I know I wouldn’t be the first person to quote the old adage “Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail”…. but how many times have you actually stopped and thought that? How many times have you come away from the gym feeling annoyed with yourself that your workout didn’t leave you feeling exhausted, energised or on track for your training goals? You wouldn’t be alone – one of the biggest reasons people stop going to the gym or working out is because they feel as though they don’t know what they’re doing and therefore aren’t getting anywhere. Not seeing results leads to lack of motivation which leads to… well, nowhere. So how do you overcome this?
I always advise my clients to have a plan for their exercise sessions. It could be as prescriptive as mapping out a push/pull session, an isolation session like shoulders or glutes, or it could just be that you schedule in a swim, a 5k run and a spinning class for the week. The only plan that works is one that you can stick to, and one that you enjoy. Having been in the fitness industry for over 7 years I’ve seen it time and time again – clients and new gym members fired up with huge expectations and detailed training plans. Showing me their diaries for the month with every single day’s workouts and meals planned…. which seems great until they slip up, beat themselves up, fall off the wagon and then ditch the whole idea. If a plan is too rigid it won’t work – you’ll fall at the first hurdle, feel like a failure and wonder why you bothered, possibly ending up even further back than square one.
There is nothing wrong however with setting goals and working out how to achieve them. Ideally make them quantifiable, so rather than, “I want to get fit for summer” how about “I’d like to lose 5kg by 1st June” – you have an exact amount and a date to work to, and can monitor your progress every couple of weeks. Goals don’t have to be weight related though – I love training specific goals – so again rather than something vague like “I want to tone my arms” how about “I’d like to complete 5 full push ups in 12 weeks” ? Work out where you want to be, and then you can work out how to get there. Every week you can start to push a little closer towards your goal, and it gives you a focus for your training – so if your goal was to perfect your push ups you could work on upper body and core strength, strengthening the muscles used in the movement, and also getting used to training against your own body weight.
Everyone has different goals and reasons for training and some people will take programming and planning to the next level – specific strength training goals for example (possibly for competing) like hitting squat and deadlift PBs may require a little more structure – maybe working on aspects like mobility, grip strength or explosive power to assist with huge compound moves like these. When training for aesthetic purposes (e.g bodybuilding or bikini fitness) plans may also involve hitting muscles from different angles or targeting very specific, smaller muscles to improve symmetry or an overall look. Of course this won’t happen without a plan, and this is where PT’s and coaches can be worth their weight in gold to help you create a programme to maximise your time in the gym to ensure that every workout is getting you closer to where you want to be.
Don’t fret though if your plans aren’t this specific, or you don’t have a detailed programme of your own to follow. Weight loss, PBs and aesthetics are all fantastic reasons to train, but so is feeling good, relieving stress and being body confident. So if you aren’t hitting the gym next time with a notepad, stop watch or set of scales you don’t need to worry – make a small plan for that session – maybe try something new, do an exercise you haven’t done for months, or just plan to end your workout knowing you couldn’t have given any more.
Rules may be made to be broken, but plans are there to stick to – and when you start seeing the results you’ve been working for, I’m pretty sure you’ll agree with me!
About the Author
Lisa-Jane, owner of Wildcat Fitness, is a Personal Trainer, Fitness Instructor and Fitness Model based in West London.