Saturday, 23 July 2011

Set yourself realistic goals...

As a personal trainer I often have to spend time with clients setting tangible goals in order to make sure that we're working together, moving in the same direction and making progress towards where they want to be and not just training for the sake of training. I often find that some of this time is spent reigning in their unrealistic expectations.

Don't get me wrong, it's not just those that are new to the gym who may suffer from this; there are many people that should take a moment to think about their goals and whether or not they match up realistically to their exercise regime.

Here's a few examples...

"I want it yesterday"
In the past year, I've had plenty of people ask for help with things such as a "bikini body" a few weeks before their holiday or significant weight loss just weeks before their wedding. While it's possible to alter the body in just a few weeks, always ask yourself "How long has it taken to get out of shape?" The answer, most likely, if a number of years. Truthfully, it'll probably take you at least this time to get back into shape unless your diet an training both take a dramatic u-turn! Remember, health and fitness is a lifestyle, not a short-term effort.

"I want to look like him/her"
"Him" or "her" is usually a celebrity or a cover model. In which case, getting into shape like that has been their full-time focus in most instances. They've probably applied a lot of time, effort and money into looking this way. Taking advantage of things such as daily personal training sessions, dietitians, personal chefs, multiple training sessions each day day and professional medical and recovery assistance (physiotherapy, massage etc) takes both time and money and probably isn't arranged around a 9-5 job, unlike your gym sessions. Many celebrities have made extreme changes to their body through diet and exercise; but, it's hard to imagine the effort, time and dedication taken to do this. If it's not your full-time job it's probably best (in most cases) to aim your sites at something a little more attainable.

"I need to lose half of me"
I've had some outrageous requests from larger women looking to lose around 50% of their overall body weight, to already toned women suggesting "another stone (14lbs) would do". Either way, it's important to look at your current body make-up, from overall body weight, muscle mass and boy fat percentage before setting yourself any weight loss targets. I wouldn't advise setting the same targets as a friend unless you both have a very similar structure.

"A friend of mine did..."
Men and women alike can be very envious of their friends. Often seeing a friend get "in shape" and receive the accolades of friends and work colleagues is enough to spur other to improve themselves. This is great, but don't use your friends successes as a yard-stick for your own accomplishments for two main reasons. Firstly, your friend might be completely different to you in terms of their original body structure, metabolic rate, muscle mass etc. Therefore, the two of you are likely to react differently to the same exercise regime. The second reason being, some people can be very modest or understated about their successes in weight loss; often attributing it to reasons such as "I joined a gym" or "I started going running". The likelihood is, if they've had a significant change in a very short time they've done a great deal more than this, including a strict focus on their diet.

"I want to lift 'X'..." (following on from the above)
Wait a second. Just make sure that your strength goals are in line with your capabilities. Sure you may like to focus on one area, but don't expect huge strength gains week-on-week. It's a long old process this getting stronger thing. Also, make sure that you're not competing with people of a completely different body weight, the heavier of you should be lifting heavier weights in ratio to your weight difference. I.e: If you're 75kg and your training partner is 105kg and you're both using the same weights, your buddy needs to up their game!

"I'm going to come every day"
Even less realistic (which I've heard is) "Can I come twice in a day?" Yeah go for it... just not yet. If you've had a significant time away from the gym get back in to it a little slower than this. Your body will need longer to repair and if you're going to get anything from your initial gym visits, a lack of rest will negate all of your hard work. You'll be in so much discomfort while lacking results for all f your hard work and inevitably just become disgruntled with exercise and pack it in again. New Year's Resolution syndrome! Start with 2 visits per week initially and soon increase to 3, and then 4. Rome wasn't built in a day and nor will your perfect body be.

"Will protein shakes help?.."
To some degree "yes". But they are a supplement and should be used as just that. A way of supplementing an area of your diet which lacks (in this case, protein). They are NOT a solution nor a replacement for hard work and a good diet. Don't buy a tub of Whey protein and wonder why you don't look like the guy or girl on the front once it's finished. There are a LOT of brands available and many designed for different reasons; if you're unsure seek some professional help before purchasing.

"I used to..."
That's the only part of your sentence that's important. You "USED TO"... but you stopped or something stopped you, so we're starting again. Whenever I hear this, I tell people "I used to be able to put both of my feet in my mouth, but things change!"

Just because you've done it before, doesn't mean you can do it again. Sorry that sounds negative but your 6-pack as a 16 yer old might not get back to how it was now you're 46. Don't get disheartened by it, just move the goal posts a little and set yourself a more realistic goal.

We should all still train with purpose and set ourselves targets. Just perhaps, it's time to move the goal posts a little. If you're a 45 year old guy chasing your 6-pack from your teenage years, maybe just concentrate on cutting some body fat and building other areasof your upper body to compensate your new found body fat. If you're from an athletic background, don't aim to beat personal bests set years ago. Instead look to increase your current standard by a few percentage at a time.

I'm not saying that you should sell yourself short in terms of your exercise aspirations. In fact, almost the opposite. If you commit fully to it and give it your all, the human body is capable of almost ANYTHING!Go for it - reach for the stars! Just don't be surprised if you try your hardest and still fall at the clouds. Be proud of what you HAVE achieved!

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