Gym guide: Progress is key

I’m back with another gym guide! Today’s topic: the importance of goal-setting and tracking progress.

I’m back with another gym guide! Today’s topic: the importance of goal-setting and tracking progress.

Imagine someone getting ready to sail a ship to some far-off distant land without a map, compass, GPS or any other of the numerous navigational tools commonly employed by sailors today. What are the chances this ship will arrive at its destination? Pretty close to zero. In fact, it would be a miracle if the ship even got to its destination. The ship is far more likely to be lost at sea or wind up a derelict on the shore. Had adequate preparations been taken, barring an accident or Somali pirates, the ship would probably have little trouble reaching its goal.

While it would be ridiculous to apply the haphazard, zero-preparation approach to a sea voyage, this is the exact mentality many trainees have when they set foot in the gym. They have no plan. There is no course set for them to follow. They have no idea how many sets they’ll perform, how many reps, how long they’ll rest between sets, if they’ll do cardio or lift weights, what muscle groups they’ll train and so on.

Much like the ship, the trainee who doesn’t prepare is extremely unlikely to get to their destination. They may make it out of the harbor, but after that, it is almost inevitable that they will become lost at sea. They’ll find themselves making little to no progress, and the frustration may ultimately compel them to abandon ship altogether.

An important rule for all but the most experienced trainees is to plan their workouts in advance. A clearly defined plan eliminates confusion, increases efficiency, maximizes results by avoiding over- or under-training and can even increase motivation. It is much easier to psych oneself up for a workout if one actually knows just what they are doing on that given day. I recommend that new trainees don’t even set foot into the gym without first having a plan. Granted, last minute changes may have to be made due to unforeseeable circumstances (such as Somali pirates), but this is no excuse not to plan at all. Rather, it’s a reason to build flexibility into one’s plan, such as alternate exercises that could be performed if a given piece of equipment is unavailable.

Equally important is the use of a training log or journal. While it can look dorky to carry a little notepad around the gym, it can pay with considerable dividends. When one is performing numerous workouts and dozens upon dozens of sets throughout the week, it is impossible to remember how many sets and reps were performed and with what poundages. Forgetting this information can easily result in the trainees inadequately challenging themselves during subsequent workouts. If a trainee can’t remember the weights they used or many reps they performed, how can they outdo themselves and make progress? They can’t. At this point, they are spinning their wheels. That’s fine and dandy for those looking to maintain their current level of fitness or strength, but not for those who wish to reach a higher level of development.

I realize these recommendations take some of the fun out of exercise, but to completely ignore the importance of goal setting and tracking one’s progress is just asking for trouble. For those that seek long-term improvement and truly wish to get the most out of their fitness pursuits, overlooking these simple but highly useful tools can be an unwise decision that may ultimately result in needless frustration and stagnation. ?