Yoda has got a pretty good point here. In my line of business one of the first questions that gets asked of a new client is:
What are your goals?
More often than not the answer comes straight back as:
I want to lose a stone / cut my body fat / get a six pack / get into shape for my wedding.
Personal training is an industry borne out of people wanting to look better with their clothes off (who doesn’t want that?) so don’t get me wrong, these are all great goals and if we were no good at helping people to achieve them we would have gone out of business a long time ago.
The problem I have found, particularly in the long term, with only focussing on the aesthetic result is that once you reach the goal of getting a six pack / looking amazing in the wedding dress, where do you go from there and how will you motivate yourself to keep on going?
You could of course set another aesthetic goal to drop even more fat, and get into Men’s Health cover model shape which is again a great goal and takes an impressive amount of dedication and hard work but once you reach it…
Where do you go from there and what is your motivation?
For some the constant striving for the incremental improvements is motivation enough (think bodybuilders for example), but what for the others?
I decided to try an experiment…
As an experiment earlier last year over a period of about 8 weeks I dieted, trained and suffered down to a pretty lean 7% body fat (going on holiday to Brazil and proposing to my long suffering girlfriend was my motivation). I found that although I was happy with the way I looked, solely focussing on an aesthetic result was ultimately unsatisfying – once I got to 7% I flexed a few times in front of a thoroughly underwhelmed girlfriend (now fiance so she must have been secretly impressed), and thought:
Great, now what?
(This could also have been a side effect from severe irritability due to the lack of carbohydrates)
The experience got me thinking about different goals and their close link to long term motivation and ultimately – happiness. After all exercise is something that should be done long term (it’s a lifestyle not a quick fix!) and the enjoyment you derive from it is key for your longevity.
With this in mind I made the decision to come out of a 7 year retirement for another foray into competitive swimming with a goal of bettering at least one performance from my younger years. With this new goal in mind my enthusiasm for training has been totally transformed, I am actually excited to get to the pool and gym to improve and get myself back up to race speed.
How we like to do things at Sculpt
At Sculpt we always try to dig deeper to find out what makes our clients not only look and feel great but also what makes them happy and we also encourage them to set different goals to aim for alongside any aesthetic targets they may have. We have a very thorough consultation process that not only asks for a clients goals but WHY they want to achieve them so badly and what motivates them to get out of bed and get to the gym / pool / park on a cold drizzly February morning.
The clients I have personally had the most satisfaction coaching and I believe have got the most out of the training experience have all been working towards physical challenges or sporting events, for example, Mark- came to us 4 years ago overweight and unhealthy (sorry Mark but you were!), we set the usual goals and within 8 months had lost 20kg, got strong, fit and healthy but more importantly, in great shape to to do the high adrenaline sports like mountain biking, surfing and snowboarding that he loves to do.
The Sculpt Guide to Good Goal Setting
- Think about what you want to achieve and the time frame you want to achieve it in. Now make a realistic plan of what it will take in terms of training, diet, discipline and lifestyle sacrifices to get where you want to be (if you’re unsure of how to make a plan get in touch). Honestly ask yourself if you can commit fully to the plan, if yes go for it! If you’re not sure then you need to set yourself a more realistic goal.
- You have to really REALLY want it. No-one else can achieve your goals for you, even the best personal trainer in the world can only show you the way, YOU have to put in the hard work and discipline.
- If it’s a big, long term goal you must set smaller goals in the weeks and months leading up to it.
- Track your workouts. You need to make sure that your efforts are getting you closer to your end target on a weekly and monthly basis, every training session should set a personal best of some sort, be it a max squat, fastest 200m row, most press ups in a minute, whatever it might be. Remember the end goal of your training should not just be reducing numbers on a scale, track your strength and fitness progress and constantly strive to improve yourself to keep motivated.
- Make yourself accountable. Tell your friends, family and colleagues what you’re trying to achieve, go one step further and tell everyone you know or if possible collect charity donations. If you can get someone to join you even better, try to make it very difficult for yourself to skip workouts, cheat on the diet and generally give up.
- Get some help! Search out the best trainer in your area (always ask to see their past results, not all trainers are cut from the same cloth!) and arrange to meet for a chat about what you want to achieve and how they can help you.
Some cool goal ideas to get you thinking
- Get back into the sport you were best at when you were young. Join a 5-a-side football league, netball team, or start doing Parkrun 5k’s
- Enter a fun event that requires some serious training. Triathlon, Tough mudder races, the 3 peaks challenge, a trek in the Himalayas, London to Brighton bike ride. Ideally enter with a friend or as a team to rally each other through training and to the finish line
- Challenge yourself to get good at something you’ve never done before. I used to be terrified of heights so started rock climbing. I go twice a week, it’s amazing fun, improves strength, balance, flexibility and (nearly) conquers the vertigo!
Once you know what you want to achieve, stick to it! Don’t waver from the plan until you reach your goal.