1 – Challenging
Being challenged often conjures thoughts of, ‘Ugh, I’ll be lying in a pool of my own sweat, tears and broken dreams in thirty minutes…’ If that’s your thing, great, but intensity’s not the only branch on the challenge tree.
Learning a new skill, actually taking things slowly and mastering a movement such as a squat, conquering a fear like swimming or the dizzying heights of a climbing wall, these are all challenges that both develop our bodies and our mental resilience.
Your comfort zone can and should be expanded in many different directions, let stagnation be thy enemy!
2 – Varied
It’s the spice of life, we all know that, it keeps things interesting, but more than that, variety ensures that we don’t become deficient in the areas of health and fitness we would otherwise have neglected.
A powerlifting specialist will likely lack mobility and the yoga enthusiast probably won’t have the best bench press. Being at least competent at many training modalities allows for wide breadth of development and also reduces the risk of injury.
It’s also, very basically, just more human, the ability to run and swim well, move freely and comfortably and to express power and strength when necessary. Trying to accomplish everything at once is the fastest route to nowhere, shoot for 6-8 week blocks for each specific training/ fitness goal.
For example, focus 6 weeks on movement centered conditioning and basic gymnastics, followed by 6 weeks of pure strength work followed by a final block of plyometrics and agility work.
3 – Measurable
It’s not always necessary or even possible to work towards a specific goal, what’s most important is the direction of travel, ‘Am I improving?’, or ‘Am I doing the right things to warrant progress?’
Focusing too much on numerical goals can develop into an anxiety ridden path. Develop an intuitive, visualised image of what you’d like to achieve.
By all means keep track of progress by measuring weight and body-fat, taking progress pictures or simply noticing how certain clothes fit, but save yourself the stress of working towards what is often an arbitrary number.
4 – Purposeful
While randomly plucked numbers are discouraged, it’s important to know where the target is before we fire the arrow.
The vast majority of trainees who work out regularly, day after day, week after week, see no noticeable improvement in their body composition (‘leanness’), movement, strength or fitness.
Set a congruent time period over which to devote to making a positive change in some aspect of your health, be it weight, dress/ trouser size, fitness, flexibility. Whatever it is, have a clear idea of what you’d like to improve and focus on and what it’d feel like to have achieved it.
I’d recommend an ultimate 12-week goal broken down into 3 manageable blocks of 4 weeks, each with its own ‘mini-goal’.
5 – Supported
As much as we’d all like to deny it every Monday morning, human beings are a naturally social species.
We do better when we have a network, however big or small, to interact with, to develop ideas through, to uncover solutions and to give and receive emotional support.
Crossfit’s been such a mammoth success primarily because it’s developed an expandable community around fitness and encourages teamwork.
Train with a friend or get chatting with likeminded people at the gym, sign up to a group event with work colleagues and set-up a Facebook group to arrange group training for it.