It is said that only about 3% of people have clear written goals and plans that they work on each day. It is an age old tale, the most successful people in the world all have goals that they actively frame, reframe, and work towards every single day.
Did you know that if you write down a goal you are 5 to 10 times more likely to accomplish it?¹
Thinking on paper is almost a lost art in the days of digital technology; however, when we actively transcribe and can see a target we increase the likelihood of achieving it.
This is a proven fact reiterated in countless books written on achieving success and flat out getting what you want. So if it works, why aren't you doing it?
The following post will help you program your mental GPS by taking action now and writing out meaningful goals. If you don't have 15-20 minutes, a pen and a few pieces of paper or printer to print off the attached worksheet, save reading this for another time.
Top 3 goals in 0:30
1, 2, 3.. go! Write them down, whatever comes to mind. Don't overthink it by paying mind to your current circumstance, just simply write what you want based on possibility.
Turn off your phone and eliminate all distractions for the next 15-20 minutes. This is a pretty crucial part in the cognitive process as we want as few distractions to get you off track as possible.
This is your time to be selfish, and that is not meant to be negative. There is a big difference between being selfish and self-centered. For example, the self-centered individual thinks "What can you/does this do for me?" the selfish person realizes "I need to take time for myself to be my best for others."
So grab a cup of coffee, turn off your phone, and get to a quiet place where you can think.
10 Goals in 12 months
Alright now let's narrow your focus a bit. You can go off the first three things you wrote down to do this, or change directions, it's up to you.
Think a little more realistically now, what can and will you accomplish in the next 12 months? Don't think about the logistics of it all, just fast forward to this day next year, what did you accomplish?
Write these goals as if they have already happened. Examples:
On your list, which of these goals resonates the strongest with you? Circle it and now write it on separate piece of paper. What does it tell you about your values? To give you another example, I will share with you my top goal:
My life is lived every day fully and passionately (love myself, love my work, love my friends/family, love my guy)
Writing that made me realize that I value life well-lived and giving/sharing love generously. Now am I always on point with that? Absolutely not, that's why it's a goal.
But, I do realize now that is the highest on my priority list and now by sharing this with you (it is slightly selfish I will admit) I am truly projecting that into the universe so that I may live every day to meet this goal.
Further, I know what you're thinking ("Well, that's not very specific, in fact; it's pretty darn broad if you ask me") and you're right! So proceed to the next step.
Take your #1 Goal and write 20 ways you will accomplish It
If you were realistic and honest with yourself before this, this step shouldn't be too terribly difficult. Start pouring on to the paper what comes to mind. I'll let you in to my personal space now and give an example of how I did this: I broke my list into fourths based on the four things I want to love in order to live every day fully and passionately.
Now ask yourself these questions
Now that you've written the goal, obsess about it. Take responsibility for what you can do to work towards accomplishing it every day.
Put it somewhere you can see it.
This goal will not only give you structure and direction with your life, but it will help you identify where you are in life currently and where you'd like to be.
¹ Tracy, B. (2016). Get smart!: how to think and act like the most successful and highest-paid people in every field. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Covey, S. R. (2005). The 7 habits of highly effective people: personal workbook. London: Simon & Schuster.
"Excuse me sir, I think you forgot your shorts in the locker-room," a passerby said to Nick as he climbed the stairs up to the YMCA weight room.
His shorts were their normal length, well of course, by Nick standards, but his shirt was a little longer than normal so it hung past the bottoms of his shorts giving off the appearance that he did indeed leave his shorts behind.
On that particular day, Nick was trying his hand at resistance training for the first time. I had been training his long-term (of 15 years) girlfriend, Barb, for the past year, and the addition of weight training had really improved her running, so Nick decided it was time to join the party.
So you want to be a bad ass
When Barb first called me up last January inquiring about personal training, I knew from that first conversation that we were going to get along great.
I asked her what her goals and expectations were from hiring a trainer, and though I don't quite remember her response, I do remember saying in return "so you want to be a bad ass."
Of course this was a slightly superfluous comment, because little did I know, she already was.
For Barb, "running ultra-marathons is kind of like life, you know there are going to be times that you feel good, times that are hard, times that you just have to put your head down and keep going, and times you feel like you could run forever."
She knows within the first mile of a race if that particular day is going to be rough or not and admits, "there's no guarantee, regardless of your training, of what you're going to feel like once you get to the start line."
