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Goal Setting: Think "trajectory" rather than specifics.

Here's something I've been working on.



It’s not so much a “real graph” in that it’s not based on real data, so much as it is an illustration of a logical point. Now… for people about to come into the New Year with a resolution of achieving some sort of a goal via training and dieting over the course of the year… here’s something to think about.

The key word here is TRAJECTORY.

First up though let’s talk goals. Your goal is multifaceted as follows:
  • Weight: It’s not helpful or healthy to be too concerned with a very specific weight on the scales, but perhaps falling somewhere closer to / within a suitable athletic weight range is a part of it.
  • Body Fat %: For most people it is not necessary nor helpful to be too concerned with a very specific body fat % reading, however we’re likely to want to see an increase in lean mass as we adapt to training, aka body composition or as I like to refer to it “body condition”.
  • Performance: On an individual level depending on how competitive your nature is, you may have a specific performance / ability goal, or it may be enough just to see progress and improvements, and in simple terms be able to “do more” whether that is to run a greater distance, lift a bigger weight, or whatever.
  • Body Satisfaction: This is super important. We want to feel good about ourselves, how we’re performing and the changes in condition that we see as a result. What I always feel is the ultimate success is when a client has already gone beyond what they had previously thought was the limit of their potential, and knows exactly what they would need to do to go even further, but thinks something like “who gives a shit though, what I’ve already done is awesome enough and now i just want to enjoy training and fueling and feel good about myself instead of thinking ‘it’s still not enough it’ll never be enough’” you know what I mean?
  • Enjoyment: Training and eating is supposed to be enjoyable, right? Never lose sight of that.
So those are some/all of the things we might be interested in achieving via training in the New Year. Fast forward to this time next year, and we want to be looking back and saying “well, that was a successful year of training” where we made performance gains, improvements in condition, enjoyed ourselves and felt good about ourselves too.

For that to occur, what would need to happen between now and then?

It is easy to get sucked in to the idea that it would mean never missing a training session under any circumstances, strict dieting day in, day out, hitting our macro and energy targets consistently with the best choices of healthy foods.

Well… that all sounds great but in reality, it’s just not humanly possible. If you were really to chart a successful person’s attendance at training, adherence to the nutrition plan, motivation and enthusiasm levels and so on… in reality it might look more like the yellow line in my illustration… and in fact even this is probably overly optimistic. Some periods you do a little better, some periods you go off the boil a little, once in a while life’s not perfect and your ability to attend training suffers… but over all you do enough to keep you on that trajectory towards improved condition & all of those other goals.

People have to be realistic and they have to be for real, too. Writing these posts there’s always a danger of people choosing to interpret it like “cool, I can just do a half arsed job, not show up very often, not hit intake targets, and I’ll still make good progress because this guy says it can work like that”. No. You have to come into something with the intention to do the best you can, as consistently as you can… but being a realist you also accept that perfection isn’t possible and perfectionism isn’t helpful. What’s important here is that when you do have a rough period, you don’t convince yourself that it’s the end of the story and that you’ve failed. So long as you are genuinely doing what you can, when you can, you should expect to move closer to your goals even if the process is gradual.

So that’s it in a nutshell really. The goal that we set is to be on that trajectory that keeps us moving closer to and beyond our goal condition as described above. To keep moving in the right direction, via establishing and practicing habits that are sensible, sustainable, healthy and conducive to improvements in performance, condition and mindset.

What you can also see on this chart in the red is my illustration of the trajectory we’re likely to follow via yo-yoing on and off crash diets. As you can see, over the long term we only move further and further away from all aspects of our goal condition. Many people reading this will know this all too well from personal experience already.

If you want to get off that yo-yo dieting cycle and into effective training, appropriate fueling and a sensible and sustainable approach that will keep moving in the right direction towards all of your condition goals, you can register your interest in the next launch of my Online Flexible Fueling Program, via the survey to the right of your screen.

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The Progress Heirachy Pyramid.

Here’s a little animation I made to illustrate the hierarchy of importance of different elements and how when they are all stacked up together they lead to success in your training related goals.


Especially online, most people just like to debate, argue and bicker. When talking about what people need to do if they want to get into shape, lose weight, be healthy, or whatever… people will latch on to some idea that they read about, some thing that they personal found helpful, and make it out to be an all important necessity that everyone else seems to be missing because they’re just not quite smart enough to get it.

In reality these points are fine tuning at best, possibly beneficial if you have all of the more important bases covered already, but for new people looking to get started with a fitness goal or a healthier life style they only serve to over complicate things and take people’s focus away from what’s really important.

What’s really important is just simply establishing the habits of turning up to the gym and putting in your best effort, regularly. People like to throw around words like discipline, commitment, will power and so on, but enthusiasm is really what it takes to get people into training regularly and consistently, and to work to the best of their ability while they’re in there.

What people seem to miss is that you can’t guilt, shame, pressure or coerce someone into feeling enthusiastic. Sure, a lot of people will begrudgingly show up once in a while because people are on their back, making them feel bad about the shape they’re in, telling them they are lazy or whatever else. Consistently though? Is that sort of negative motivation likely to get people showing up regularly and really getting stuck into training? Absolutely not. People need to be enthusiastic. They need to actually want to train, want to see results, and have a good reason to believe that they will be successful.

As we talked about recently on facebook, when you consistently turn up and train enthusiastically to the best of your ability, the sky is the limit. Providing of course that you are actually working to an effective training and fueling strategy. This is the missing piece of the puzzle for most people, and it is the crucial foundation that everything else depends upon.

Many people will get enthusiastic, show up and try their best… but that enthusiasm soon wanes if they do not see progress in terms of their performance or condition. It goes without saying that turning up and putting in the effort is crucial, but how are we applying that effort? With an effective training strategy that we can expect to produce results, or is it just effort for effort’s sake? “burning calories” and so forth?

You require both an effective training strategy, and the appropriate fueling strategy in order to see the benefits of training. On the fueling side we are really just talking about getting enough, but not too much of everything that we require, including total energy aka calorie intake.

Being enthusiastic and actually turning up regularly to train with a good program, while appropriately fueled to perform, recover and adapt… you will see results. These results mean your performance improves, your condition improves, and you’re all the more inspired. Having so much momentum at this point, this is where fine tuning can come into things on an individual level, as you find what works best for you in terms of exercise selection, meal timing and frequency, choices of foods that make it easier to hit more precise macronutrient targets, and so on.

Again, these “fine tuning” items are really down to what makes it easiest and most enjoyable for each individual to stay enthusiastic and consistent. Too often people will take those personal, individual preferences and try to make them out as all anyone else needs to be focused on, when in actual fact they might be the least suitable, least convenient things for someone else that only makes them less enthusiastic and less consistent as they struggle to put it all together.

Bottom line: being enthusiastic about showing up regularly to train to the best of your ability with any decent training program and a suitable fueling strategy to meet your individual requirements will take you a hell of a long way.
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