Goals are something that tend to be very personal to the individual who sets them. Whether you want to lift ten pounds more on your bench press, decrease the amount of body fat visible on your upper arms, or increase your mile-run time by 30 seconds, each and everyone one of you should be setting a goal based on what you hope to accomplish with your program.
Lack of goal setting in a workout program is essentially like taking a drive with no end point in mind. You'll burn up a lot of gas (energy) and not get much accomplished. If you're just there for the scenery, this may be fine, but if you want to get results from your trip, you must set a goal.
This said, there are a few goals that would benefit just about every single one of us. By making sure you keep these in mind along with your specific goals tailored to you, you can get the absolute most beneficial results from your workout and diet program this year.
Drink More Water
The first goal you should set is to make an effort to drink more water each and every day. We often hear this advice over and over again but very few of us actually take it to heart.
Drinking enough water impacts everything from the amount of energy you have on a daily basis, how much hunger you feel throughout the day, your ability to concentrate, and how quickly you recover from your workout sessions.
This should be relatively easy to understand however when you consider that water is the single most concentrated element in the human body. Even small decreases in proper hydration levels can have a significant impact on your overall health.
Far too frequently we hunt down 'water replacements' such as diet soda's, fruit flavored water, fruit juices, and so on, and while these do help to add hydration, nothing is better than pure 100% water. Don't miss out because you've taken a short-cut.
Remember The Importance Of Rest Days
Second, you should also be absolutely sure you are taking enough rest. It's very easy, especially for the highly motivated to underestimate how much recovery is necessary for optimal progress and to push through fatigue with the thought process that working harder will only make you stronger.
This isn't so. Working harder, when the body can't keep up, will actually only make you weaker, because when you're doing additional exercise before recovery has taken place, you're just further breaking down tissues rather than building them up.
Do this over too long of a time period and you'll really be facing some dire consequences such as lean muscle mass loss, a slowed metabolic rate, a lowered immune system, and overtraining in general.
Make a conscious effort this year to listen to your body more often. Know the difference between slacking off on your program and pushing when you should be resting. Learning this fine line could be the biggest difference between success and less than optimal results for many people.
Focus On Form And Feel The Muscle Contraction
Third, the next important goal that you should set to make a priority during your workouts is to make certain that you are really focusing in on the muscle contractions themselves during the workout.
It's quite easy to focus in on other things while executing an exercise, neglecting to really think about the actual squeezing of the muscle fiber you're working. Since the mind can play an incredibly large role in terms of what muscles are recruited when doing certain movements (such as the bench press for example, working mostly the chest or using the triceps for help), if you can think about the target muscles there is a better chance those will be worked.
In most situations you want to minimize the effect of the helper muscles with the exercise and proper focus will allow you to do this.
Likewise, it's also essential that you're always making sure you use proper form as well. If you aren't using proper form as you execute your lifts, there is a much higher chance that you're not going to work the correct muscles and could very well end up sidelined with an injury.
Even if it means you're lifting lighter weights, using proper form is a must. If you do, you'll progress faster to lifting heavier weights shortly after and get the strength gains that you're shooting for with your program.
Choose At Least One Health Goal
The next goal that should be set is making sure you also choose at least one overall health goal. While it's great to set aesthetic goals that you will be able to see on the outside, it's also critical to remember the impact of regular workouts and a good diet on the inside.
The big issue for some people with extrinsic, aesthetic goals is that once you achieve that goal, sometimes the motivation to keep working out starts to fade. When you're also living the healthy lifestyle to improve your health, you'll get a greater, long-term reward from your effort, which can also help to keep you going.
If you've ever suffered from, or someone close to you has suffered from, a serious health concern or illness, you will likely find that the health rewards really hit home and serve to keep you going when you'd rather not.
If you haven't suffered from a health concern yet, it would be wise to make a list of all the health benefits that you know you'll receive from your workouts and look over this frequently. That will help keep it in your mind exactly what you'll get from sticking with it.
Try At Least One New Activity
Far too many of us get into the habit of doing the same type of exercises day after day after day. Often you have no problem with this because you love the exercise you're doing and are happy to include it as part of your everyday routine.
In other cases, you may find that you grow bored doing the same type of exercise day after day and this is a big reason why you fall off the wagon. Whatever the case, you should aim to try at least one new activity each month.
This could be changing the form of cardio you normally do, trying a new resistance training technique such as switching over to a cable-pulley system if you normally used free weights, or going out on the weekend and really trying something else such as canoeing, cross country skiing, or beach volleyball.
The different movement patterns of this new activity will serve to work the muscles in a manner they aren't used to and that will really improve the level of results you get from your training. Your muscles respond best to constantly changing stimuli, so the change of pace will really help to shock the system.
Additionally, you'll also likely target muscles that have been somewhat dormant during your usual training due to the nature of the exercises involved.
So as you plan your training program for the coming months, be sure you keep these goals in mind. Goal setting is one of the most critical things you can do to make sure you see success, so it's not something to take lightly. That said, setting the right types of goals and having a bit of variety will help you take your success that much further.