The importance of taking your time with powerlifting and bodybuilding can not be stressed enough. We all have the ambition to achieve that 100kg Bench Press, those 18″ python arms, or to drop 10% body fat within weeks of starting to work out. But by setting your short-term goals too high you’re ultimately setting yourself up for failure. Many realise how little progress they’ve made in relation to their target and end up quitting. It’s like expecting sex on a first date; as desirable as it may be, nine times out of ten it’ll take more than just 30 minutes (when there’s no alcohol involved). Little progress is STILL progress.
Those who don’t quit end up looking for “fast track” ways of achieving their goals. I follow a former college peer on Instagram who started working out a year before I had. It was great to see his progress as he posted clips of any new PR’s on his major lifts and I often used him as friendly competition/motivation. It was saddening, however, to hear that he had started taking steroids. Even more so when he posted a clip of himself squatting a new PR of 140kg months after I had, using the hashtag “natty”. This isn’t a brag but merely a point I’m trying to prove; a lot of people go down the path of taking performance enhancing drugs in order to fulfil stupendous short-term goals, without properly educating themselves on the potential risks nor having a proper workout or diet regime beforehand. UK Social care charity CRI has reported a 645% rise in the number of steroid users between 2010 and 2013, with a growing majority of them being of the “younger breed”. Simply injecting yourself won’t get you that Schwarzenegger look nor will it get you that 200kg deadlift. That takes commitment, discipline, time and proper education. The great Michael Jordan once said; “Stay true to the game and the game will be true to you. If you try to shortcut the game, the game will try and shortcut you.”
Being impatient had cost me six months worth of bodybuilding. The pursuit to match and beat my friends’ personal records on lifts led me to “dirty” bulk for a 18 months. The goal was reached but my main target of achieving the physique that I desired was somewhat lost in the process. It was only after a reality check that I managed to get back on track with a gruelling six month cut, and I am almost certain that if I had paced myself and taken things slowly I still would have reached (or even beaten) the physique I have today and matched my friends’ PR’s without the additional mental and physical stress of having to diet for a while.
Set yourself realistic short-term and long-term goals. With a huge emphasis on the “and”. It is all too easy to set yourself an attainable short term objective, but once you achieve it, what then? I’m a firm believer of never being content with what I have and to always strive for more. On the other hand, as was the case with me, if you set yourself long-term goals what happens when the motivation dips down occasionally and realise how much further you have to progress? The glass half-empty rather than half-full mindset. Having short-term targets that lead up your end game helps you to stay focused and appreciate all that you achieved thus far whilst on your journey.
This blog post doesn’t apply just to beginners. Just last week, midway through a gruelling back, chest and abs session, I was a victim of trying to jump the gun too. Tracking my progress and starting my lean bulk four weeks ago had made me strive to increase my weight on lifts every week, to ensure the weight gain I was experiencing was mostly due to increased muscle mass. But, I was so focused on this that I had unintentionally sacrificed my form doing cable rows just to accommodate the extra iron. As a bodybuilder, you learn that form goes a long way and not feeling the usual muscle contraction when performing the exercise was a clear indicator that I needed to calm my ego, drop the weight, focus on the contraction and try again the next week. As long as I continue to put the effort, I will get there eventually.
Be patient, have reasonable goals in mind and work your hardest to achieve those goals. Remember that tale about the hare and the tortoise? Who ended up winning? Big achievements come one small advantage at a time. One small step at a time. One day at a time. Good things come to those who wait, my friend.