Everyone needs goals. We can get by without them for a while, but if we want to really succeed, we need goals. This is as true with our workouts as it is with our careers and our lives.
This became suddenly obvious to me about a week ago. Over the last six months or so I’ve worked out less than I have in about 15 years. Part of the problem is that I’ve been working too much lately. But I’ve been through bouts of working too much before without compromising workouts because being strong and fit has always been a priority for me. Suddenly last week I figured out why working out dropped so far down the to-do list: I have no workout goals. I mean I still want to be fit and strong. But that doesn’t seem to be enough to get me to the gym often enough; or get me to stay away from those delicious Cheetos.
In the past I’ve always had specific goals that were tied to things that really mattered to me. They have been varied, but all have been very important to me:
- After University it was to compensate for my junk food and smoking habits. My rationale was that the cardiovascular benefits of running counteracted the damage I was doing by smoking. And the calories I burned running and at the gym, countered the potato chip calories I consumed. I am shaking my head at myself as I write this, but that’s where I was at the time. But it was specific and it was important to me. And it worked. I worked out 5 days a week back then. Religiously. And the cool side benefit of that approach is that eventually I started to hate smoking and no longer wanted to eat all those chips.
- Then I graduated to working out for sports performance. Not surprisingly the transition away from regular potato chip eating also resulted in losing about 25 pounds . First I was training to make the competitive ultimate team; and then I was training to be able to outrun the 20 year old opponents . No trouble getting my hours in.
- After that injury rehab and prevention became my primary goal. A congenital hip problem resulted in my having to stop playing the sports I love as I waited for surgery. I was told that my hip was maybe too damaged for the conservative surgery to work, but not damaged enough to warrant a hip replacement yet. And so I trained to get as strong as possible leading up to surgery. Motivation was easy – I figured if I worked hard, I increased my chances of returning to the activities I love on a long term basis. Then I had surgery and the motivation continued – work hard to strengthen my hip and return to previous activity levels.
The rehab went well and within 9 months I had returned to full activity and my hip felt much better than it had in over a decade. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was faced with a “now what?” situation. At 38 and having not played ultimate in 2 years, I realized that I’m not interested in returning to competitive play. Time to retire. I was amazed that I was actually emotionally ready for that. I now realize the problem is that left me with no workout goals.
As summer approaches, I have been thinking about what activities to do instead of ultimate. Running? Biking? In-line skating? Tennis? Windsurfing? I still don’t know. And so, I remain goal-less. I still workout a couple of times a week, but I also procrastinate some of those workouts away. Truth be told, I’m doing it right now! Ya, I need new goals.
That’s the gist of my big realization. General goals like “staying fit” will get you general results; personal and meaningful goals will get you personal and meaningful results. This realization means two changes for me. The first change is that I will figure out what my real goals are so that working out can regain its stature in my weekly schedule; and I will review those goals periodically to make sure they stay relevant. The second change is that I will encourage my clients to do look for personal and specific answers to my “what’s your goal” question.
I’ve thought about my friends and clients during this past week. If I was to ask any of them if they want to be strong and fit, the answer would be a definite “Yes!”. But if I asked why, I am pretty sure that those who really do put in the time to workout would tell me a personal story about why they workout; whereas those who only workout minimally would probably have to think about it before coming up with a fairly generic response. Now I realize that’s a very unscientific statement – with “I am pretty sure” as my proof. But please give it some thought: Why do you want to be fit? Pause followed by “to be healthy”? Or a personal story of what you want to succeed? Does that correlate to how much effort you are putting into achieving these goals?