4 Steps Towards Attainable Goal Setting
It’s scumbag season, folks!
Detox teas, magical powders, products blowing up your IG feed. They’re coming. Nutritional cleanse predators hit the dark corners and back alleys. Boutique “studios” aiming to sell you a 14 day fat loss plan. What do all of these nice folks have in common? All of them are promising you results faster than you can say, “I want a refund”.
If get-rich-quick is your desire, we have bad news for you. We aren’t in that business. Why? Because what takes a while to achieve takes a while to undo. What takes a while ends up creating personal habit, not resolution fad. What takes a while re-wires your work ethic and you begin to look forward to fitness, not dread it.
Habits > Outcomes.
Until you enjoy the act of being fit, you will never adopt it.
Heading into this resolution season you should understand that there is no such thing as losing eight fat pounds in eight days (unless you are categorized as ‘obese’). It’s mostly water. Anything that promises and creates rapid weight reduction is indisputably a combination of water, glycogen some fat, and worse yet – some muscle. You may have subtracted inches but you don’t get leaner, and remember that lean muscle is everything. When we burn off muscle we slow our basal metabolic rate, so we are actually priming ourselves to get fatter.
Your body does not metabolize pounds of fat that quickly, so we encourage you to run like the wind away from those tactics.
Alright, now that we’ve shamed the shortcut strategists, let’s be helpful. Regardless of where you are along the fitness curve, most of us set goals for ourselves in the New Year. We’re all #basicbitches at the end of the day and we encourage the hell out of your basicness. The key is setting yourself up for reasonable expectation so that you don’t bail at first sight of an unrealistic outcome.
We like to think of four stages of goal planning and strategic initiatives.
- Baseline Establishment (a few weeks): Setting the foundation of productive habits.
- Initial Progress (a few more weeks): Seeing those habits produce a small result.
- Major Progress (a few months): Seeing those habits produce a big result.
- Lifestyle Change (a few more months): Where healthy nutrition and fitness habits are no longer something you strive for, but live.
“I just want to drop my COVID weight.” That’s one that we’ve heard a lot over the past year as there is no doubt that the isolating anxiety of the pandemic has seriously fucked with a lot our habits. Glass of wine every night? Yes please. Hit that Uber Eats button instead of the stove button? Yes please. Losing excess body fat brought on by the past few years is an excellent goal as you step into 2022. We just use that as an example since it is a common one, but say your goal is to PR all of your lifts, add ten pounds of muscle, do your first pull-up…whatever.
They key is understanding that a dramatic adjustment in lifestyle behavior is not going to fully take in the first few weeks if you’re deploying a pedal to the metal strategy. You have to be patient and understand that a fitter version of yourself is going to come in bits and pieces based around steadily improved unsexy habits, not dramatic actions.
1. Baseline Establishment
In your first few weeks, it’s critical that your goal be strictly observing and logging your daily habits. That’s it. You are forbidden to care at all about your results in this time frame. For example, at this stage you would sit down on Sunday night, grab a notebook and jot down the following.
- Go to the gym two to three times this week. Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
- Track all of my meals every single day. Monitor what I am eating so I can make improvements off of that.
The key focus in this stage is in, as Coach Ashley puts it, sending your bad habits to boot camp. And the only way you can do that is to create self awareness around what limits you.
By committing to exercise three times per week you have room to adjust your schedule should you happen to miss a day. You have a “failure grace”, a very important mental component of establishing your baseline. If you set the goal at five days and missed two, then you would feel as if you were failing towards your goal rather than hitting them, and that is quite literally the last thing that we want for you.
We want you to feel as if you are hitting check boxes along the way. Creating habits.
Additionally, by simply tracking your food intake you are not putting the pressure to follow healthy dieting, just gathering an idea of when you eat and what you’re eating so you can see areas you need to improve.
- Am I eating breakfast?
- Am I eating protein at every meal?
- What is the actual content of the food I consume?
- How much wine do I really drink?
- Are my weekends a gigantic, five alarm train wreck?
Plus, a wonderful thing happens when you log what you eat, and that is, you tend to eat a lot less crap. Trying going into your food logging app and typing, “7-Eleven Apple Fritter”. You’ll want to do it a lot less. If you are strength or performance focused, in this time frame you should simply be focused on logging your lifts. Until you write everything down, it’s impossible to project and quantify changes you’re going to make. You must establish a baseline, and that is all this time period entails.
2. Initial Progress
This is the exciting part where your habits start to produce some results! You’re down four to five pounds of fat over your first month. Your lean muscle is starting to become more noticeable. Those Lulu leggings that no longer feel great on your start to fit better. You’ve now had the chance to see what’s going into your body for a full 30 days or so, you’ve seen how your body is adjusting to whatever training protocol you are on, and everything is becoming mentally organized for yourself.
Your short-term strategic initiatives could now look similar to this.
- Go to the gym three to four times per week.
- Go grocery shopping for one-week supplies at a time.
- Plan and cook meals on Sunday for the following week.
You’re now starting to take the ambiguity around subjective tracking, and you are beginning to focus on real objective actions and data. You are no longer answering questions, but taking actions. It’s very important to understand that if your goal is a weight loss one, that weight will come off at extremely varied paces for different people. Realize that the human body is not an exact science. Everyone is different.
Disappointment with a great start of a few pounds of fat loss, or a few pounds on the barbell, that you deem marginal because you only view goals on the large scale is what we’re trying to avoid.
Expect and celebrate the small progress you will begin to make around that 30 day mark.
3. Major Progress
Phase three is the time to truly assess where you are with your goal and adjust accordingly. Typically around 8-12 weeks. By now it’s reasonable to expect very noticeable progress. Up to this point, you have started to see some very good results for yourself if you’re following this approach and staying diligent with your habits. Routine should be on its way to the norm and you should no longer feel as if you are “dieting”, or struggling to lift an extra few pounds on your lifts.
If you are behind where you think you should be, then examine your diet and ask yourself where you can improve. Keep in mind, the initial weight comes off at a much faster rate than the final amount of desired weight. The Law of Diminishing Returns kicks in after a while and you have to work smarter rather than harder. If your progress has stagnated or your results have reached a plateau then chances are you can make little adjustments that can get you going again.
The most common mistake at this time? Seeing weight loss stall and thinking that the answer to breaking a plateau is to cut even more calories. Seeing strength stall and thinking the answer is to lift more often. Do not make this mistake.
The real strategy here is to stay the course with very minor tweaks in your plan that can be easily discussed in a few minutes with your coach.
4. Lifestyle Change
Everyone is different and we are not here to promise or even suggest timelines. After all, we have no clue what you’re pursuing. But more often than not, a funny thing occurs along the way towards any goal.
You sort of begin to not care about your initial goal.
You likely begin to get very into how your body can perform. You care less and less about what the physique numbers say to you and more about your physicality. Your initial goal seems like a silly, distant memory. You’ll notice that you have gradually and unmistakably had a paradigm shift with how you view diet and nutrition. You begin to realize that you are not “restricting” foods so much as you are avoiding calories that serve you no purpose. You’ll begin to understand the concept of fueling yourself rather than eating for pleasure and you’ll no longer have the constant cravings you once did.
And to get all philosophical, but when you begin to disassociate from “goals” and adopt a true lifestyle…THIS is when your progress will be most dramatic.
At the end of the day, it’s 100% completely, totally, utterly about your habits.