So what are you goals? When it comes to goals, I think everyone should have four specific goals. Now, if you are training to set a world record, then you can stop reading - you are the exception. However, I believe everyone else should have these four training goals:
Goal # 1: Health
Health is one of those things that we often take for granted - until we don't have it anymore. Once it is gone, we realize that health is the foundation of everything we do with our bodies. Your training (along with your nutrition and lifestyle habits) should be helping, not hurting your health. If you were to go to your doctor today and get a complete physical and then come back a year later, your health should be just as good or better a year from now. Also, how about your joints? Are you getting more beat up year after year?
Now, where does sport fit into this? The key thing to remember is that elite sport is not healthy. If you have the chance to compete at the elite level and choose to do so, I respect your decision. However, you need to accept that there will be health consequences to your decision. The farther you take elite sport, the bigger the price you pay.
Goal # 2: Performance
Now in the context of athletics, this is pretty straight forward. No matter how cool your training program looks on paper or how sore you feel after the session is over, if it is not improving relevant performance tests (e.g. vertical jump, 10 meter sprint, etc.), then your training is off track.
Outside of athletics, too many people forget about performance. "I just want to be healthy" some people say. Well, part of health and wellness if being able to meet your daily demands with ease and have plenty of energy left over when the day is done. Proper training can help with this. Also, your training prepare you for emergencies such as slipping, sprinting to help someone or avoid danger, picking someone up and if need be defending yourself. Is your training preparing you for this?
Others will scoff at performance and say, "hey, I just want to look good naked." Even if your purpose for training is purely aesthetic, seeing improvement in your gym numbers will translate into improvements you notice when you pull out the tape measure or see a photo of yourself. Want a shapely butt - improve your deadlift. Want bigger biceps - get better at chin-ups.
Goal # 3: Body Composition
Your training should be helping you lose body fat or maintain a healthy body fat level. This has huge implications for your health and performance.
In addition to body fat levels, the other important and often over-looked aspect of body composition is the amount of lean muscle you have. Your training should be helping you build or maintain a good level of lean muscle. Too many people make the mistake of thinking that gaining muscle is just for athletes and those trying to look jacked at the beach. Building and maintaining lean muscle is important for your health. Being under-weight by BMI (body mass index) standards is a health risk. In addition, lean muscle peaks in your early 20's and it is all down hill from there (I know, how encouraging). Your training should be at least maintaining this lean muscle as you age. Preventing what is commonly mistaken for age-related muscle loss will help keep your metabolism up and this helps keep your body fat levels down. Muscle also provides strength and functional independence. In addition, should you have a serious health problem, it will give you something to fight with (frail, elderly people often pass away rather quickly in the event of a health problem).
Goal # 4: Longevity
The fourth and final goal is longevity. Again, I respect those who choose to push their bodies to the limit, achieve their dreams and re-write the history books. However, most elite athletes are a beat-up mess after their athletic careers are over. For those of us who are not going to be seen on ESPN, an important training goal is longevity. Seek to enjoy a high level of fitness throughout your entire adult life. This involves being smart enough in your training today so you can still train hard tomorrow and for many years to come. There is a lot to longevity so stay tuned for a future post on this with more specific information and ideas.
If you are doing well and working towards or maintaining these goals, congratulations! If not, you now have something 4 specific targets to shoot for. Be sure to explore this site for tons of free information on training and stay tuned for more information to come!