The New Year is here, we’ve done some initial testing in the gym, and now it’s time for you to set your brand new fitness goals! Keep reading for some input on how to set goals that are reasonable, and then actually achieve them in 2021!
Where to Start: What Were Your 2020 Goals?
Take a minute and try to walk yourself back to the beginning of 2020 (or another convenient “starting point”). Did you have health-related goals you wanted to achieve then? what were they and are they still valid goals that you care to achieve today? If so, there’s no harm in revitalizing them in the new year. If not, let’s think about what we really want to achieve going forward. Sometimes it’s nice to limit yourself to two goals: the most important thing to you and an easier goal that will act as a milestone towards your primary goal. You can always (and should!) add to your goals regularly as you achieve them!
Example: I want to deadlift 200 pounds by the summer. Secondary goal is to deadlift 190 pounds for 3 by April.
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 in a healthy, sustainable way! See: Losing The Weight Of Losing Weight)
What Has Prevented You From Achieving Your Goals Before?
Most often the answer to this question 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 to enhance recovery.
Regardless of the reason for not achieving your goals yet, your new plan should address these hurdles head on.
What Will Achieving Your Goal Enable You To Do?
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 last January (or the last time you set goals), perhaps they weren’t very important at all and we should look for something else that has a high motivational value to it.
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, future local and online 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 all that 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.
Another way to approach this question is : “What would achieving this goal mean to me?” 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 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. 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 at any time 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!
…The Dreaded 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 with your 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 workout 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 home to the couch and Netflix.
Ready? Set?! GO!
Hopefully working through the questions and examples above will help you create meaningful, realistic goals, as well as have a plan and system to actually achieve them! Still having trouble? Ask a coach to help you work through your sticking points. We have helped lots of people set and achieve goals, and we’re right here in your corner eager to help you with yours!