These can be body weight numbers, body fat %, run times, lifting benchmarks, or even blood work numbers. For pictures, take front and profile headshots (we suggest headshots because early changes are often seen in the face and neck), and front and profile body shots once a week. For subjective measures the frequency is up to you. Some people do better with recording once per week, while others like to do it on a daily basis.
Having a realistic view of the goals you hope to achieve, as well as understanding that you’re making several improvements along the way, is key to sticking with a training program, thus improving program compliance and avoiding program abandonment. Learn to be a good goal setter, track your progress, and the motivation will follow.