Planning Your Fitness Goals

Pop quiz! Who said the following quotes? -Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a seed a long time ago.

-A goal without a plan is just a wish.

-Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

-Man does not plan to fail, he just fails to plan.

-Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.

The theme of the day (if you haven't guessed) is an often overlooked aspect of the fitness game: Planning. Coming up with a solid training program for long term success is a key component to reaching your goals.  Let's enlist the wisdom of some historical individuals to discuss the importance of planning for your fitness endeavors.

Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a seed a long time ago.

Answer: Warren Buffet

If fitness is your goal, understand that it is not an overnight pursuit. Developing a strong, fit, athletic body requires a ton of time and patience. If you haven’t started a training program yet, “plant the seed” now! The longer you delay starting on a training regimen, the longer it will take to reach your goals.

If you are a complete novice to training, get some help from a professional to put together a well thought-out plan individualized to your goals, your current levels of fitness, and any limitations you may have.

Those that are completely new to training can't just jump in to a program used by weight room veterans.  A necessary preliminary phase of "developmental" training must be administered to ensure that the trainee learns how to train.  During this phase the intensity will be low, the volume will be moderate, and the primary focus is to become proficient at the basic movement patterns.

A similar approach is often used for incoming freshmen in collegiate sports.  It cannot be assumed that they can just pick up a senior's lifting sheet and follow along.  During a developmental phase we will learn how to stabilize the spine, squat, hinge, press, and pull in multiple planes of motion.

This phase cannot be rushed.  It is always best to prolong a developmental phase and ensure that the trainee moves correctly before bumping up the intensity or volume.  Don't be too hasty to rush into heavier weights before proper movement patterns are completely ingrained.  The consequences may be severe.

A goal without a plan is just a wish.

Answer: Antoine de Saint-Expurey

What’s your goal? Do you want to be big and strong? Do you want to lose weight? Improve body composition? Destroy your opponents this coming season?

Define and specify your goal, and draw a road map of how you’re going to make it happen. You’re going to have to answer several questions, including but not limited to:

-How many days a week can/will you train? -Which exercises will help you toward your goal? -Which exercises can you do safely? -How will you track progress? -How many weeks/months/years do you have?

Write out your plan of attack and visualize the process toward your goal.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

Answer: Abraham Lincoln, CSCS

My man Abe was obviously using this next-level metaphor to allude to the importance of taking the necessary amount of time to build the foundation and base for your fitness goals.

Often labeled “accumulation” stages of training, these initial stages of the training cycle utilize higher volumes and lower intensities, typically in the 50-75% ranges of your 1 rep maximum. These phases have been successfully used to improve work capacity, cardiovascular endurance, ability to recover, hypertrophy, and mobility.

Although these accumulation phases do not employ the use of super heavy weights, these phases “sharpen the axe” so to speak, and make your next stages of training more efficient.

Man does not plan to fail, he just fails to plan.

Answer: Frederick Douglas

Freddy D hits us with the truth with this one. Maybe summer came too early and you aren’t as ripped as you wanted to be. In fact you’re not ripped at all. Were you training consistently year round? Did you eat right even during the wintertime when abs are overrated?

Or maybe you expected to come into the next sports season stronger with some more size, but you show up on the first day underweight. Did you take advantage of the off-season to beef up and train hard?

You should always be thinking ahead in terms of preparation.  If you want to improve performance for the next season, understand that the off-season starts the day after your last game or meet.  Spend those precious weeks wisely.

Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.

Answer: Iron Mike Tyson

Plan on being flexible! Things will not always go “according to plan” and there will be sudden obstacles that you will have to face. You might get sidelined with the flu, or you might need to take a two-week business trip in the middle of your training cycle. You might even get injured. It happens, and you have to be able to work around it and adjust your plan. Stay calm and continue working towards greatness.

Bonus Link

For a very in-depth overview of detailed planning, check out this legendary two-part series by Dave Tate.

The Periodization Bible