One’s genetics, environment, daily requirements, and exercise experience all play a role in your ability to train to reach your goals. To say everyone has the same goals and should pursue those goals the same way is simply incorrect. Your personal fitness journey may vary drastically from that of someone you know. When beginning an exercise program, diet plan, or lifestyle change, it is important to begin with the end in mind. What does this mean? This means as you get started, allow yourself to visualize and set concrete goals of where you see yourself in the future. Healthier and in better shape is a vague goal and may or may not lead to results. Decreasing your mile time by 30 seconds, increasing your squat by 50 pounds, losing 20 pounds….those are the type of goals that require continued action to be reached. By beginning with the end in mind, the steps you take toward achieving that end goal always keeps you moving in a constant, correct direction.
Very rarely will someone begin an exercise program and be 100% injury or problem free. It just isn’t realistic. How you manage and correct those issues is the most important aspect. By taking the time to do things right from the start, you allow yourself a higher ceiling of potential. This sets you up for more progress in the future as well as avoiding in potential set back that may have come up. As you continue to put in the time and work, you will begin to learn about your body and how it moves, what feels correct, and what needs special attention. This is all part of the learning process, arguably the most important time in beginning an exercise program.
I recently finished working with a client over the past two months who wanted to increase muscle tone, decrease belly fat, and improve the overall shape of her lower body. In spite of having a muscle deficiency, we were able to attain each one of these goals. There are multiple reasons why we were able to do this. First, she made it clear what she wanted. She didn’t just say I want to be in better shape. Rather she set specific goals. Second, we both acknowledged that we needed to incorporate variations in the beginning and work to more challenging exercises in later weeks due to her specific condition. We were on the same page, as a team. We used the initial days and weeks as a learning process and built a foundation for future progress. Third, she put forth continued, constant effort while keeping her goals in mind. Now she has not only reached her personal goals, but also empowered herself by gaining the sense of accomplishment and that she can achieve her goals if she works towards them. Often times, as is in this case, reaching a goal only adds fuel to the fire to want to continue to improve. Today this client is doing weighted exercises for repetitions that she could not perform with just bodyweight only two months ago!
Aside from the unique situations some individuals may have, a more frequent hindrance in many adult’s training progress can be old injuries or wear and tear from prior sports, work, or daily life. Many times these individuals believe the best thing to do is work around their injury or pained areas…to avoid the problem in a sense. This represents a disconnect between the process and the goal. Exercise should always be viewed as a tool to get you to where you want to be. You want to be stronger, you train for strength. If you want to be faster, you train for speed and explosiveness. If you want to be pain free, you guessed it…you train all movements correctly, not avoiding anything. Movement is both the problem and the solution. Let me say that one more time…..movement is both the problem and the solution! What you do is not nearly as important as how you do it. Incorrect movement leads to quicker wear and tear and in extreme situations such as sport it can lead to immediate injury. The movement itself did not cause the issue, the way you performed the movement did. This may seem like a no brainer, but it certainly takes a trained eye and invested individual to perfect ideal movement. When someone begins an exercise program and has prior injuries, they should not limit themselves to what they can do. Rather, they should address the areas they lack in and work to perfect them. Once these areas have been managed and improved, continual progress can be expected.
When you begin an exercise program, the initial results can get you fired up and wanting more. But how do you continue to stay motivated throughout the weeks…months…years? In the beginning, extrinsic motivators such as looking better, seeing a smaller number on the scale, or heavier weights on the bar can be great to fuel your fire. Extrinsic motivators will likely fade in time. It is the intrinsic motivators keep you going. What are you really after. Intrinsic motivators include being able to play with your kids as they grow up, becoming better at your passion in either sport or work, living a long and healthy life, all things that do not change over time. These motivators remain whether you are having a bad day, the weather is crappy, or you are tired. This is why it is so important to begin with the end in mind. By having an idea or picture for yourself, your health, and your life in the future, you can constantly work towards it. Being able to enjoy the process rather than focusing on the product is a very important aspect to making long lasting improvements. Some days exercise will be therapeutic and invigorating. Other days it may be torturous and a painful process. Continuing to keep the end goal in mind will fuel each and every one of these days, ultimately increasing your results and decreasing your time to reach them.
If you are looking to make changes in your life through exercise and/or diet, then it is best to set specific goals. Your goals don’t have to be the same as someone else’s. Know what you are after, what motivates you, and work toward that goal each day. Begin with the end in mind, enjoy the process, and believe you will reach each and every one of your goals in time. You will find that by reaching your goals in the gym, you also will begin to reach your goals outside the gym as well. Taking control of your health and fitness is an empowering experience, one that carries over to all aspects of life.