What’s your intent?
Do you come into the gym with a purpose, or are you just showing up and going through the motions? If you have a program (whether it’s a program you find on your own, or a program that someone else has given to you) then you should have a goal and daily intentions to help get you there. If you don’t have a goal or plan but somewhere you want to be health/fitness/wellness-wise or even if you simply use the gym as a stress release “me” time – without intent there’s a good chance you’re cutting yourself short, but this post will help you out. I’ll discuss why having goals & intentions are important and give you guidance on how to execute through a series of questions that you’ll need to ask yourself.
What’s your destination?
This is the first question you should be asking yourself. Before getting into the nitty-gritty details you need to know what motivated you to do this in the first place. Do you want to get stronger? Faster? Be better at your sport? Simply just look better naked? No matter what your answer is – this first step is key to figuring out how to begin your plan and approach your program, but even more importantly is whatever program you choose the RIGHT one for you? Most importantly – is your program and/or goal something that you enjoy or have fun doing? If not, what the f*ck are you doing?! It’s okay to be frustrated with things you love and enjoy, but if what you’re doing makes you miserable day in and day out you should probably go find something else, silly.
Once you’ve answered that, it’s time to get a little more specific. How long is your program – is it an infinite cycle or is it a couple of months? (Hint – if it’s only a couple of weeks I hope you’re ready for the possibility of it being all for naught. Easy come, easy go.) Where do you expect to be at the end of your program? Do you want to have a stronger squat, lose 15 pounds, gain five pounds of lean muscle, beat your current 10k time by 10 minutes, have a six-pack, or get ranked a few places higher in your sport? Be as specific and realistic as possible here. The more precise you are in figuring out where you want to be, the better you’re able to plan for the journey. By narrowing your general goal to something specific you’ve given yourself an exact destination – a specific address that you can map directions to instead of MAYBE getting to the city where you were trying to get and then being completely lost.
How are you going to get there?
Next, you’ll want to map out your path. While your program should at least give you the general direction in which you want to head (even better if it’s a little more detailed) you should map out checkpoints along the way. Personally, I would stay away from week-to-week goals. You want to make sure you’re on the right highway, but you don’t need to revisit the directions after every mile marker. No need to make yourself neurotic about it. After each checkpoint you should reassess your path and destination, but on a general level rather than specific.
- Do you have a support system that you can count on and can help hold you accountable?
- It’s a good idea to make your goals known. It can be a family member, friend, coach, co-worker, or anyone who you can lean on for support.
- Choose people who know you well and will be brutally honest about your goals, efforts, and progress. It’s easy to slack or give up when nobody is watching and there’s nobody to ask you about your progress.
- Where do you expect to be after the first month? Second? Third?
- Expect, not hope. It’s okay if you fall short of those expectations, but goals don’t get accomplished on hopes and prayers alone.
- Again, be as specific and realistic as possible.
- If you realize you’ve FAR overshot or undershot your destination it’s time to figure some things out. Sometimes you have to take a step back to take two steps forward. If this is the case, go back and ask yourself the questions about how you’re going to get to your destination in relation to where you’re at right now.
- If you’re slightly over/under your checkpoint that’s fine – the most important thing at this point is to TRUST the program and stick to it because it’s working!
Didn’t you say something about daily intentions?
Now that we have all of these things plotted out, it’s time for the last step. Figure out the day-to-day. You shouldn’t be worrying about your progress, where you need to be by your next checkpoint, or how you’re EVER going to get to your destination on a daily basis. Your plan and your program should take care of this for you. What you should be doing, however, is having daily intent for each workout. The following is a list of questions you should be asking yourself before every single workout. I find that it helps to answer these questions relatively close to the workout, answer them in self talk, and even write down my answers. Sometimes I write them in my workout log, sometimes I write them on a piece of paper or post-it so I can have it right in front of me during my workout as a reminder, but no matter what I always use this as a pre-workout meditation/daily mantra. Your answers should be simple and short enough that you can remember them or write them down on a small piece of paper and revisit them through your workout if you feel necessary. Without further ado:
- Why am I here today?
- This doesn’t necessarily have to be about your workout. Just something to help keep you focused or put things in perspective.
- What do I hope to accomplish?
- Use your program here to help guide you to your answer. If you have a coach that is writing the program for you – ask him/her. They’ll have some insight that may help you understand what their goal of the workout is for you. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself here. Remember, this is just to help you stay focused and put things in perspective.
- How can I make this a fun/good learning experience?
- Learning things is awesome. Learning about yourself is awesome. Fun is awesome. Figure it out, and enjoy the ride.