Fitness in our 40’s, 50’s, 60s and beyond is more about long-term health, general vitality and happiness than it was earlier in life.
So, some cosmetic or vanity-driven objectives like pumping up the biceps or having a six-pack become less important.
But having said that, fitness GOALS are still critical for 40+ guys, probably more than ever. Why, what kind of goals, and how to use them? Let’s take a look.
WHY WE NEED GOALS
1. Provide focus + motivation, and fight distraction + procrastination. Think of the difference between “I should get some exercise today” vs. “I need to get my workout in today to keep progressing toward that race I circled on my calendar.”
2. Push us to get better, stronger, faster in areas where we CAN improve. Yeah, our maximum physical potential is past its peak. But how many of us have previously achieved 100% of that potential? Our theoretical potential may be lower now, but in at least some areas we can attain a higher percentage of it, and thus be more physically capable than we used to be. That’s what I want and I bet you do too. Goals help.
3. Spur learning and thoughtfulness. Asking “what’s the best way to pursue my goal?” meaningfully helps refine your workout approach and improve results. When brainpower and ability to learn and strategize come into play…that’s where we’ve got our younger selves beat, brother.
In addition to these things, fundamentally, it feels good and enhances life satisfaction to set a goal and nobly pursue it. Of course, it’s best if you achieve the goal, but there’s benefit and worthiness in the attempt itself. I’m inspired by what Teddy Roosevelt said about this.
EXAMPLES OF GOALS
Performance results goals are the kind people often think of. More, farther, faster, or do something you couldn’t do before. Such as:
- Strength: increase to XX push-ups
- Endurance: swim YY meters, or run ZZ miles (or do things like this at some targeted pace)
- Flexibility & Balance: become able to do a yoga pose you never could before
But there are all kinds of other goals, man. These other goal types are critical, because they allow goal-setting from wherever your current starting point is, and let you keep using goals for years and decades to come. But if your only goals are performance ones, eventually you won’t be able to achieve new ones. You can only do so many push-ups, even if you’re Jack LaLanne.
Achievement or actions-taken goals focus more on the simple and beautiful fact that you did them. These are almost totally within your control; you say you’ll do it and then you do it (goddammit)!
- A race (running, biking, triathlon)
- A streak. “I’m going to work out every Mon, Weds, Fri, and Sat for the next three months.” “I’m going to attend that class every Thursday.” Etc.
- An effort level. “I’m going to get into the ‘improving’ heart-rate zone for 30 minutes during each of my endurance workouts.”
- A quest. Like hiking or biking to the top of something, paddling across something, or running to a destination. Depending on difficulty, this could also be a “performance” goal, but it’s one that has more interest and “adventure” to it, dude. And for 40+ guys, maintaining a sense of adventure in our lives is critical.
- Nutrition goal. Nutrition behavior goals are better than weight-loss ones. Focus on the actions and let the results take care of themselves. “Every day, I’m going to eat one piece of fruit and skip one sugar/refined-flour thing I normally would have eaten, for the next 90 days.”
- Wellness goal. “I won’t look at my phone or computer for the one-hour before bedtime, all summer.”
Health metrics goals are a great way to motivate yourself. I’m talking about body-fat percentage and “bio-metric” #’s like cholesterol, blood sugar levels and blood pressure. In a “hierarchy of needs” sense, these are the most important goals you can have. And achieving them naturally involves setting other types of goals.
It’s unfortunate but true: sometimes the “scary doctor’s visit or lab test” is the kick in the butt that starts guys on a better fitness and nutrition road. Whatever it takes, man. Once you’re motivated to get started, it’s highly reinforcing to track how your body chemistry improves.
CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOOD GOAL
Goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.
- Specific: I’m going to run this 5K race on this date.
- Measurable: Whether it’s miles, time, # of days, did-I-do-it-or-not…have a way to know you achieved the goal. Don’t let it be squishy, you know what I mean?
- Attainable: Aggressive, and yet achievable, goals are the balance you want. Overly-aggressive ones lead to discouragement, which is your enemy.
- Relevant: Sounds obvious, but set goals where you most need their help…not just in areas where you already have good habits and do well.
- Time-bound: “By when?” You need to have that in mind, lest the action always takes place “tomorrow.” 30-90 days as a good time frame, usually.
For you and me both, I offer up this idea: how about, at any given time, having three goals in process, such as for strength, endurance and nutrition? You can also rotate in flexibility/balance and wellness goals over time.
My current goals:
- Strength: Be able to do 84 push-ups by July 15, 2017. This is me taking the OlderBeast 90-day Push-up Challenge.
- Endurance: Complete (even if slowly) the Olympic-distance triathlon in Folsom, CA on August 6, 2017. That’s roughly a mile swim, 25-mile bike, and 6-mile run. By the way, this has been just a “maybe” and in my mind only, until I wrote this here and hit “publish.” Now I’m on the hook to actually do this.
- Nutrition: Eat more vegetables during the day vs. relying on dinner only to provide them. Now through Labor Day, at least twice a week, have a lunch salad. Once per week have vegetables as an afternoon snack instead of other things.
Your goals? They need to come from you, brother. They might be really simple to start, or they might make mine look easy. I don’t care which, and neither should you. Please just (a) think about goals as a concept…(b) think about some specific goals…(c) then, stop thinking and declare “I’m DOING this.”
“Twelve hours out of Mackinaw City stopped in a bar to have a brew. Met a girl and we had a few drinks and I told her what I’d decided to do.” (Bob Seger, Roll Me Away—click to listen)
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