Many of you recently engaged in the bizarre social practice known as “making New Years’ Resolutions.” A lot of those resolutions were probably fitness-related. This practice, when not occurring in conjunction with the beginning of a new calendar, is also known merely as “making goals” for oneself.
Having goals is an extremely important part of going to the gym or doing workout-type endeavors. Without a goal, you’re just zoning out on the elliptical with no point or purpose, doomed to a monotonous eternity of pedaling. A workout becomes a tiresome, boring chore without a goal, because you cannot see what you’ve achieved, if anything. You have nothing to be proud of, nothing to reward yourself for. All you have is a vague sense of duty and a sweaty asscrack.
Ultimately, goals should be as specific as possible. But before you get down to the nitty gritty, you must have an understanding of why you are working out in the first place. You need a more overarching goal that will thread through your workouts. There are many possibilities for such a goal. I’ll give you what I consider to be my 3 main goals.
1) Look better.
I think it is okay to have this as a goal. It just might not be good for it to be your ONLY goal. Everyone cares at least a little bit what they look like. If you could choose to have a flat stomach or not to have a flat stomach, most of us would choose a flat stomach. I encourage you to pick aesthetics-based goals, as long as they correspond to other goals that aren’t based on how you look. And no self-loathing has to be a part of this. For instance, I want to bulk up my biceps and get a rounder ass. Done. If your goals are starting to look like a suicide note, abort mission. Try not to concentrate on how much you hate parts of yourself. Instead, focus on how you love and respect yourself and want your body to show it.
2) Become stronger.
Strength is a huge motivator for me, both physical and mental, and I think the two often go hand-in-hand. When I was in high school and could barely open a jar of pickles, it’s not like I cried myself to sleep every night obsessing over my muscular insecurities. But as soon as I started working out and seeing changes, I felt far more confident. If I can bench press a healthy 6-year-old, what’s to stop me from pushing away someone who is making unwanted advances on me? Or picking up my dog and taking him to the vet? Or helping my neighbor move their couch? Developed strength opens up a whole world of freedom for me, which is why I like to make it one of my goals.
3) Gain more control over my body.
Sadly, many women these days feel the need to achieve this goal through starving themselves. And it’s hard to blame them when the desire for control can be so pressing for a woman. Lots of times, in everyday life, we feel out of control. We get paid less. It is harder for us to gain positions of power. Our wombs rebel against us every month. It’s easy to feel like it’s a man’s world and we’re just living in it. But when I’m at that squat rack, pushing a new personal best and feeling strong, I think to myself, who run the world? That’s right, squirrels. I mean, girls.
Once you’ve laid out your more general workout goals, it’s time to get really specific. These are the kind of goals you probably won’t be able to lay out unless you’ve already spent a little time in the gym and learned what you are and are not capable of. Often, they will come in short-term form and long term form. (If you want. I always like to emphasize that there ain’t no right and wrong way to do this, there’s just my way and other people’s ways.) A short-term goal should be something you can achieve within the next few weeks. A long-term goal should be something it might take months or even years to achieve. Don’t think of the long-term goal as a finish line, though; once you’ve achieved a long-term goal, it’s time to make a new goal so you can keep improving! Here are some example of specific goals:
Short term: Squat half my bodyweight. I am squatting 55 pounds and I weight 120, so this should be something I can achieve within my next two or three gym visits.
Long term: Squat my whole bodyweight. I haven’t been squatting for very long, so this is something I’m really going to have to work at over the next 6 months or so to achieve.
Short term: Do one really good assisted pullup with only 30 pounds subtracted from my bodyweight.
Long term: Do one really good pullup without any assistance at all.
Short term: Shave off a few seconds so I’m running a ten-minute mile.
Long term: Run a nine-minute mile.
As you can see, goal setting doesn’t always have to be about weight lifted or pounds dropped. The most important thing is to set goals that matter to you. If every other lady at your gym can do ten pushups, but you can only do five, that doesn’t mean your goal should be to do ten pushups. Quit comparing yourself to them. You’re not them. You’re you. And thank God, because they look perfect now, but who knows what kind of dark secrets lurk in their pasts?
It is also important for goals to be realistic. You’ll notice above that my short-term goal is to run a ten-minute mile. If a genie popped out of my shampoo bottle tomorrow and gave me unlimited wishes, would I wish to be able to run a six-minute mile? Of course I would, among other things. But trying to run a six-minute mile tomorrow would probably make my heart explode in my chest. I’m just not there yet. In fact, I run like a porpoise in high heels. And setting that goal for myself would make the desire to get out of bed tomorrow and flail around my neighborhood nigh-nonexistent. Instead, I set a goal that I know I can achieve if I just push myself a little farther. And you can too! Maybe someday we will all have genies popping out of our shampoo bottles and granting our every wish. Till then, we’re going to have to rely on our goals and our own willpower to get us the things we want.