“I’d like to lose weight. And get stronger. And build muscle, but not too much. Oh, and I have a pair of pants from high school that I’d like to fit into again as well.” Ok, maybe that last one was made up, but you get the gist. It’s easy to feel compelled to walk into a gym or start a new program with two, three, and even more goals in mind to achieve. I don’t mean goals to make some progress in. I mean goals to achieve--every last one of them. This is a perfect recipe to ensure you achieve exactly zero of them. That’s because we’re not wired to focus effectively on more than one outcome at a time. Don’t get me wrong, you can set a main goal, and have other, smaller goals nest into the larger goal’s agenda, but focusing on multiple goals separately will only leave you feeling too overwhelmed to push for any of them well.
My advice? Focus on one thing at a time. The focus can be to lose weight, to develop your squat strength, improve your jump height repeatability. The main thing is that your goal needs to be specific and measurable. Note that I didn’t say "improve leg strength:" that's not specific enough. You’ve got to know what movement pattern you’re trying to improve because with that knowledge, it is easier to determine what fits into your program. Worried about losing your movement ability in another area? I’m not saying to only squat; if your goal for the next three months is to improve your squat--whether it’s depth, strength, or whatever--then make improving that outcome your goal. All other movements must find a way to dovetail with your goal. Then, your cueing can become more specific and individualized while your movement training can take on more meaning and purpose.
"But Chris, if I focus on more things at once, won’t my outcome results be more?" To put it simply: no. It is better to focus on a singular goal at a time so that you can dedicate the necessary resources to it.
Taking care of your health already feels overwhelming. I know because I feel it at times, and this is my profession! There’s no need to overcomplicate your life by setting multiple goals at the same time. Focus on one meaningful goal, then build confidence and habits from there. Think of it this way: you are learning how to do something new, how to incorporate habits into a lifestyle that--up to now--didn’t include them. It’ll take awhile to adapt to even the smallest change. Eventually this change may become part of your routine behavior. So how would adding one, two, or three more changes to your life help you manage them all? Once the new habit has taken root, you’ve learned something new that you can apply to your future changes. And it’s not the habit itself, but rather the process you went through in order to integrate the new habit into your life. Take note of that process and replicate it for the next phase of your fitness plan. You’ll gain confidence with each new habit and with it, you’ll begin to search for additional challenges to push your health to new limits.
- Christopher Gaines