Thursday, December 5, 2013

An Introduction to Working Out: Part 1 -- Goal Setting

Having been running this blog for a year, I'm going to go right back to basics. This is going to be a brief series on general principles and methods of exercising, and as new year resolutions are right around the corner, this should be a helpful go-to guide. In it I'll cover:

Part 1 -- Goal Setting
Part 2 -- Resistance Training Focus
Part 3 -- Cardiovascular Training Focus
Part 4 -- Selecting Starting Loads
Part 5 -- Selecting Starting Exercises
Part 6 -- Warming Up
Part 7 -- Stretching

Goal Setting

"Yay, it's the 2nd of January, my hangover's over, and I'm going to get fit!"

Excellent, and what does that mean?


What does it mean to get fit?

"You know, fit! I'm gonna get fit! You know?"

Okay, and what will be different once you are fit? How is this going to change you?

"Oh, I'm going to be 10kg lighter and I'm going to be able to run 10km and I'm going to be able to bench press 100kg."

Excellent. You've just set your first fitness goals. The first one is body composition, the other two are performance. The two performance goals are going to help with the body composition goal (although ultimately, it's going to take more than just improved performance to get there). These three goals you've just set are Specific and Measurable. This is very good, because we want to set SMART goals.

"Oh yeah, I love being smart. It's my third-favourite passtime."

Very good. Now, when we talk about SMART goals, we're actually talking about goals that have 5 elements to them:

Specific "I want to improve my bench press" is specific; "I want to get fitter" is not.
Measurable A good fitness goal is usually one in which you can observe the results in some objective way. Granted, that's not always the case ("I used to be unable to bend over without pain but now I can" doesn't really have a number to it, but is still a very worthy pursuit), but for the most part, numbers are good.
Action-Oriented The goal can't just be an end result, you actually need to do something to make that goal happen. This is where scheduling and logging workouts, modifying and logging diet, and getting a proper program put together implementing these pieces of the puzzle (there's a plug for my services in there somewhere) comes into play.
Realistic There's not much point in setting a goal that's unachievable. My recommendation is generally to set a goal that's within reach, but is actually going to demand that you reach for it. Something close enough that you can reasonably foresee it being done, but far enough away that you'll have to put in some effort to get there.
Time-Constrained There are short-term, mid-term and long-term goals. Whether your goal is for this week (short-term), this season (mid-term), or this year (long-term), most goals that fit into the rest of the SMART formula work best with a time element involved. This needs to be consistent with the other elements, of course: if you take a realistic mid-term goal and set it as a short-term goal, it's no longer realistic; if you take the same goal and set it as a long-term goal, you've just removed the urgency to take action.

"*nod nod* I see (tell me that once a week for the next 12 weeks and I think I might get it)."

Ironically, your inner monologue has just shown something close to a SMART goal: Specifically, you'll get it; the measurable factor is whether or not you get it; action involves me preaching to you once a week (between the lines, it also involves you listening once a week); it's realistic that through repetition you'll learn and understand the issue; and it's time-constrained on a short- and mid-term basis (weekly and seasonal).

Now, let's translate your fitness goals into SMART goals.

Instead of "I'm going to be 10kg lighter," it's now: "I'm going lose 10kg over the next 6 months. I'm going to do this by modifying my diet, logging my diet to make sure that I'm staying within the parameters of my diet, exercising at least 3 days a week, and targeting 0.5kg of weight loss each week."

Instead of "I'm going to be able to run 10km," it's now: "I'm going to be able to run 10km in 6 months time. I'm going to achieve this with the Couch to 5k program, followed up with weekly progressive overload to get from 5k to 10k."

And instead of "I'm going to be able to bench press 100kg," it's now: "I'm going to bench press 100kg in the next 12 months. I'm going to begin with learning technique on the empty bar (20kg) and practicing weekly progressive overload on a program designed by my trainer (yeah guys, I'm really subtle with this whole plugging myself thing), peaking 3-4 times throughout the year, and setting specific bench press goals for each season."

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