Recently we’ve been talking a lot about WHAT to do and HOW to do it. I thought that this week we’d take a bit of a break and dig a little bit deeper, instead discussing WHY we train and what drives us to succeed, or causes us to fail. Central to this discussion is the question of goals: what are they, how can we use them and why do we need them? It seems much simpler to walk into the gym, perform our movements of choice and leave, foregoing larger structure and pursuing the moment. Many of us train in this fashion – day in and day out, chasing some vaguely defined notion of what we want to achieve, working more on the struggle of getting into the gym, without really even considering what “there” might be. No matter what your poison (BJJ, kickboxing, strength training, running, etcetera), goals are an essential part of training. It is, of course, why they call it training. I cannot over-emphasizing the importance of goal-setting. Without a greater target, we have no motivation to succeed. If you do not have a reason, you will inevitably stray from your course of action.
OK, so let’s say you’ve followed my advice and developed a solid base – that is, you’re inury-free, have decent alignment, motor co-ordination and balance – all the components of a good fitness foundation. You’ve prepared the body through GPP (General Prepared-ness), addressed muscular weaknesses and imbalances, and are for all intents and purposes, physiologically sound. For some, this set of circumstances is a given, due to a history of athletics, structured fitness programming or plain old genetic luck. It’s possible that you may fall into this category, but even more likely that you have over-estimated your foundation and are in need of some corrections (a common mistake of the ego that we’ve addressed in previous columns). I urge all trainees seeking strength and conditioning improvement to meet with a competent, knowledgeable coach in order to have their abilities assessed with a skillful, critical eye.
One of the most prevalent and pervasive issues in fitness is short-sightedness. All too many trainees view fitness as an end, not an ongoing process. The logic is thus: “If I just work hard for a little while, THEN I’ll be in shape.” This is a short term goal, viewed as a destination instead of a continuing journey, as opposed to a series of long-term goals. The unfortunate truth (for those looking for a shortcut, at least) is that fitness/strength/improved body composition is not something that can be simply acquired once and for all. It requires dedication, continual progression and variation in order to be maintained. Whether your goal is aesthetic or practical in aim, you must constantly progress and push yourself – even if you do reach your goal once, you can’t stop there – not because I make my living helping people reach their goals and I’m telling you that to keep you coming back, but because fitness is lost rapidly once training has ceased. Furthermore, what may have worked once is unlikely to work again with similar loading and progression – why?