For those of you who have trained for a goal or have trained others for any variety of goals, you know that progress depends on where you start and how far you have until you reach a goal. Many people do not give themselves enough time to reach certain fitness, weight loss, and other performance goals.
Typical cycles to see results that are pushing you towards your goals will naturally be relative to your current fitness condition, time to train per day, days per week, and how hard you are training for a specific goal. Remember the FITT Principle = Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type of training goals you are setting for yourself. Here are some things to consider when setting a realistic goal for fitness and health:
1. Running Goals for Timed Runs - Dropping your pace for timed runs is usually not overly difficult to reach passing scores, but to maximize the test for promotion points or for competitive Special Ops screening programs, it can take time and effort.
If you are trying to get to an 8-minute mile pace to be in the passing zone, that could also be difficult if you are overweight, susceptible to running injuries, and have not run in several months or more.
Of course, it is all relative to how much weight you need to lose and how you handle the impact of running. As you progress, you will find that dropping from a 7-minute mile pace to a sub 6-minute mile pace may also take a 6 to 12-week period of a steady running program that combines paced tempo and fast interval runs.
2. Strength and Muscle Endurance Goals for PT Tests – Fitness tests that have higher repetition calisthenics tests to master typically do not take a great deal of time. For pushups, pullups, and sit-ups for instance, many have increased their numbers significantly by a few weeks of practice prior to the fitness test. Some classic two week programs can be found on the following links: 15 Days from the PFT, Pushup Push, Pullup Push, as well as the Sit-up Help programs.
Most success will come from doing the exercises of your PT test every OTHER day and you will see results you need within 4-6 weeks. If however, you are seeking maximum scores on the test, this process can take longer and be in the 12-18 week zone as progress with 100+ pushups and sit-ups and 20+ pullups start to slow once you near 80-90 repetitions.
3. Strength Goals for Lifting – Depending on your fitness foundation (strength or endurance athlete or none), strength gains can come fast or slow. This can be frustrating to new lifters and endurance athletes. However, after a solid six-week course of lifting, gains start to show and the next six-week cycle can be an exponential increase in strength.
Strength is a unique component of fitness. It is hard to gain at first, easier to maintain, but somewhat difficult to lose. You may have experienced missing a week of lifting and coming back stronger than ever before. However, if you miss a week of running it is like you have never run before. Strength cycles typically vary in 4,6 or 8 week cycles with a steady progression each week or two of increases.
4. Weight Loss or Weight Gain Goals – Whether you are trying to lose weight or gain weight, it is done in the kitchen primarily. Lifting weights, calisthenics, combined with a variety of cardio options (walk, run, bike, elliptical doing steady pace or intervals) all enhance the fitness component that is part of losing weight or gaining weight. But essentially, if you want to be big -- you have to eat big.
It helps to lift big too, presuming you want to gain muscle mass and not just weight. Weight loss in the end comes down to reducing calories, sugars, and burning more calories at the end of the day than you consumed. That is a very general approach, but it works.
Reducing carbohydrates (not eliminating) can lead to quick weight loss as well. Simply avoid sugars and breads for a few weeks, and progress with weight loss comes quickly. A good steady pace of weight loss is about 10 pounds a month and a steady gain of weight / muscle is about 4-5 pounds a month if you are eating well and training hard.
5. Longer Distance Running / Rucking Goals – Long runs and long rucks are a basic progression of steadily increasing distance and weight of about 10 percent each week until eventually you have reached your distance goals. If you can stay mobile, stretch well as you increase your mileage -- you may be able to decrease the chances of over-use injuries associated with these types of goals.
Post Goal Consideration – Once you reached a goal -- no matter what it is -- be sure to get some rest and recovery, especially if it beat you up and was partly a mental gut check. However, you should also have a plan to rebuild and transition to either a similar goal or consider a completely different goal if you need a break from the same old routines. Periodization (moving from one cycle to another every 12 weeks) has been a life saver for me personally and kept me focused and having fun with working out for twenty years since. Training will never get old!
The one important thing to remember when training to reach a goal is that fitness and training is a journey -- not a destination. I recently met an Ironman finisher who, after the race, gained thirty pounds and lost much of his endurance gains within three months. This would be OK if he had switched goals and decided to rest the joints from the high mileage of preparing for the Ironman and perhaps started lifting to gain some muscle mass back from a long round of cardio training. However, doing nothing after a goal is accomplished is not going to help with your overall health goal -- LONGEVITY.