Monday, June 3, 2013

5 Ways to Avoid Plateaus and Reach Your Fitness Goals

Imagine what a few weeks can do!
Many times when I am discussing goals with clients (or everyone else who hears that I'm a personal trainer and decides to tell me their fitness life story), I tend to hear very general terms being used to describe success. Let's cram it all into one so I don't get so annoyed, shall we?

"Well, I want to lose some fat and get fit."
"How do I cut out all the bad foods and eat healthy?"
"I want to get in better shape and get stronger."

I instantly want to throw them in front of the freight train of specificity. Do you know how much fat you want to lose? Do you know how much fat you currently have on you? What is being fit to you? What are "bad foods"? What is eating "healthy?" To steal a line from my boss, what kind of shape do you want to get in? Square? Circle? Triangle?

Somewhere along the journey of the pursuit of health and fitness, most of us have become victims of generalized goals. That, my friends, can be a very bad thing. If your ultimate goal is some ambiguous concept, how will you ever know how close you are to achieving it? Playing it by ear only goes so far until you're stuck in a puddle of uncertainty. Your workouts become just that - workouts, whimsically formed (or formed for you if you take an exercise class) because you feel extra fat that day or had that extra glass of wine over the weekend.

Goals should be S.M.A.R.T.; Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Realistic. Timely. For the purpose of this post, we'll focus on the first two. Knowing exactly what you are shooting for prevents you from missing the mark every time. Here are some tips to steer you in the right direction:

Write it down on paper. Scribble down what fitness and health mean to you. How do you want to feel? What are you going to do with this health? Who are you doing it for? What's your motivation (very important for when motivation is escaping you)?

Get a visual.
I tell all of my personal training clients who want to change their body composition to find a picture of what they would look like if failure was not an option, print it off and bring it to me. It allows them to dream, it gives me an idea of what exactly it is they want, but most importantly it puts something tangible in front of them. They now have a visual target that they can work towards. Use Pinterest and the like to build your own motivational board.

Establish a baseline. If it's fat loss, get circumference measurements and your bodyfat taken. If it's strength, find your 1 or 3 or 5 rep max of an exercise. If it's mobility, use the FMS as a standard for your movement quality improvements. Time your workouts so you can beat them later. No matter what your goals are, you need a self-imposed standard by which you can judge your success.

Make incremental checkups. No brainer, but it's insane how many people don't check to see how well they're doing. Take progress pictures every few weeks. Do yourself a favor and get retested in all of the aforementioned, according to your goals. Not only can it provide inherent motivation by seeing yourself get closer to your goals, it can also let you know if something is wrong, and that allows you to make necessary adjustments.

Tell somebody about it. Be careful that you don't tell someone who will shoot your goals down, but it's important to establish accountability. That individual (or group) should be trustworthy, positive, blunt, and able to verbally ream you out should you contemplate giving up. Who knows, that person might even become your workout partner!

The best part about stetting goals is that they're yours. YOU get to define them however the heck you please; just make sure that you actually have something to aim at. Good luck!