GOAL SETTING AND RECORD KEEPING
By Keith Wassung
One of the most important, yet often overlooked components to a productive weight training program is the use of regular goal setting and record keeping. In 1960, a comprehensive study was performed on the graduating class of Yale University. Graduates were asked if they had any written goals for their future career. Out of the entire class, only 3% of the students stated that had specific, written career goals. Twenty-five years later, the entire class was again interviewed and it was discovered that the same 3% who had written goals had annual incomes that were greater than the other 97% of the students combined. Goal setting in all areas of life is extremely effective.
Others often ask me for advice in the gym regarding workout plans, techniques, etc. My standard response is to ask them “What exactly are you trying to accomplish in here?” It is rare to get a clear answer, with the normal response being something along the lines of “I just want to get bigger, etc”. Remember that whatever can be measured can be improved, so it is important to convey a clear, concise vision of what it is you wish to achieve. Once this is done, it is much easier to obtain a clear vision of what you are trying to accomplish in the gym. Goals should be written in precise language and should be stated as if they have already been achieved, i.e., "“I can full squat 350lbs for 20 reps” or “ I weigh a solid 190lbs”
Goals need to be grouped into different time frames, such as long range (2-5 years) medium range (1 year) short range (monthly) and micro-range (daily workouts)
When writing your goals, be realistic, but don’t sell yourself short either. You can also obtain feedback and advice from a coach or a mentor. Types of goals can include weight gains or weight losses, strength and repetition numbers, measurements, fitness goals, and contest goals if you compete. You can also include a benevolent goal or two such as doing an exhibition at a local high school or boys club. You do not have to be a national or world class athlete to do this and you will be surprised at how well you will received and in addition its also a nice boost for your own training
Start with the long range goals and then work your way backwards, breaking down each goal into smaller and smaller time frames. Lets say that you can currently do a standing military press of 175lbs for 8 reps and your one year goal is to do 200lbs for 8 reps. When you break this down into monthly goals, it is surprising how easy it is to achieve this over a years time. (This is another reason for the use of fractional plates to continue to achieve consistent, measurable progress.) You will be pleasantly surprised and how productive this makes your training.
Write your goals on several 3x5 index cards and place one on your bathroom mirror or refrigerator and one in your wallet, where you can see them several times a day. I have found it helpful to read them out loud at least twice a day. This exercise consistently strengthens the mental vision that is so important. I firmly believe that your future progress is largely determined by what your mind is willing to envision and believe. This is not only true for weight training, but in all areas of life. Once your goals are written, then its onto the next step of tracking your progress by keeping accurate records of your training sessions.
The best way to keep records is to have some type of training log or journal. Find a large, sturdy 3-ring binder, preferably one that has plastic cover/inserts. The plastic will resist moisture (and maybe vomit, if you are squatting hard) and also you can personalize the binder by inserting pictures, etc into the plastic. My training journal has had the same picture on the cover for over 25 years now- an old black and white photo of Louis Martin at the top pull of a huge clean, taken at the 1968 Olympics I believe. Have a section in the binder for written goals, one for records of your daily workouts and one for useful training articles and information. You can also take progress photographs if you like.
I also had a section for competitions and in the back kept business cards of different gyms that I trained at over the years, so it has also become sort of scrapbook as well.
You can use standard notebook paper for your workouts, or some type of computer generated form. I have been using a two-workout per page form recently and would be happy to e-mail anyone a copy, which can be modified for your own use. For each workout, I write the date, time, place and some pre-workout notes. I always prepare a rough outline of each workout sketched out in advance so I know exactly what I want to achieve on any particular day. I always bring my journal to the gym with me, though I may use a small notebook to record the sets and reps between sets and later transfer them into the actual binder. This is usually because my hands are shaking from the workout and the writing is not as legible as I want it to be for a permanent record. I place a small star next to any personal set/rep records. This is another way of setting and achieving very small goals, which eventually add up to large and impressive goals. At the end of the workout, I record post workout notes such as how the workout went, any new techniques used, form notes and anything else I can think of that will ensure that I make progress in my next session.
One of the great things about keeping an accurate training journal is that limits over-training to a large degree. I have had bad workouts, but I have never had two bad workouts in a row. I was always able to read my journal and know what to adjust in order to make progress during my next session. I have at times kept a nutrition journal, and though I always found it to be a tedious chore, it always produced favorable results.
I hope this helps you to maximize your results in the gym and in your life.