A Different Approach to My Fitness Goals

August 17, 2020: 

I decided to try a different approach.

I was looking at my goals and realized I’ve had the same strength goals for several years for  bench press, squat, and deadlift.

Every year I almost get there, but not quite. Some combination of work, family, injury, and Texas heat always conspired to destroy momentum in my garage gym. I also realized I tend to attempt 47 goals at once. I want to get lean, increase strength, run faster, run farther, mountain bike more, etc. As a result, I do none of them well. Even just trying to do the bench, squat, and deadlift goals at once was too many goals (for me). Once the weight got up in all three lifts, I needed more rest time between sets so workouts got long in the summer heat and I had to psyche myself up before each workout. It then become all too easy to skip workouts or get hurt. Either way, progress stalled every year before I hit the goal.

In a moment of insight, I asked myself: What if I truly only focused on one or two goals? What if I took action on it every day for thirty days, almost to the exclusion of other goals? It would be sort of like the run streaks people do where they run at least a mile a day every day between Thanksgiving and New Years. The idea being anyone can find time to run a mile.

This month I’m bench pressing. I chose it because this is the lift where I’m already closest to meeting my goal. Every evening, when I pull into the garage, the first thing I’ll do is attempt three sets of eight without going to failure. Once I can to a full eight in each set, I’ll add a little weight. And, um, that’s it. At the end of a month, I’ll do a two-rep max set and see where I’m at.

Some thoughts:

  • This is an experiment, not a definitive solution.
  • No matter how hot the garage is, I can endure for the seven or eight minutes it takes, including warming up. And I can do it in my work clothes. There is literally no believable excuse I can tell myself to skip a workout.
  • No, this isn’t a full body workout. I get that. Right now, that isn’t even the point. I wasn’t working out consistently to begin with, so I’m not losing much ground.
  • It seems like lifting heavy, but not to failure, for 30 days can’t help but improve my strength. I would expect to see results far exceeding what I was doing before. Benching 30 days in a row should improve strength better than benching four or five times a month, right?
  • I am not a professional athlete or bodybuilder. No, this isn’t the best approach for anything other than meeting my highly specific goal. Even then, there are probably much better approaches. However – and this is key – an imperfect program that I’ll actually do is light years ahead of the perfect one I don’t.
  • I can stay excited by one goal for thirty days. That’s short enough to keep it interesting and long enough to see results. If I did that every month with a new goal, that’s twelve goals a year. (No, not every goal can be accomplished in 30 days, but how much serious progress could I make if I focused and made progress on one goal every day?)

September 5, 2020: Update

I was going to wait until the end of the month to test, but I got impatient. I did two warm up sets, loaded the bar with the target weight and did two reps. And, um, well, that was it. Done.

Goal met, three weeks in, with no drama. I felt this weird mix of confidence and elation from achieving the goal combined with disappointment in not setting my goal higher.

So, with the goal accomplished over a week early, do I move on to the next goal or keep going with this one to see how far I can get with this one by months’ end?

September 17, 2020 Update:

I stayed with it just to finish the 30 days and ended up exceeding the target by a noticeable amount. This whole experiment has changed the way I’m currently working out, but more on that in a future post.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, health care, or fitness professional. I am sharing ideas to create discussion, not give advice. Look to the experts, not to me, for medical, health, and fitness advice. 

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