For Nick, who probably has more miles on his odometer than a well traveled car (by the way, at 73, Nick still runs like a new car), says, "usually you start out and think 'I feel well, I've trained well' and for whatever reason your body is just in sync, but somedays it's just off. You could be 20-30 miles into a race and just know, this isn't going to be pretty."
"Running ultra-marathons is kind of like life, you know there are going to be times that you feel good, times that are hard, times that you just have to put your head down and keep going, and times you feel like you could run forever." - Barb Elias
But, when that last 30 miles hit, his body no longer wanted to keep the "red-line" pace and he began throwing up the rest of the way.
Can you imagine, at this very moment you start throwing up, and someone tells you to go run 30 miles?! That is resolve people, in the most raw, pure form possible!
Barb's resolve is just as impressive as Nick's, as she has her share of horror stories as well. One in particular will leave you wondering how no one has noticed the Wonder Woman suit under her scrubs (she is a Physician's Assistant).
There is a 135 mile, yes.. 135 mile.. race from Death Valley up to Mt. Whitney, CA called Badwater (or) The World's Toughest Race.
This particular race covers three mountain ranges for a total of 14,600 feet up and a 6,100 feet down. Go big, or go home.
Anyway, you can only imagine the bad mental monkey that starts talking when you are even contemplating signing up for such a race (mine is laughing right now), let alone showing up and running the thing.
Alternatively, there is a mental muscle unbeknownst to most people that allows one to come back from the dead mid-race and keep going. About 40 miles in, Barb was essentially crawling through the desert because she was so cramped up from dehydration that she couldn't walk.
She looked, and (though she would never admit it) felt like a zombie. Like Nick, she was throwing up more than she ever had in her life, combined.
One of the race aides gave her a liter of Oral Rehydration Solution, which she drank up like a sponge. Nick was amazed to see the life start returning to her and asked the aide what Barb was drinking.
"Try a sip," he said. Nick took a sip and immediately almost threw up due the extreme salt content, containing twice the amount as sea water if you can imagine that!
Two liters of double strength sea water magic potion later, Barb started to feel human again and looked Nick in the eye and asked, "Can you run?"
He looked back at her with bewilderment thinking "Uh, yeah.. I wasn't the one who was just throwing up an hour ago," and they trotted off for Barb to finish the remaining 95 miles, which as I type this is almost comical.
The amount of toughness that would take is completely mind boggling. "Most people don't think I'm my age, which is fun," says Barb, while casually sipping wine and laughing about these intense experiences like they were nothing.
"Can you run?"
Never too late to start
At 39 years old, Nick ran his first 50 mile race on a dare. Within that same year, he ran his first 100 mile race, the Western States, and never looked back.
His goal was to beat his buddy, a fellow Wyoming native, who claimed to have the fastest time in the state. Now, 34 years later, Nick has raced the Western States 14 times and is the oldest finisher in the history of the race.
After nearly being intimidated off the course by his own fear the day before the race, Nick ran into a 67 year old who also would be running the following day.
Convincingly, the "older man" told him that with the training he had put in, he was more than capable of finishing. He returned the next day to not only finish, but to beat his buddy's time.
During the interview, it came to light that this ultra-couple had won several races in the Master's division, with Barb coming in as a top female runner multiple times.
Alas, you would never know. Even talking about it, they shrugged off the accomplishments and laughed at how the trophies were still packed in moving boxes.
It has been an honor to get to train these two incredible people who define good health, resilience, strong character, and so many other beautiful qualities.
When asked what advice they would give to someone considering running an ultra, or even a normal marathon, they said "get off your butt and do it (laugh)."
Still going strong
Clearly their sense of humor is one reason we get along so well, but on a serious note they advise that if you're considering it, just do it, because that one experience and accomplishment will be something you remember the rest of your life!
Even if you're not the running type (like myself), Barb summed up the importance of being active better than I've ever heard, "Your health is not a right, it's a privilege and you have to work at it. It's what you put into it, you can't just expect to be healthy, you have to do the work. It's like being fit, there's no magic pill, you just have to do the work."
"Your health is not a right, it's a privilege and you have to work it. It's what you put into it, you can't just expect to be healthy, you have to do the work. It's like being fit, there's no magic pill, you just have to do the work."
We're bringing this recipe back for everyone who didn't get a chance at it the first go round! These muffins have no flour, no sugar, no butter, and yes, are still delicious!
