I’ll preface this by coming clean: I am (obviously :p) not a fitness expert. I’ve battled the ups and downs of trying to get into better shape and I continue to do so. I write this not from an expert point of view, but this is something learned through experience.
But whether you’re an expert or not, one thing that is driven home by any kind of coach, instructor, or trainer is to set goals. This is very important; we all need something to strive towards, to help us see results, and to motivate us to keep it up.
Another thing that is stressed is that while we need to not only set goals, we need to set honest, achievable goals. We can’t reach too high too soon – that is an easy recipe for disaster. At the start we’re motivated, but if we don’t see immediate results it’s far too easy to lose that motivation. If your goal is to lose 40 pounds, that’s great. That can be your end goal, sure, but we need to set smaller goals on the road to the bigger goal and hit THOSE goals.
All too often, people on their first day show up at the gym or their first class and they’re pumped. “I’M GONNA LOSE 40 POUNDS!” And after the first week, they’ve lost two pounds and rather than celebrate the small goal and strive to do better, the result is “I did all that work and I only lost two pounds?” The motivation goes away and they fall right back off the rails.
So, here’s the point of this post. We get it: we need to set small goals. Instead of shooting for one large goal of losing 40 pounds, we start setting smaller, more achievable goals of 2-3 pounds per week. When you hit them, they provide a great sense of satisfaction and the motivation stays up to continue on. You’ll eventually get to 40 for sure!
That’s fine, but what if we take that way further?
A switch went off for me last week as far as pushing myself to ensure I give it my all in a workout. There are small goals, but there are also *micro* goals.
Over the last year and a half I’ve been pretty hampered by a nasty back injury. There are days where it’s hard to even stand for 10 minutes, let alone get through a punishing hour-long Muay Thai class, so since January of this year I’ve been using the rowing machine as a low-impact way to get a workout in, and then practice some combinations and techniques on the heavy bag when I get a chance.
I do a 6-10 minute warm up, depending on how I’m feeling that day and how much I need to loosen up, but my main workout is 20 minutes of really hard rowing. In that 20 minutes, I track how many metres I can go. When I started, I was hitting 3200-3300 metres, and I’ve been slowly ramping up. Now, my goal is to hit 4000 metres in 20 minutes.
I have to be honest, some days, it’s really hard to get through, just as it is in a kickboxing workout. Some days I don’t think I can do it, but then that switch went off. Instead of saying “I have to row 4000 metres!!”, I started setting “micro” goals. One thing I focus on is I don’t watch the clock. I’m never going “Oh man I have 4 more minutes to go! Crap!” I’m locked onto the metre counter. This way, I’m not focused on watching the clock, but instead I’m watching the counter rise – with every pull I’m going farther and this in itself is motivating. I do use the clock, but I use it in my micro-goals as below.
- In 5 minutes, I need to go 1000 metres
- In 1 minute, I need to go 200 metres
- In 30 seconds, I need to go 100 metres
So, I lock onto the metre counter and start rowing. When 100 metres approaches, I glance at the clock to ensure I’m at 30 seconds or less. At 200 metres, I look up to ensure I’m at 1 minute or less. Every 100 metres I’m checking to make sure I’m on my time target. If I’m not there I’m pushing myself to go even harder the next 30 seconds and keep it up.
I’m making 10 checks in that 5 minutes, and you’d be surprised how fast it goes when it’s done that way. As 1000 metres approaches, I again look at the time. I’d better be at the 5 minute mark or better, and if I’m under (lately I’m hitting it around the 4:50 – 4:54 mark) then I’m *instantly* screaming at myself in my mind to push real hard and see how far over the 1000 mark I can go in that last 10 seconds or less. After 5 minutes, I take a quick breather and water break, document how far I went, and then do that all over again 3 more times.
Since I started setting these micro goals at the start of May, my distance traveled has gone up from 3800 – 3900 metres to over 4100 metres (I hit 4140 today). I noticed that at the start I was hitting the 200 metre mark at 1:03 or 1:04 instead of 1:00. But I kept improving. Now I can hit it around 0:56. I figure if I can keep this up all week, then my target will go up to 4200 or 4300 metres, I’ll recalculate and reset my targets for next week and push to get there.
So how does this translate to an actual kickboxing class?
- When you’re at the end of a round of combinations and the instructor calls to punch out for the last 10 seconds, count your punches. If you can do 40 punches in that 10 seconds, then push for a few more the next time. When you hit 45, push for 50. Keep going!
- While doing 10’s for 3 minutes and you find you can get up to level 6, don’t make level 10 your immediate goal. Instead, push to add a few more kicks every time. Then you might get to level 6 and then 3 more kicks. Push then to get to level 7 next time. Then level 7 and a few more kicks. Then level 8. Eventually you WILL make it! It will just happen!
- You’re called to do 100 round kicks and you get 5 minutes. To make the goal you need to throw 20 kicks per minute. 10 kicks per 30 seconds. Do the exercise and work with your partner to count your kicks. Let’s say you make 50 of the 100 kicks – you’re doing 5 kicks per 30 seconds. Next time you do the exercise, throw 5 kicks and glance at the clock to see if you’ve made that 30 second target. Did you? Excellent – now push for 6! Once you start throwing 6 kicks every 30 seconds, push for 7 – you will eventually get there!
There’s many applications for this in a kickboxing class, or any sustained activity. The point is to establish a pace. Measure what you can do in that pace, and then push to improve that pace. Pretty soon that 4000 metres becomes 4300 and those 50 kicks becomes 65.
You will hit those small goals and incrementally work your way up to the next small goal. And the next one. You’ll hit that one and move even higher. Continually improve!
This method may not work for everyone but it seems to be for me. Hopefully it might help someone else out there!