T Nation

Your Opinion on Goals & Motivation

I just wanted to post something I’ve been thinking about lately, especially in light of what I hear in my introductory (and EXTREMELY elementary I might add) exercise science and health studies classes. Here goes:

Many people work out and “Eat right” to look good nekkid and/or enjoy the fitness benefits that come with physical training. So, if they are seeking the structural adaptations resulting from increased physical performance or increased physical workload, why don’t they use that as their game plan? It’s elementary psychology, you don’t make plans for things you can’t directly control; you set goals that are causes, not effects. So if you want an A in class you don’t just say “I’ll get an A”, you set goals like not skipping class or setting a study time goal. I believe Charles Staley talks about this in his books and newsletter. So, what I’m finally getting at is that people should train with physical performance goals in mind, even if their genuine motivation is health or appearance.

For example, if you are obese and unfit, give yourself six months to do a ten minute mile. If that turns out to be too easy or if you meet that goal then a nine minute mile is in order, and so on. When you get into the six to seven minute time scale for mile plus runs you?re probably not obese and certainly have a measure of fitness.

If you want big arms, instead of hammering away at the girl curls, try setting a close grip supinated pull up goal. I’ve never seen someone with wuss arms banging out heavy or numerous pull ups.

It may just be my disdain for pure aesthetic bodybuilding but it makes sense to me…

Building big muscles without a large strength increase is nearly impossible. I find it ridiculous that anyone even seperates the two to any degree worth speaking about. I don’t know many people who expect 20" arms while still curling 20lbs dumbbells. If those people exist, I suggest a small dose of reality. Yes, small goals should be set along the way, however, an overall goal needs to be set first. This reduces stagnation and promotes further progress.

What causes many people to see no progress is the “I just want to tone and get cut up” goal. It means nothing yet implies less work involved than someone who might say, “I want to get much stronger and possibly lean out around 220lbs”. The second person would have a clearer goal in mind and understand right off that it will require work over time and a hell of a lot of progress in food intake and weight lifted. You can’t have enough desire to keep you in this if you really don’t have an overall realistic long term goal.

Not only that, but moving away from the “I want to get cut and get big at the same time” mentality will lead to more progress in most. You can’t pull your body in two directions at once and expect the most progress over a certain amount of time. While beginners may see a fat decrease along with a gain in muscle, this is due to the body going from an untrained state to that of regular exercise. This doesn’t pan out long term for most.