Not only is the taste on point, but they are way easy to make with very little clean up after. They are perfect as a to-go breakfast snack in the morning, post-workout snack, lunchbox item for kids or spouse, or substitute it for those store bought granola bars you keep reaching for in a hunger pickle.
2 cups oats
2 large, very ripe bananas
2 large eggs
1 cup plain yogurt
1-3 tablespoons honey (depending on how sweet you want your muffins)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher salt
Optional add-ins: (up to ½ cup) chocolate chips, nuts, dried fruit, blueberries, or 1-3 tablespoons of nut butter
Our core, which we can generally define as any part of our body that is not a limb or our head, is our foundation and more functionally important than we often give it credit for.
While I doubt there is a person on this planet who doesn't want their core to look chiseled and pristine, we often don't put as much value on how important that type of "muscle tone" is in terms of function.
While a six pack looks great, what it and other accompanying core muscles can do for us (even under layers of fat), is essential to our overall health for three major reasons:
Back Pain No More
If you take one thing away from this article, please let it be this: the cost of back pain is too high to not put time in the gym focusing on developing your core.
Is it worth it to be laid up in bed paying the price of time off from your job and of physical pain because of a back injury OR to pay the price of one hour of sweat and physically demanding work?
Sadly, that very scenario is not far fetched either. According to the American Chiropractic Association, back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide and will affect 80% of the American population at some point in their lives.
It is simply a choice.
A choice to take your quality of life, health, and ultimately, your happiness, into your own hands.
Move like an Athlete
One attribute a good athlete must possess, is coordination and control of their body.
When a baseball or softball outfielder throws a run in, a sprinter explodes off the blocks, a soccer player kicks a goal, a basketball player shoots a 3, etc; the core is responsible for absorbing the force that is transmitted by the athlete's limbs.
If their core is weak, the velocity of the movement is decreased and the likelihood of injury goes up.
This same principle holds true for every day athletes as well. When getting your workout of the day in, if your core is weak your lifts and movements will be weak thereby increasing your chance of injury.
The reason there are mirrors in the gym? So you can watch your form and make sure you're doing the movement correctly.
The reason we have an intricate network of core musculature? So you can feel and ground your form.
Use both sight and feel to keep your technique on point for your next workout.
Be a Boss in the gym
Adding on to the last point, your core should constantly be ON with any movement in the gym.
Imagine if I were to come up in punch you in the stomach before you were to lift something, you would brace for the impact right? Well, that same "bracing" effect should be recruited at all times when you are training.
This is especially true when lifting heavier weights (anything greater than 70% of your 1RM or RPE).
A tip I remind my athletes and clients of continually is that, in order to maintain good technique, your form should remain the same from start to finish.
Furthermore, if your core isn't strong, you should not be attempting anything heavy for your own safety and longevity. Don't be one of those horror stories that tries to do too much too soon.
Build your core first, everything else second.
To answer the poll question, our superficial abs (six pack) that we see is our Rectus Abdominis muscle, which looks like eight separate muscles, but is in fact one unit linked by fascia.
Thus, you cannot just target the bottom two "abs" in the Rectus Abdominis, it all works together. Also, we often don't see those "lower abs" because our subcutaneous fat gathers at the bottom first, and is better trimmed off through dietary measures.
Advanced Core Routine
There are multiple resources on this site to help you accomplish building your foundation, specifically check out the Core section under Training.
Below is a video and advanced core routine for when you are ready to step up your game a tad!
The Bottom Line
Like the foundation of a house is paramount to a structurally stable building, our core is equally as essential to develop and maintain before moving on to other movements in the gym.
If you are one of many Americans who suffers with back pain, put down the pill bottle, and go to a gym. It is possible for the musculature around your spine to be supportive enough to where your spine maintains proper curvature.
An exceptional source for healing your back pain is Dr. Stuart McGill, author of the Back Mechanic.* It is a book that I have used myself for back pain, and would recommend to anyone looking to do the same!
Also, be sure to look into the hundreds of free workouts featured on this site, all of which offer proper warm ups, mobility exercises, and workouts of varying intensity and structure.
*I have no stake in the promotion of this book.
(n.d.). Retrieved January 03, 2018, from https://www.acatoday.org/Patients/Health-Wellness-Information/Back-Pain-Facts-and-Statistics
Baechle, T. R., & Earle, R. W. (2008). Essentials of strength training and conditioning. Champaign: Human Kinetics.