Have a Freaking GoalS

In order to better address the needs of our fitness-obsessed readers, we are introducing this semi-regular column, "I of the Tiger," to take on the vital hardcore fitness issues of our time. Today: without a goal, you are nothing. Dig it.

This isn't some happy-sappy, inspirational, news-you-can-use, you-can-do-it, ABC-123, paint-by-numbers, pure-positivity-motivational-speaker Lifehacker post here. Don't get it twisted. This is some real shit. This isn't some shit where you look at the headline and say to yourself, "Oh, looks like someone just wrote down what was on the inspirational laminated wall poster in my middle school gymnasium locker room, no need to re-read that." Take another look, brother. Goals: do you have them? Well fucking get some then, homeboy.

I'm not talking about some feel-good, easy, no-sweat, self-affirming, boost-your-fragile-ego "goal" that you have to put in quote marks because it's like, come on, "go to the gym" is not a real goal, let's get real over here. I'm talking about a goal. Let me give you an example of a goal: "I will squat 315 pounds." That's a goal. "But but but," you say, "I hurt my knee back in college and then the other leg I lost in that train accident and now I'm in a wheelchair powered by a joystick and I go to the gym simply for physical therapy to prevent my withered limbs from atrophying, so there is quite literally no way that I will ever squat one single pound, much less 315 pounds."

Not with that attitude you won't.

See, you can't just wander into the gym with no focus or plan and be like, "guess I'll go 'work out.'" Yeah, sure you will. [*Makes jack-off motion.*] This is the sort of lack of forward thinking that leads to workouts composed mostly of sitting on a bench and looking at your iPhone, or—even worse—of running slowly on the treadmill for 30 minutes. [*Shudders. Makes jack-off motion again.*] I have a little saying that might help you in the gym: "Without goals, you're nothing, much like a soccer player who's paid to score goals but never does." Think about that every single day.

Without a goal in the gym, you just float around doing whatever you "feel like," or using whatever machine is open, because you're lazy, and you spend a few days lifting some weights and then the next few days doing something else until the strength you gained from the first few days completely dissipates and by the time you go back to those exercises you have to start right back where you were in the first place. It's like being on a treadmill, all right—a treadmill to nowhere, of fitness. You'll never squat 315 pounds while standing on a treadmill, metaphorical or otherwise.

Fitness requires an investment of time. A lot of time. And after many, many months or years go by, and much effort is expended, one day you will find yourself standing in the gym, feeling tired, and you will ask yourself, "What am I doing here?" The correct answer is, "I am working up to squatting 315." If your answer is, "I don't know," you start getting all philosophical. The gym is not a place for philosophy. The gym is a place for action. Goal-oriented action. Do you know what happens to philosophical types in the gym? They find themselves trapped underneath a bar while having an existential crisis. Don't do that.

The good news is that goals are easy—and fun! But not easy. A fitness goal should be aspirational. A good fitness goal is something that makes you say, "There is no way I can do that, but if I could do that I would be hardcore as a motherfucker." And then next thing you know you are doing it.

This is why we do it, ladies and gents. By "do it" I mean follow a constant logical progression of incremental increases of stresses placed upon our bodies until our bodies achieve the desired adaptation. No matter how ambitious your goal is, there is only one way you will get there: One extra 2.5 pound plate at a time. One more rep at a time. One second faster at a time. One minute longer at a time.

One step at a time.

[*Makes jack-off motion.*]