DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING?
When was the last time you got in your car and had no idea where you were going, no destination in mind? Unless it was just a leisurely drive on a weekend with your significant other, the answer is probably never. Yet this is exactly what countless numbers of people who train do every single day in thousands of gyms and health clubs throughout the country. Whether you’re a bodybuilder, fitness competitor or anyone trying to get into better shape, not setting specific goals related to your training makes about as much sense as getting behind the wheel of that car without a destination. You may drive around or train a lot, but the likelihood of getting anywhere worthwhile is pretty slim.
There are a number of components to setting goals that will give you the motivation, drive and focus to reach your ultimate potential. Good goals are specific, reasonable, challenging, and have a time frame in which they should be accomplished. Let’s examine each of these components so you can define your bodybuilding or fitness destination and be on your way.
Specific, Dated Goals
Many people set goals like “I want to get bigger”, “I want to lose some weight” or “I want to be leaner”. Here’s the problem: these goals lack any specificity or time frame. How much bigger? How many pounds do you want to lose? And how much leaner? How will you know when you have reached your goal if it is not specific, definite and dated? You won’t. And that fact alone robs you of much of the value of setting the goal in the first place. A vague goal without a time frame attached to it will not put you into action. It amounts to nothing more than a wish.
Instead, set goals like “I will add five pounds of lean muscle tissue this year”, “I will lose ten pounds of body fat in the next ten weeks” or “I will be 8% bodyfat by October 1, 1999″. Specific goals like these will enable you to determine if you attained the goal and will create greater inner drive toward the goal because you know exactly what it is you want to accomplish and have a deadline that will push you to structure your training and nutrition accordingly.
Challenging and Reasonable Goals
When you define your goals you must strike a very important balance. On the one hand, the goal has to be challenging enough to make you take massive action. What good is a goal that you don’t really have to work very hard to achieve? On the other hand, the goal should be reasonable and attainable. If not, you are simply setting yourself up to fail. And this is only going to make you feel lousy and rock your self-esteem and confidence. So let’s look at some guidelines that may be helpful as you go about this exercise. First, forget about all the bull you’ve seen in ads and commercials. You are not going to gain 20 pounds of muscle in the next 2 months with or without drugs. And you aren’t losing 20 pounds of body fat this month, period.
Let’s look at reality. In terms of gaining muscle, you’ll have a tremendous year if you gain five pounds of muscle in the next 12 months. And you will have a completely new body if you gain ten pounds. Bodybuilding fans may remember a few years ago when Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates went from 244 to 257 in one year. It looked like Dorian packed a good 3 or 4 years of training into one. And he already weighed a shredded 244 pounds! So, when people set goals of gaining 15 pounds of solid muscle in a year, they are talking about exceeding what may be the most dramatic improvement we’ve seen an athlete make. Let’s not forget that Dorian was also a full-time professional bodybuilder.
A reasonable goal for a drug-free athlete might be five pounds of muscle in a year. This comes out to less than one-half pound of muscle per month. So, a 4-month goal of gaining 2 pounds of muscle is a lot more realistic, while challenging, than a pie in the sky goal of gaining 10 pounds of muscle in that same time frame.
What about losing bodyfat? The common wisdom is that the most fat you can expect to lose in a given week is approximately 2 pounds. That’s 8 pounds of fat in a month. Anything over that is going to be either water or muscle. So, stories of dropping 20 pounds of fat in a month are likely to be a bunch of misleading hype. Don’t buy it and set yourself up for failure. If you lose 5 to 8 pounds of fat in a given month, that’s a major accomplishment that you should feel great about.
Is It Worth It?
If you are questioning whether losing 8 pounds of fat or gaining a similar amount of muscle is worth the effort it will take (and it will take a sincere, concentrated effort on your part) the answer is sitting a few miles away from you right now–at the supermarket. Next time you go shopping, go to the meat section and find a four or five-pound slab of meat or ham. Then find another one and imagine all that meat evenly distributed over your muscular body parts. Imagine what your physique will look like. And that’s possible by this time next year.
If fat loss is the goal, envision all that meat being shed from the fatty areas of your body. How lean would you be? How much better will your body look? And that’s possible by next month! Just try not to trample the store employees and other shoppers as you run out of the market to get to the gym as fast as possible to start getting yours.