The Importance of Having Secondary Goals

img_0699Last night I was participating in a Twitter chat hosted by HealthYourWayOnline an online health and fitness magazine. It is held every Monday at 8pm ET. If you have never been a part of a Twitter chat the host will ask questions, in this case health related, and you respond via Tweet. 

The first question of the night was “How do you define a “great” workout?” I always have multiple goals for each workout whether strength training or running. It might be a certain pace or a certain distance if I am running. If it is a strength workout I aim for a certain weight lifted, reps, sets, etc.

But what do you do when your legs don’t quite have that zippiness on those repeats? Or try as you might you just cannot hold a desired pace on a run.  Or even have to cut short your planned distance? When strength training there are certainly days when 200 pound front squats feel more like 400lbs. You cannot just pack it in that just breeds complacency.

That is why it important to have secondary goals for those not quite perfect days. Case in point was my training today. I went to the local track to do a speed work session of 400 meter repeats. Right off the bat the first repeat was far slower than my previous 400’s workout pace (based on my 3000 meter pace).  There were a few factors (maintenance work being done on the track, 15 mph headwind, it was cold and I was wearing many more layers) I wanted to just throw in the towel.

Just quitting will not get you to where you want or need to be. Believe me it would have been far easier to quit yesterday when things were not going right.  So I went to a secondary goal. Since I will not run 3000 meters again until May I decided to use my 5k pace for today’s target pace. That was still difficult but I managed to hit all my splits except one at just under 5k pace. Rather than feeling upset I did not hit my original goal I still was able to leave the track feeling positive about my training session especially considering the conditions.

That mindset of having secondary goals also applies to my strength training. There are some days like I mentioned above where the weights just feel heavier. Again I have a plan of beating my reps or weight used from week to week. Here is what I have done when a strength training session starts to go wrong.

Say for example I was scheduled to do a workout of 5×4 front squats with 190 pounds. Well for whatever reason I was struggling to get more than 3 reps. I will stop after the three reps. My total volume for the squats was to have been 25, 5 sets of 4 reps+20 reps. I will then increase my sets until the volume of training equals what would have been otherwise my target goal.

Once again training this way I still net a training effect and can leave the gym knowing I did the same amount of work. It is important to take away something positive from all of your workouts. It doesn’t need to mean you ignore the fact that it did not go as planned. Track your training and see if it was a blip on the radar or a trend. More than likely if you have secondary goals to reach for it will be just a blip or a small bump in the road.