"In six months I will Clean and Jerk 300 lbs". I made that statement to a group of friends after hitting a 265 lb PR one Sunday morning.
That was two years ago.
Since that day, I haven't come close to that 300 lb goal. In fact, over the past 24 months, my Clean and Jerk has gone up exactly zero pounds. That's right, a big fat goose egg. Ugh.
As we enter the new year, I've taken some time to reflect on goals, why we set them and how we can maximize our chances of success.
Maximize your happiness
I believe that in a broader sense, our goal as human beings should be to maximize happiness over the course of our lives. This doesn't mean maximizing short term happiness through instant gratification. It means taking actions that will maximize the total happiness over the long term. Eating a cookie might make you feel good in the short term, but constantly eating cookies will have negative effects that could hurt you later in life. Any short term goals you make should ultimately feed into your longer term life goals.
Stick to what is important
Why did I pull a 300 lb Clean and Jerk out of my ass as a major goal? Easy - because it's a sexy number on a popular lift. I wanted a pat on the ass and a "good job" from all my friends. The fact that I think that Oly lifts are overrated as a measure of fitness seemed inconsequential at the time. I couldn't have been more wrong.
When it came time to put in the work, I wasn't motivated because I didn't love the lift. I also knew deep down that adding 35 lbs to my Clean and Jerk wouldn't do much to improve other areas of fitness where I had developed significant weaknesses.
Quite frankly, my endurance has suffered terribly over the past few years. As I enter my mid thirties, cardiovascular health needs to take on more importance in my life. Even though I don't enjoy running or rowing as much as I enjoy lifting, I know that improved cardiovascular health needs to be part of any fitness goal that I make for the new year.
Pick something achievable
You need to be honest with yourself. We all have strengths, weaknesses and limitations. If you are 5'6", not particularly fast and lack coordination, you will not be playing in the NFL. There is also a pretty good chance you won't be winning many fitness competitions either. I'm not saying you should never try anything new. You can't estimate a ceiling for yourself until you spend time working on something. But it also doesn't make much sense to beat your head against the wall for years chasing something that obviously isn't going to happen. If you have spent the last two years seriously lifting and your back squat hasn't broken 300 lbs, you shouldn't be on internet forums asking how you can train for the CrossFit Games. A more actionable goal would be training to win the Scaled Division of a local fitness competition.
Don't forget life goals
Fitness goals are fun because they are easy to track and give us some sense of accomplishment. Generally, the more time you spend lifting or working on a particular skill, the better you will get. Unfortunately this feeling of control can push you to neglect areas of your life where you feel like you have less control. I think that fitness goals should be set in the context of broader life goals. Training to win a local fitness competition can be a rewarding experience. Training to win a local fitness competition while your marriage or career disintegrates can be a life altering disaster.
Anyone who does CrossFit should know that the program was designed to facilitate an active healthy lifestyle. Work done in the gym was meant to make you better able to handle physical challenges outside of the gym. It's great if you love being in the gym and enjoy getting fit. Just don't let it consume your life. If you happen to be a professional athlete who actually makes a living with your body, please disregard the above statement.
I am committed to creating fitness goals that follow the framework above. My goals will maximize my long term happiness through better lifelong cardiovascular fitness. They will be achievable with a reasonable amount of time in the gym (6 - 10 hours a week) and will not interfere with my overall life goals.
1 Mile Run: 6:30
Back Squat: 400 lbs (currently 385)
Deadlift: 500 lbs (currently 485)
Fran: 4:00 (currently 4:30)
Those are my goals. Post yours in the comments!