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

Random Thoughts: Facing Challenges and Gallagher

I have two random thoughts for the day.  The first is just about the positive changes going on with SAPT and its crew and the lesson you can take away from it.  The second is a training update from… MY GIRLFRIEND!  

SAPT and its employees have been going through quite the change as of late, and it’s been all for the better.  Sarah had a handsome little boy Duke while simultaneously working as a full time strength coach at a D1 university AND running a full time business.  Kelsey has become fully adjusted to her job(s) at SAPT in terms of coaching and also dealing with current clients, potential clients, new contracts, old contracts, answering a million emails a day, defeating Voldemort, etc. all while swinging a kettle bell.  Most people wouldn’t be able to handle ONE of Sarah or Kelsey’s jobs; they manage to do it all.  Stevo’s still taking over the world one book, one cue, one article, one program at a time, in his quest to become the best strength coach in the industry and trust me, he’s closer than you think. And just when you think he can’t do his job any better he somehow proves you wrong.  In the immortal words of Sir Ludacris, he’s coming for that number one spot!

Then there’s me.  The past couple of months have been eye opening for me to say the least and it’s a great feeling to know that SAPT has become my home with a family I love dearly.  I’m in the midst of coming into my own with my own discernible differences from my peers in my personal life, coaching style, and even business. It’s truly calming when you realize what is truly important in your life. These are all huge, awesome changes and we’ve done all this while moving facilities.  These are the times when you find out what you and your team are made of.  Do you see a challenge, look at it in the eye and run away? Or do you stand toe-to-toe and GO GALLAGHER ON IT AND SMASH IT WITH A SLEDGEHAMMER!  That’s really my point of telling you all this.  You, your friends, your family, your business, your schooling, YOUR TRAINING; it will all be presented with change and challenges.  It is how you confront and tackle those changes and challenges that will define you as a person.  I always talk about being average and this goes hand in hand with that; the average person will become consumed and beaten down by changes and challenges.  The above average person will get up, dust themselves off and go Gallagher on it….

My last random thought is in the form of a training update, not from I, but from my girlfriend Shannon.  Since we started dating she has been incredibly supportive and has now shown interest in moving weight (either that or she just wants me to stop bugging her).  Nonetheless, I am extremely proud of her quick improvements in confidence and strength.  I recently had her start Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength as I believe novice, intermediate, and even advanced lifters can stand to benefit from its simplicity and concepts (I recently started this program as well).  Shannon has already seen great strength gains as well as a huge refinement of technique as Starting Strength exposes her to the same barbell movements multiple times per week. Plus, I told her if she lifted consistently for 3 weeks I would take her to see Magic Mike in 3-D.  As I said before I am extremely proud of all of her improvements and hard work as well as her commitment and consistency.  The video below is a clip from one of her recent squat sessions.  Look at that technique! She must have a good coach.

What's Different About Your Training?

Do you remember the good ol’ days when you used to wake up and be excited to train?  The times when setting a new PR was as satisfying as waking up on Christmas morning.  I certainly do, sadly there will come a time when life gets in the way and your training sessions won’t be as awesome as they once were.  Sometime last week after yet another lack luster training session of mine I sat down for about 30 minutes and thought about my training since my last meet.  My training frequency has stayed the same (four days a week) yet each session seems progressively lazier, as if my head just isn’t in it.  So I’m sitting there thinking what’s different, what is different now compared to a few months ago? So I made a list of the things that are different in my everyday routine that could potentially be causing my sessions to be as awful as watching a Keeping Up with the Kardashian’s marathon.

    1.  No Training Partner: All 3 of my previous training partners are off doing internships with their respected teams University of Maryland, University of Minnesota, and the New York Jets.  My training partners kept me on track and pushed me which made training fun.  We were able to give each other feedback and make fun of each other which always led to good sessions.  But I haven’t always had training partners and my training was still productive so what was different then? Music
    2. Music: It’s clear that if I don’t have a training partner I need to bring back the old days and put the ear-buds in and zone out.  I need to be focused on the task at hand and I clearly can’t be trusted to do that when people who are not my training partners are around.  They just become an unneeded distraction, not intentionally, just happens.  Listening to music on my iPod will block out all the distraction, get me jacked up, and allow me to focus on the task.
    3. AM Training: For as long as I can remember I trained in the morning before I did anything else.  It wasn’t until recently that I started training in the afternoon.  And looking back on the situation I am much better suited to train in the morning.  It sets the pace for my day.  It clears my head and it allows me to take my time rather than rush to get in a workout.  I also work better if I get my training out of the way early, I can just focus on work after instead of worrying about getting my training in.
    4. Food:  Recently my nutrition has taken a back seat, out of pure laziness than anything else.  My mentality used to be eat to train.  I would eat 5 meals a day and I would feel awesome during training sessions.  Lately I have been skipping breakfast, A- because I have been lazy and B- because of dumb people in the fitness industry, but more on that in my next point.  It’s definitely time to get back to my old eating habits.  I AM THE PEANUT BUTTER KING!
  1. Fitness Professionals: Even a professional strength coach like me can still fall victim to fitness propaganda.  You’re probably asking what do other fitness professionals have to do with your training. That’s a good question, and the answer is a lot more than I should have allowed.  There is so much crap written by people just trying to sell you stuff that it’s almost impossible not to succumb to it at least once.  And sadly it almost made me doubt my own knowledge base.  Then I woke up and realized what a bunch of BS it all is.  I know this point kind of got off track but it’s something that I realized I didn’t used to let impact my training/nutrition so it’s important that it not impact it now.*

You may be asking what the point was to writing all of this.  The goal of all my posts is to get YOU to train better or to help you reach YOUR goals.  The best way to do that is to learn from others mistakes so you can in turn avoid the same pitfalls.  Hopefully this post has allowed you to evaluate your own training, figure out what the problem is and helped you to get it back on track.  The points I listed above are all excuses to not have a good training session.  An excuse is a problem that can be rectified, I chose to do so.  Will you?

*People I'm currently reading to block out internet BS Mark Rippetoe, Jim Wendler, Dan John, Dave Tate, and Louie Simmons.