Get your act together: have a plan for health
I recently opened up a good book called “The Power of Focus” by famous personal development guru Jack Canfield (He’s the guy who created the whole ‘Chicken Soup’ series).
I opened it randomly, more to get out of the cesspool of mainstream media which is lowering our collective IQ by the second. The chapter I opened to was a hodge-podge top 10 list of ideas to create better goals.
I’m guilty of this and I think that 95% of us are…we fail to reach certain goals because we have weak, vague goals that are not measurable.
Nowhere is this more pronounced than at the average gym in America. Its time for that to change.
I’m not one that likes to follow rigid plans in the gym either. I am not currently training for a competition of some sort, which is what these very precise programs are created for. But there has to be a foundation to the workouts. Something that can be measured over time, so that at least we know we are making progress.
If your goal is just to be social and dink around, then more power to you. But I have no time and patience for these people. They’re not serious and they aren’t going to make progress even with my help. I selectively seek out people that are ready for some REAL results.
My gauging mechanism is pretty simple and something that I came up with over the years. I have a few numbers or markers that I expect to move in a positive direction. As long as those numbers are not going down or getting worse, and the current stuff I’m trying to improve moves up, and I like the way I look and feel in the process then this is a sort of success. If one of these numbers starts struggling then I address that particular problem. In this way I feel I can make continual progress!
My numbers currently are this. Again, as long as I can hit these markers move slowly up I’m good:
315 front squat
275 squat clean
15 straight pullups
50 pushups straight
That’s really it. Of course I do my cardio, but that’s a nutrition concern more than anything.
While these numbers are moving or at least staying constant I know that my full body strength is improving. I check these numbers about once every 2 months. If suddenly I can only front squat 250, I know I have some leg strength or power issues. If I’m struggling for 10 pullups I need to work on my back.
So you can see here that I have at least something measurable. But how many people do you see at the gym that let’s face it…not only aren’t making progress, they can’t tell you a single one of these numbers. Worse yet they make excuses about how you shouldn’t squat and deadlift…but if you’re in that sorry ass group then making goals and strength gains probably isn’t for you. My 57 year old mother can deadlift 155 for ten…what’s your excuse? Learn to pick something properly off the floor this isn’t rocket science. But I digress…
Obviously there could be any combination of numbers that improve. The scale could be a marker for weight loss or gain. Skin calipers could be used for body fat. If you’re an athlete then maybe its an athletic goal, like a faster 40 yard dash time, or a higher vertical jump.
Here’s some examples of more creative markers for strength and progress:
Dumbbell bench press for reps
Barbell bent over row strength
Standing military press strength
One-legged pistol squats
So as an example you could see, today, how much you can row with a barbell with strict form (no cheating AT ALL) and then focus on your back strength for a few weeks and then retest in a few months. You can do the same for a front or back squat.
Now, of course you would need to have some sort of program template to work with. If you want to squat more weight you have to find some sort of program. In today’s world? You can find that in minutes online. It doesn’t need to be perfect.
Notice that these are strength movements, not isolation and cardio exercises.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if someone asks how strong your legs are, and your answer starts with “I can leg press X” then nobody cares. Get to squatting. Same goes for leg extensions; “but I can do the whole stack!”. Meaningless. Start deadlifting or squatting, if you want to shit with the big dogs you can’t be pissing with the puppies over on the machines all day long.
Your goals are your goals
Find something that motivates you. Your goals in the gym and with health are yours only, not your friends and family. Me, I want to be powerful, athletic and look good naked. Furthermore I would like to not be sick, as in ever. And my program is allowing me to do this.
I like to mess with the kettlebells because they are challenging. Then you get the old injured guys that we referred to earlier, ranting about how I’m going to dislocate my shoulder, or throw out my back. What sort of meaningful goals would I have if I just caved in and started doing Pilates? I’m going to snatch that damn 88 lb kettlebell, and clean and jerk 315 lbs and its not anyone’s business but mine.
Don’t let society create your goals. This includes the nay-sayers that are going to tell you “you're getting too bulky” if you’re a woman, or that you might “look like a man.” If you want to get stronger, which is the fundamental aspect of any proper fitness program anyway, then go ahead.
People are way too worried about getting injured in the gym. If you are constantly injured then that’s programming failures on your part, not the exercises themselves.
Crazy goals that scare you a little bit
This is a business concept from the book but I’d say it applies in the gym too. Most people, in particular women, do not train hard enough, which is one reason they do not progress.
Achieving fitness goals involves challenging your body more than it is capable of handling normally. This is the whole point. You have to challenge the muscle. If you’re always playing it safe, just like with a business venture your fitness goal will never come to fruition.
And know that you are more than capable of doing this. Don’t be intimidated at the gym. Sure, there are giants running around, mutants pulling 750 lbs off the floor. Its a little unnerving. But your mental attitude will attract your results. If you're constantly doubting your own potential do you really expect success? When does that ever apply in life?
Now make a fitness goal, make it big, and go smash it.