At some point everyone has had goals that seemed impossible. Keep moving forward and eventually they will just be milestone in your rearview.
It’s easy to get caught up in trying to lose that last 5 pounds or get that one pose in yoga. Remember that exercise is an investment in your future self.
You’re in it for the long haul!
Nicole Mims. PT, DPT
This is NOT one of “those sites” where the author gives advice without evidence or confuses their opinions with fact. My name is Nicole Mims. I am a Physical Therapist living in Austin Texas. I was an RRCA certified running coach and a NASM certified Personal Trainer before going to school for my Doctorate in PT. I plan to discuss health and wellness with a holistic perspective. My life and education have equipped me to do this. I believe that people should have access to evidence based information to better their lives. In my effort to give back, this site is free and non ad driven.
I walk many different paths in my day to day. I’m an avid gym goer, PT, artist, advocate for sobriety, dog mom, lay buddhist, and often simply a human with all the related strengths and foibles. Advice here will be fact based with resources, but it will also be a sounding board for what I’ve found to be true in my life. Some articles are just personal expression of feelings that need a way out (located under personal). Hopefully we’ll both find something we can use here.
I began this blog approximately 5 years ago, at the same time I decided to go back to school to become a Physical Therapist. I was working in the gym as a personal trainer at the time, and honestly I was miserable. I was bored, I hated selling, and I wanted the skills and knowledge to help more people and help them in a deeper way.
Saying and doing are two very different things though. I set off on my path in Jan 2013 taking prerequisites and earning volunteer hours at clinics. I applied, interviewed for, and was admitted to the PT class of 2014… I was dismissed from the program 2 months later for technical bullshit on a practical. I dusted myself off (I drank too much…another story), and I was readmitted to PT school in the cohort of 2015. This time it took. It was an adventure, there were dragons. Lots of dragons. There were many times I had to compromise, bite my tongue, and pacify egos.
In May of 2018 the Odyssey ended. I graduated and found a great job within a month. Since that point there has been an amazing shift in my life. The politics and drama of PT school are over and I get paid to help people. In summary I accomplished my goal.
In the months since graduation I have had friends and acquaintances ask how I did this. How do you go from having a far reaching goal to making it your reality? To quote Dr. Strange “study and practice, years of it.”
Seriously though there were a few underlying themes to my story and I’d like to discuss them here.
Set your goal: be specific, know when you will have achieved that goal and know what you are willing to sacrifice to do so (and what you aren’t). Know why you want to do this.
–For my case it was “I want to become a licensed physical therapist so that I can use my skills to help people while making a comfortable income.”
–I was willing to sacrifice a lot. Time away from home and friends, the better half of my twenties, and occasionally my pride.
Visualize and believe: there will be people who give up and those who will fail. Decide now that its not going to be you. If you’ve addressed the first bullet point you know what your end result will look like. When things get tough (and they will) take the time to focus on this. It sounds silly, but it is invaluable to check in with yourself and remember why you are going through whatever it is you are doing.
Maintain Focus: this goes hand in hand with the previous point. When you have far reaching goals distractions will almost definitely pop up along the way. You may become infatuated with a person, want to set another goal like “getting in shape,” or you may have doubters that will tell you all the reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t want to do, whatever it is you want to do. Remember the first two things we discussed. You may need to sacrifice that budding relationship (if they are a hindrance/distraction), keep your fitness goals small and build them slowly, or cut out the people who doubt you. It may sound severe but if a person is trying to make you doubt yourself, they are toxic and they can bring you down. Know now that you are going to miss out on things. What that means depends on your specific goal.
Set and celebrate milestones: you have set your goal, you know what it looks like and what you’re willing to do to accomplish it. Now break it down into bite sized pieces. In my case it was a set of steps that would take me to graduation. Ex) prerequisites, admission, year 1, year 2, comps, residencies, research project defense, graduation. What does yours look like? Can you break it down by time line or steps along the way? When you cross one of these off your list make sure you celebrate. You are one step closer. Reflect on all of the previous bullets. Get ready for the next step. Believe you will reach the next milestone as well.
Count down: All of the above is useless if you don’t keep the end result in sight. Sometimes it might seem like you are watching grass grow, but over time you will be able to look back and check how far you have come. If it’s possible to set a finishing date do so. If not, try to quantify what you can and then count down from there. Trying to lose weight? How many lbs to go? For me this was graduation. What is it for you?
Cross your finish line: this looks different for everyone. Recognize when you accomplished your goal. Celebrate, be proud, and then help others. (Where I am trying to be now)
Set another goal.
There’s a point in training where everyone hits a plateau, it may be when you stop losing weight, stop gaining mass, or peak with how much you can lift. The body is an amazing machine, it adapts to the stress we put it under pretty quickly and it takes more/different stress on the system to effect change. This is when many people get frustrated and fall off of training. So the question is, what do you do?
The answer is not to train harder, but rather to train different. Just pushing harder or working out longer will help a little, but not much. The body responds to new stresses, so changing frequently helps to keep your body adapting (and it’s also less boring).
There are many ways to vary your routine. How you do so depends on what your current training looks like and also what your goals are. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Try pick-ups and/or sprints (cardio)
If you normally do steady state cardio (same pace for a certain period of time), try changing up the pace. Alternate between your normal speed and one that is a good bit faster. Or break the total time that you do cardio up into smaller segments where you sprint for a ways and then cool back down to your resting state.
Decrease reps and increase weight.
– this increases the recruitment of fast twitch muscle fibers. It also maintains the intensity of the workout while shortening the length of any given set. You may just be surprised at how much you can lift when you don’t just reach for the weights you are used to.
Increase sets/decrease reps
– pretty self explanatory here. This increases your overall volume, but not by a huge amount and can help maintain mental focus across more of your workout. (You may also try combining this with the first strategy to increase your workout intensity )
Change the speed with which you lift
-most people lift with a pretty regular pace, 1 second down/1 second hold/1 second back up. Try adjusting this pace to increase the time on the “down” or eccentric portion of the exercise as this strength is often undertrained and is important for joint stability.
Last but not least
Change the exercises
Hopefully you already know that it is good to train all of the major muscle groups (pecs, lats, traps, delts, glutes, hamstrings, quads, abs, calves). Many people split these up to where they target a certain area or areas on different days. There are many different exercises which workout the same muscle group. For example to target the chest, one can perform flat bench press, incline press, decline press, or chest flys (among others). There are also any number of hand positions for each of those options. (Close grip, wide grip, neutral). Try alternating between different exercises or variations on your favorites. This will keep the direction of stress changing as well as alternating between some of the smaller supporting groups which you may not be addressing when you do the same old exercises over and over.
Hopefully this was a helpful jumping off point for anyone who has reached a plateau in their training. Feel free to comment or message me with questions or suggestions.
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