Thursday, December 18, 2014

Gillian Ward - Goal setting myths and realities

As a fitness industry professional most people seek out my guidance, knowledge, and hands on coaching with the hope that I can provide the tools and motivation to help them make their goals a reality.  Essentially they are making an investment with a “wish” coming to fruition.  These goals run the gamut from lowering blood pressure and improving bone density, to losing 30lbs or squatting 500.

Most of the goals could be summed up by saying that people want to look better, feel better, and be more capable.

As a coach it is my responsibility to manage the expectations of my clients (if I want to keep them). The most critical aspect of this is to take an honest look at how realistic the goal is by examining limitations of the client, and the effort they are willing to put forth.

It is as simple as saying that you get out what you put in.

I remember a coach that I admire greatly, Mark Rippetoe, once saying something along the lines that people with great builds did not get that way by accident – a great amount of discomfort went into creating that form. People like that are “generally uncomfortable” a great deal of the time. You can interpret that as you wish but my interpretations is that those people have been willing to suffer when it comes to diet and training in a manner that most could not comprehend.

Women, and the myth of “bulk” - 

The most obvious misconception out there is that weight training; specifically heavy weight training makes women bulky.

99% of the time this is a fallacy; one cannot become bulky without a caloric surplus under any training conditions.  Additionally, women do not have the hormonal profile to gain large amounts of muscle mass easily.  Not wanting to get “bulky” is one of the biggest excuses in the book. I hear that statement as “I do not want to work hard”.

This brings me to the point of the article - examining goal setting so that we can be successful.

Goal setting steps - 

When I do interviews with clients, I ask them to write down their goals on any order. I ask for short term goals that I consider to be 3 months or less, mid-tem goals for the next year, and long term goals which are things they desire to accomplish or dream of in this lifetime.  I have them focus more attention on the short term but the long-term stuff allows me to have insight into what drives them and where they place value. I tell them that the goals can be anything they want – aesthetic, performance, weight loss, etc.

Next I make them work a little bit and ask them to quantify their goals so that we can track measurable data. For instance, if the goal is upper body strength, the quantifiable goal may be to do a strict pull-up and 10 push-ups within 12 weeks.  Lastly I ask them to prioritize their goals in numerical order from most to least important. This is where I have to break it to people that they can’t get “huge and ripped” at the same time.  Typically I give people a week for this assignment.

Next, it’s time for a sit-down chat. I have the client make a list of the obstacles that get in the way of reaching the goals. This can be things like work schedule, travel, family responsibilities, finances (budget for food, gym fees, coaching, etc).

Here’s a scenario - a 42 year old over-weight male client comes to me and wants to “have a 6 pack” before a spring break trip in three months but works nights (hardly sleeps), has 3 small children at home with limited childcare resources, and has an achilles injury which limits weight bearing activity. Additionally, his wife does not want him spending time at the gym.  He eats mostly fast food and is unwilling to touch a fruit or vegetable.  How likely is it that he will succeed at reaching his goal? The question becomes how much can he or how much is he willing to give up in other areas of life? What can be changed and what can’t?  He’s still going to work nights, still has three kids, and still has an Achilles injury.  Maybe he’s willing to give up the fast food and broaden his palate to healthy selections? Maybe his wife will come around?

Only this client knows what he is willing and able to do. Only he can answer the above questions honestly. This is where I explain to him that there is no magic pill and his results will correlate exactly with his ability to adhere to the program – his effort, his preparation, and his dogged consistency.  People don’t want to hear this and may decide not to hire me but I tell it like it is –

1. Great athletes are not born, they are made. Yes, there is genetic potential but it must be honed and cultivated. Skills must be learned and practiced thousands of time.
2. If you are not willing able to follow the program, you will not get the results that you are seeking
3. “Bulky” does not happen by accident. If by “bulky” you mean fat, you ate too much. Putting on muscle takes hard work and not everyone is cut out for it.
4. If you want to be super lean you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Sustained low levels of bodyfat take enormous discipline, effort, and a general overall discomfort. Additionally, social situations can be difficult as food is an enormous part of our culture.
5. Getting “huge” is very uncomfortable too – it is expensive, time consuming, extremely difficult, and may not be the healthiest thing for you. This too does not happen by accident or by following a workout plan in a magazine and drinking some weight gainer.
6. If you are driven enough to pursue your goal, you will sacrifice in other areas of your life. Some damage and or neglect in other areas cannot be reversed.

At this point most people have glazed over and just stare at me. Now it is time for the honest talk. I ask them to re-evaluate their goals based on their lifestyle and what is realistic and achievable for them. This is not a judgment of their efforts or character. It is purely a way to set individualized, realistic, achievable goals with all of the cards on the table. It is a method of encouraging people to examine their priorities. There is no correct answer.  I for one am guilty of having tunnel vision when setting a goal. I have allowed my single-minded drive to accomplish a feat to come in the way of other areas of my life including personal relationships and professional growth. I do not condemn or condone this, it is merely an observation that we are individuals and prioritize in our own way.

At the end of the discussion the client leaves my office with a new set of goals. A set of goals that matches what they are willing and capable of putting forth. These goals provide structure and direction, which are necessary for long term adherence and satisfaction.  Additionally, these goals then become more than wishes because they are achievable.

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