With the passage of Memorial Day, summer is all but here. And with it, comes all of its essentials. From BBQ to fireworks, swimming to hiking and campfires to road trips; the list goes on and on. As wonderful and epic as summer is, it is equally brief and fleeting. Before you know it, we’ll be craving pumpkin spice lattes and chomping on cider donuts.
Since we were all kids, summer has always flown by as if it never existed in the first place (especially in Upstate NY!). In just a few months it will be fall and you’ll be wondering where the bulk of 2019 and the goals you had for it have gone. That is why we need to reflect on our plan for the second half of 2019. We often think about New Year’s Resolution goals, but the winter often puts them on hold because we end up simply trying to survive the onset of seasonal depression that tends to kick in around mid-February.
As the nicer weather starts ramping up in April and May, gym attendance starts to ramp up again. Like a military general calling in reinforcements, we make a concerted attack at getting that “beach body” in gear. Then, inevitably, the activities and overall fun of summer start to take hold. It’s way easier to head straight home on a sunny day after work than grind it out in the gym for 60-90 minutes. And don’t get me wrong, sometimes you need that time to yourself to let your hair down and relax, but the overwhelming winds of summer tend to get in the way of our fitness goals.
Here’s a guide to staying on track to achieve your 2019 goals. Write down the answer to each of these questions on an index card and put it where you’ll see it every day. Places like your cubical wall, your nightstand or even the dash of your car (so when you’re trying to convince yourself that Happy Hour is a better idea, you can remember what’s important to you).
WHAT WERE/ARE YOUR 2019 GOALS?
Hopefully, you set some goals earlier in the year. If so, what were they and are they still valid goals that you care to achieve today? If not, let’s take a step back and think about what we really want to achieve before 2020 drops (wow!). At this point, I would consider limiting yourself to two goals: the most important thing to you and an easier goal that will act as a milestone towards your primary goal.
Example: I want to deadlift 200 pounds by the end of the year. Perhaps my second goal is to deadlift 190 pounds for 3 by October.
If you have weight loss goals, setting a big round number like 20 or 30 pounds can be intimidating. Instead, try setting the goal of losing 4 pounds a month for 6 straight months. Your target is now easier to hit and the results will potentially be more sustainable in the long run (assuming you’re losing it the right way! See: Losing The Weight Of Losing Weight)
WHAT HAS PREVENTED YOU FROM ACHIEVING THESE GOALS SO FAR?
Most often the answer is not having a plan (see Plan section below). If you have a plan, consistency adherence and execution are the next culprits in line. If your plan and execution are on-point, evaluating the efficacy of your approach is next.
This is sometimes a case of less is more. Instead of adding in a positive task, chore or drill, maybe eliminating something negative or unproductive is the answer. Instead of spending an extra 20 minutes before bed on social media, try doing those ever-so-neglected shoulder PT exercises (courtesy of https://www.suarezphysicaltherapy.com/contact/) or some much-needed hamstring mobility. Or perhaps some low-light quiet time or reading.
Regardless of the reason for not achieving your goals yet, your new plan should address these hurdles head on.
WHY ARE THESE GOALS IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Goals that have a high level of importance and deeper meaning are more likely to sustain your motivation and get done! If you don’t even remember the goals you set back in January, perhaps they weren’t very important at all and we should look for something else that has a high motivational value to it.
WHAT WILL ACHIEVING THESE GOALS ENABLE YOU TO DO?
Example: I want to get a Muscle-Up or Pull-Up.
What will achieving this goal enable you to do? Well, not much really. Muscle-ups are definitely a very cool accomplishment. They are basically the pinnacle of all skills for most mortal CrossFitters. They allow you to build capacity on the rings and other hanging movements but they don’t directly carry over to anything other than being a more competitive fitnesser. So, getting a muscle-up will enable you to participate in the sport of fitness at a higher and more competitive level (CF Open, local competitions, etc). If that is important to you, then let’s go! Onward and upward to muscle-ups!
Disclaimer: Being a competitive fitnesser is a great goal for many 20, 30 and even 40 and 50 somethings, but eventually, competition takes its toll and isn’t sustainable (for 99% of us). While it is a great way to stay motivated now, our drive to achieve these goals shouldn’t risk our long-term health and longevity. Check out this post on training for longevity.
WHAT WOULD ACHIEVING THIS GOAL MEAN TO YOU?
This is a deeper question that may not have an apparent answer right away. If strength is important to you, then achieving a deadlift, back squat or bench press goal will be more gratifying than learning how to walk on your hands. If you want to run a 5K or even marathon, conditioning goals will certainly take on more meaning.
WHAT IS THE PLAN TO ACHIEVE YOUR GOAL?
A goal without a plan is just a dream…let that sink in for a minute…You MUST have a plan in order to make progress towards your goals. Once we’ve done the self-examination proposed here in these questions to hone in on a goal, the first sub-goal is to create a plan for said goal. For most, the first step in the plan needs to be consistency. How can I consistently make progress towards my goal? An offshoot of this question is how often should I be working on this goal – for those with weight loss goals as well as strength and conditioning goals. The argument typically starts with how often should I be practicing or hitting these movements in a given week or month? While these questions are best left to your coach/programmer, some basic answers can be addressed
Example: I want to get a push-up.
Haphazard Plan: I try a couple push-ups after class once a week and see little to no progress.
Concrete Plan: I’m going to do work on my push-ups after class every Monday for 10 minutes. In the first week, pick a basic rep scheme like 5 sets of 5 (a general strength protocol). Set up a platform that will support you in a plank position and allow you to perform a push-up with complete range of motion (chest to deck!) even when it gets hard. If it’s too hard, make it easier. If it’s too easy, don’t worry! Each week, lower the platform slightly to make it harder, until you make it to the floor. If after 6 weeks, you’re unable to make the platform lower, instead of doing 5X5 try 6 sets of 3 at the lower level. Using this logic, you should eventually get to the floor and be able to perform a very solid push-up!
What if I plateau? Training plateaus are common. If your progress stalls out, stay the course for a few weeks. Again, consistency is the name of the game! However, after 3 or 4 weeks of no progress, you might have to get a little creative. You can try doing things like tempo reps where you go slow (3 to 5 count) on the way down. You may also need to change up the nature of the resistance (bench press instead of push-up). The best bet is to consult your strength and conditioning coach. Present them with your plan up front and give them regular updates along the way. When you hit a plateau, they’ll be more informed and able to help you course-correct.
This is just one example of a plan, many goals might require multiple training days per week. For those with more general goals like weight loss or overall strength gains, simply adding a 4th or 5th day consistently for a few months will be enough to tip the scale. Most people that struggle with consistency have a hard time getting to the gym later in the week. We all feel the guilt from a pleasure-laden weekend and can drag ourselves to the gym at least twice before Thursday. It’s from Thursday on that becomes the issue. What are you going to do to help sustain your mid- and late-week training motivation? Perhaps you need an accountability buddy. Someone you know is good at getting to the gym later in the week. Give them permission to harass you later in the week when you’d rather head to Happy Hour.