Which of these sounds like you when it comes to working towards a goal?
You go big, deep, and “all in” on Day One. You have a sharp increase in the amount of workouts you do and an equally sharp increase in your workout intensity and volume. Put another way, it’s full steam ahead from the start. No ramp up, so subtle adaptations. Just dragging your body for the ride whether it likes it or not.
Or maybe you’re someone who knows you want to achieve a specific goal, but you struggle to figure out the path to ensuring you get to declare a win for that goal.
Having coached people to their fitness and athletic goals for nearly twenty years now, I’ve gathered a lot of experience crafting the process for my students from Day One to Day “Goal Achieved”. And I noticed something interesting when talking with my students about their expectations of the work that lay before them versus the reality of it.
It does take work to get to a goal, but most of my students initial impression was that they needed to do a herculean amount of work right off the bat, and every day until they reached their goal. This just isn’t true.
No matter what abilities you need to build to reach this goal of yours, be it active range of motion, cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, technique of a sport or skill, or anything else – the path to successfully doing this requires progressive loading of the variables involved. Put another way: you need to do the right work at the right intensity in the right progression at the right time.
But beyond doing the right work at the right time (having a program from an expert level coach can be a powerful key to success here), there are three important tools you can use to set yourself up to win.
These three tools make the program you’re doing work better, they make your process go smoother, and they can even help you avoid wasting time on things by tuning into what matters most.
Let’s dive into three tools you can use to set yourself up to win:
1. Break your goal down into small building blocks
You’ve got to know what goes into the thing you’re trying to achieve. Sure the end goal might be “hold a handstand” or “complete the marathon”, but what are the building blocks that make up your ability to do the end goal?
In the case of running a marathon, your foot muscles are a building block, as are the mobility of your ankles, knees, and hips. Your full body muscular strength is a building block, and so is your running or walking technique and your gut tolerance to various calorie sources during the long runs, just to name a few.
By determining the building blocks, you create a blueprint of the final product (ie, goal achieved) and you can take a high-level view of the entire thing before you dive in.
You can use that blueprint to create a checklist for yourself so you’re ticking the boxes as you work towards your goal.
And ticking off success on the way to goal absolutely bolsters motivation to keep pressing forward.
You can also use the blueprint to form a thoughtful training plan – either on your own, or with the help of a coach.
A few questions to ask yourself as you determine what the building blocks are for your goal:
What load does your body need to be able to withstand to achieve the goal? What positions do your joints need to be able to go into? What techniques do you need to learn? What parts of your body will take the brunt of the work and will need extra care?
2. Assess your starting point accurately
Did you ever have an experience as a kid where you pretended to know something already – a piece of information or a skill of some kind – and then your friends or the teacher in class asked you a follow-up question about said info or skill and now you were stuck because you definitely fibbed about where your knowledge or skill actually was.
If you’re not able to tick the boxes on your building blocks, why would you train as if you’ve ticked them already? Doing so will eventually come back to bite you.
I know it can be exciting to dive right into the big, aggressive, flashy-looking, training drills or practices you see those experts that you admire doing – but you are not them, and they are not at your point in the journey. If your goal is to do a handstand, the person you admire you can do a handstand quite well is nowhere near the same point in the journey as you.
Assess your own unique starting point accurately by taking the building blocks you listed above and determining how much of each building block you do or do not have at this time.
Assess your mental headspace, know where your unique “most likely to botch things” spots are and plan accordingly for them (maybe you know you’re a bit of a perfectionist and you know that the shadow side of that trait can trip you up if you’re not paying attention).
3. Be a good listener.
Your body is always talking to you, giving you information. It’s your choice whether you listen to it or not. Every signal your body receives, it responds to. Listening to those responses and participating in influencing them is how you join the conversation.
The little ache that crops up, the new found feeling of strength in how you picked up that box, the sensation in your knee after you took a little slip in the yard last week – they are all responses. Responses to signals your body received.
Because you’ll be imparting a lot of signals on your body as you work towards your goal, it pays to tune into how your body responds. Sometimes your body will respond as you expected, the weight will become easier to lift, the mobility easier to access, the endurance just a bit more expansive than before. Sometimes your body will respond in an unexpected way – a little ache or tweak, a soreness in the feet that never seems to diminish.
By listening to these responses, you get clued in to what your body is telling you it needs. Maybe you didn’t plan to do more wrist care, but if your body is telling you it needs more wrist care, you can make slight shifts on the course so as to continue in forward motion.
Because remember – having your body respond in such a way that you become injured and cannot do the work, then your forward motion has stopped. While injuries aren’t entirely preventable, your participation in the conversation makes you far more equipped to deal with them if they arise.
And there you have it. Three tools you can use to set yourself up to win as you work towards your next goal. Which one is the most ah-ha for you? I’d love to hear, and learn what goals you’ll be applying these tools to. I’m connected on the social channels, so post up over there.