While setting goals and making sure to put specific end dates to those goals is paramount, the date you set should reflect when you want to have accomplished your goal, not when you want to start. Setting a start date can actually be counterproductive, as it’s always about “tomorrow,” if not a date even further down the road. “There is no tomorrow,” as Apollo Creed would say.
A solid plan is obviously the framework for success, but when it comes to breaking old habits or creating new ones, just set your goal, prepare a plan and start now. Yes, in order to achieve your goals you’ll need a good plan, but there’s no time like the present to start, so if you can start today, do it. Even if your still trying to envision your goal, or if you don’t have a solid plan in line yet.
How to set your goal:
Choose something realistic, but not so easy that you’ll lose interest and not challenge yourself. Whether it’s a specific bodyweight, body fat percentage, strength goal or a particular look you want to achieve, decide exactly what it is that you want and write it down or create a vision board. Be specific!
Set a date by which you want to achieve your goal. Whether it’s a particular event, a vacation, or just a random date, write it down and put it on your calendar. You don’t have to set your ultimate, long-term goal, as that could be too far in the future. Instead, pick a date around 10-16 weeks from now so that you don’t lose interest.
Make a plan. Choose a routine you’ll stick to, along with specific days and/or times you’ll train. If you can’t set up a routine of your own, or simply don’t know how to do that, find a good resource. I’m obviously biased towards my own e-books at X-Rep.com/xshop.htm and X-Workouts.com. Make it something different than you’re doing now, and don’t repeat any sort of routine which didn’t work for you in the past.
Pick a partner. A reliable training partner will not only help to keep you motivated and on track, but you’ll probably both feed off of each other’s energy. If you won’t have a training partner, make it a point to review your progress and always keep an eye on the calendar with a countdown to your goal date.
Track of your progress, whether in writing or electronically, and include photographs and/or video. Even if your goal is based on weight, a scale and mirror can both be guilty of lying to you. The number on a scale says nothing of your body composition, and we often have a skewed sense of reality when looking in a mirror, whether positive or negative. Photos and video tell the honest story, and can help you the most with visualizing what you’re trying to achieve. Just be sure to use the same lighting and location each time.
Set alarms to keep you on schedule. You can use the clock on your mobile device to set multiple alarms throughout the day, and you can usually have a specific note pop up with each alarm. Set something with a positive message or words of inspiration to remind you to head to the gym, and don’t be afraid to set motivational notes throughout the day if you need it. Even a simple “Focus!” if there’s a time of day you find yourself normally losing site of your end goal.
Unplug. There’s a time and a place to be social, and your workout is neither. If you have your routine on your phone, that’s great, but don’t check email or answer calls or text messages during your workout. Don’t give in to distraction, electronic or otherwise. By the same token, you don’t have to stay locked up for the duration of your plan. If you’re not enjoying your life, you’re doing it wrong, so make sure to be social outside of the gym.
Go public. Sure, the nonstop social media postings of what people have eaten get old, and not everyone wants to know what workout you did today with how much weight or how great it made you feel, but you can still use it as a tool. If most of your friends are into fitness as well, they’ll likely be great cheerleaders for you, but you can always set up a separate profile or “page” for your goals, or find a good online community where you don’t mind sharing. The point is to find ways to help keep you motivated and moving forward. You never know, you might just inspire someone else along the way.
Set a secondary goal. One of the biggest reasons for failure after someone reaches a particular goal is that they stop planning ahead. Whatever goal you’ve set to reach by your end date, have another goal you want to reach with a few weeks after that. You’ve already developed health-supporting habits, so there’s no sense in stopping just because you’ve reached your first goal.
When it comes to making your plan of attack, remember to pick a routine that you’ll actually stick to. If you’ll only be able to work out 3 days per week, don’t set yourself up for failure by picking a 5-day routine. It will be easier on your mind to add to your training as the weeks go on, rather than reducing your overall volume, as that could wreak havoc with your psyche.
Of course, if you don’t have your plan laid out just yet, don’t fall victim to believing you have to wait until you’ve thought it all through. As mentioned above, there’s no time like the present when it comes to starting, and waiting for “tomorrow” may never happen. If this is going to be your first time trying to reach a physique-based goal, or if you’ve simply taken more time off from your last routine than anticipated, you can start immediately with this very basic break-in routine straight out of the Quick-Start Muscle-Building Guide (http://www.MuscleQuickStart.com):
•Quadriceps (front thighs)
Squats, 2 x 10
•Hamstrings (back of thighs)
Leg curls, 1 x 10
•Calves (lower legs)
Machine standing calf raises, 2 x 12-15
Bench presses, 2 x 10
•Latissimus dorsi (back width)
Pulldowns, 2 x 10
Undergrip pulldowns, 1 x 10
•Trapezius (middle back)
Machine rows, 2 x 10
Overhead presses, 2 x 10
Dumbbell upright rows, 2 x 10
The low-volume approach with the routine above makes it safe to use three days per week for 1-2 weeks until you’ve set up your full routine for the next several weeks, and it will also help to make sure that you get through the initial pain zone, so you never feel too sore to hit the gym. Plus, it’s full of big, basic movements to help get you back into the “feel” of working out, or to develop that feel for the first time if it’s all new to you. The biggest thing is that it gives you no excuses not to start right now. Remember Rocko, “There is no tomorrow!”
About the Author
Jonathan Lawson has been working in the health and fitness industry for over 20 years; weight training for 21 years, competed in numerous bodybuilding competitions, worked for IRON MAN Magazine for 17 years, co-owns X-Rep.com where he has co-published over 15 e-books and writes a daily training blog. He has appeared on the covers of, and been featured in, dozens of international magazines, books and e-books.