Today, let's talk about smart goal setting.
But let's start with a failure. My failure in mastering pistol squats, or, in other words, one legged squats.
As much as I would like, I can't give you a tutorial on how to do pistol squats. That's simply because I'm not able to do them myself either. I'm still working on my pistols and can do a couple elevated pistols, but to a real pistol squat, there's some hard work to do.
Why I Want to Do Pistol Squats
I consider myself a fit person, however, I was never able to do pistol squats. It seemed that everybody else can do it (that's what happens if you spend a lot of time on Instagram) so I decided: I want to be able to do that too.
I'm not too patient person and tend to want to get everything as fast as possible. As soon as I decided that I want to be able to do a pistol squat, I searched all the #pistols hashtags on Instagram, watched about million videos on YouTube, read several articles about them and put all the tips and tricks I found in use.
I started working on my pistols every day.
Insane Muscle Soreness
I got extremely sore! After the first day of practicing (too much) and getting super sore, I figured that the extreme pain is normal. And to some extent it is, because every new movement that your body is not used to makes you sore pretty easily. But I didn't give myself a rest but kept practicing and practicing.
My soreness didn't go anywhere but only got worse. I took a rest day but the next day was a sure pistol day again. And I got extremely sore again. It was even hard to walk!
I could do pull ups and get sore, I could do regular bodyweight or heavy squats and get sore, but the soreness I got from practicing pistols was a whole new experience.
At one point I got so sick of feeling sore all of the time so I stopped my pistol practice altogether.
Why I Failed and Why You Should Care
I couldn't keep up my routine because it wasn't sustainable for me. I tend to have black or white, all or nothing attitude that I've paid a high price for before. Instead of taking smaller steps and breaking my goal into smaller chunks, I wanted to get there immediately.
But my story with pistol squats is just one example. I see it all of the time when people, all of a sudden, decide that they will start their new, healthy life right now. They take it to the extremes by making way too many changes in their life all at once.
It's pretty common for someone who hasn't worked out recently (or at all), and hasn't ever paid attention to her diet, to set all or many of the following goals:
- Go for a run / gym every day, seven days a week.
- Work out at least an hour every day.
- In a fitness class, do the hardest versions of all exercises.
- Obsessively start counting calories and / or macros.
- Never eat junk food again.
- Quit out all sugar.
- Stop drinking.
- etc. etc.
I get it. We want to get healthy, but it's important to take smaller steps, or otherwise, failure is pretty much inevitable.
Willpower is a great thing and it will help us a lot in the beginning, but even willpower has limits. No matter how strong the willpower is, we have our physical body to take care of too.
If our bodies crave food but we give them less than the need, they can't work properly.
If our bodies are exhausted from working out every day and we won't give them a rest, they will shut down.
If we never let us have treats, our minds will go insane.
The end result is the same: We don't achieve our goals and beat ourselves up because of that.
We say ourselves things like:
- I am not capable of keeping up a healthy routine.
- I was never meant to be in a good shape.
- I am weak.
- I have no self control.
- I have zero willpower.
- I can never get my life together.
Saying things like this will not get us any closer to our goals.
Smarter Goal Setting
Let's get back to my pistol squats. Just because I overtrained, got sore, got miserable and finally gave up, doesn't mean that I will never be able to do a pistol.
Just because you were not able to continue your too rigid diet and that you stopped working out doesn't mean that you can never achieve healthy happy body and feel good in it.
The key is to figure out the smart, realistic way to get there. It means setting smaller, achievable goals. We need to be consistent and keep working toward the goals in a smart way.
Now I'm working on my pistols 2-3 days a week. They still get me sore like no other bodyweight exercise, but I give myself proper recovery so that I can practice them again later that week.
It's my choice: Whether I practice them every day for two weeks until I get insanely sore and completely sick of them and quit, or 2-3 times a week for longer period of time, for as long as it takes me to finally master them.
The same applies also to a “healthy makeover”, but also other goals outside of health and fitness world. That's just one example.
When we are trying to control everything from our workouts to every single bite that crosses our lips, never taking rest days or always turning down treats, it will probably be too much. Instead, we should set realistic goals, enjoy the process and celebrate the small victories along the way.