What if the “goal” isn’t the goal?!?!

I had an interesting conversation with a client the other day concerning goals that I’d like to share with you today. We all know that having goals in a fitness or performance setting is important, right? They help motivate us and drive the “action” so to speak. Some might even say that without goals one is just “working out” and not actually “training”.

But – what if the “goal” isn’t really the goal?

“Huh?!?!” you might be saying…

Let me explain what I mean using the client I referenced above. My client is currently @152lbs and works out 3-4 per week as well as doing some hiking and cardio on her own. She has cleaned up her diet quite a bit since we first starting training her but has her junky moments (don’t we all?). She has 145lbs. as her “goal” weight, which she feels she can easily maintain while feeling and looking great. Using the SMART analogy for goal setting, it’s Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. Sounds like an awesome target, right?

However, we discovered during the course of our conversation that this might not be her ultimate goal after all.

Here is some context for you that roughly tracks the thought progression from our conversation…please take the time to read it because it will really you give a sense of how focusing on the wrong goal can mask the TRUE goal worth achieving.

When this client first started with us, she was about 165 pounds and had some “wonky” eating habits, poor sleep patterns, and was stressed to the gills. She had been working out 4-5 days per week in your typical bootcamp-style facility (cardio-themed circuits w/ minimal strength work) and her body simply wasn’t having it. She was working really hard but getting nowhere.

When she started with us, we cut the cardio “busy-work” down and focused her workouts on resistance training and proper movement habits. We also talked extensively about stress management, improved sleep habits, and sweet tooth control. Three months in –  10lbs. of pure body fat disappeared and she was stoked!

Unfortunately, not long after this huge win, life got in the way and helped her to get off track. The quality of her sleep degraded,  her stress levels went up, and her ability to control her sweet tooth diminished. Around this time, she also lost some motivation to  get to the gym. You know where I’m going with this – she walked into a perfect storm of circumstances that led to some of those pounds reappearing.

Predictably, she was mad/sad/frustrated at this negative change but she was determined to fight back and get herself back on track.

Around this time, we ran a 21 day detox challenge at the facility. This program called for only lean proteins and fruits/veggies for 21 days and is designed to eliminate a person’s exposure to toxins and potential food allergies in order to reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is bad (duh) and losing weight/body fat is one of the predicted outcomes for people unknowingly dealing with inflammation from those problems. Well, she dove into this program HARD! The result – she got all the way down to 135lbs.


She wasn’t particularly happy at that weight. Her performance in her workouts suffered and there was little room for any kind of “fun” in her diet at all. While she gave it a good go for awhile, maintaining that weight had it’s own set of problems and it started to feel like a chore to her. Also, right after another big win (although a bittersweet one), her life through her different curveball when her job got unexpectedly stressful/miserable.

Cue to the regressing sleep habits, poor dietary decisions, skipped workouts, and the slow reversal of weight/body fat she had worked so hard to lose. While she was frustrated before, the level of frustration I saw in her this time was 10x greater. She had found several interventions that had worked and worked dramatically but she didn’t know how to piece them all together for long term success.

And this is where we discovered that she was probably focusing on the wrong goal all along. If you think about the progression I described above, weight loss was always the ultimate measuring stick of her progress. As we talked more, it became pretty clear that focusing on weight alone wasn’t doing much for her and probably wasn’t the right goal for her.

The real culprit – she had been struggling to weather the inevitable ups and downs of life. She would make huge progress followed by a big regression – a dreaded life-stress yo-yo.

Why should we avoid yo-yoing in our lives?

Simple – the body loves balance and lots of small changes over a long time. While this can be annoying as hell from a fitness perspective, this is the easiest path to LONG TERM success. When you force a big, rapid change on the body (particularly when stress is at the root of the problem), it WILL fight you right back.

And this was exactly what my client was dealing with. She would get stressed to max and wildly swing from being totally awesome with everything to frustratingly sucky with everything. The ultimate result of this pendulum-like pattern – she became a prisoner of her weight loss goal. Basically, her goal and her life weren’t on the same page.

After our chat, we set a new goal for her – maintaining “life” balance.

What is “life” balance? For her, it means shooting for small, positive actions every day and striving to minimize the effects of any negative situations that arise. In effect – her goal is to cut the yo-yo string. We both agreed that if she focused on this new goal, the other goal of 145lbs. that had been holding her prisoner would surely happen over time ANYWAY. As a bonus, we also agreed that it will be probably much easier for her to maintain that weight in a positive, balance-based approach.

The cool part? She was already doing it but didn’t realize it! As an example, some junk food appeared in the office and she moved it into another room so she wouldn’t have to see it and think about eating it all day. A small win that day but a HUGE win if she continues to do that repeatedly over time.

All she had to do was realize the power of these small actions!

To sum up – when you have one of those frustrating goals that just seems to stay out of reach, sometimes it pays big dividends to re-evaluate the situation. Good questions to ask yourself might be:

What actions on my part are causing me not to reach this goal?

Have I picked the right interventions to help me reach the goal?

Is my daily environment and lifestyle making my goal realistic?

Am I even focusing on the “right” goal at all? 

The next time you get stuck on your fitness or performance goals, try to ask yourself these questions. Even if you determine that your goal is the one you want/need after all, you will surely learn a ton from the process.

Need help figuring out if you have the right goals in mind? Don’t hesitate to contact me or leave a note below.

Thanks for reading!




Dietary Carbs – Practical Advice Version 1.0

I wanted to talk about carbs in this post because it has been a hot topic of late at my facility – Scenic City Strength & Fitness. Many of our clients have been struggling with how many carbs to eat and when to eat them so I thought I would share my approach on the subject with you. This was intended as an opener in my weekly newsletter but quickly took on a life of it’s own so I decided to shift it here. 

Disclaimer – there is literally a TON of information on this topic out there on the internet. What follows is the culmination of my attempts to boil this mountain of info into something easy to understand and quick to implement for my clients at SCSF who are interested in being lean AND having great performance at the same time (read everyone!).  Since this is such an in-depth topic and based on what we are seeing in our clients, I expect/plan on revising this post many times going forward! This is just the FIRST post of many. 

A few general principles to start off with…

–  Carbs are absolutely essential if you are working out with good degree of intensity. They not only provide fuel for intense workouts but also facilitate recovery as well. An easy way to gauge your intensity is the “talk” test. If you lose the ability to talk while doing an exercise, it’s intense. If you have a lot of these exercises in one workout, you will benefit from using carbs in your diet.

“But what about low carbs diets? Aren’t they supposed to be the best for cutting fat?” you might ask. From my experience and from what I’ve studied, low carb diets (<100g’s per day) work BEST in people with low activity levels or low/moderate exercise routines. Quite simply – they aren’t doing enough intensity to require a lot of carbs (i.e. their body can use fat as a fuel source).
–  The PROPER use of carbs can AID you in your efforts to perform well, LOSE body fat and get leaner. This is like the holy grail of fitness right? Well, this is the exact place where many of my clients have been struggling. Either they are afraid of carbs from all the low carb media buzz and don’t enough of them or they don’t know where to stick them in their day or they eat too many of them (my typical problem).

 To keep it simple – if you are being active or working out with leanness and performance as your goals, you need to keep your carbs clustered around these activities. The reason? When you eat carbs, your body will release insulin to get those carbs out of your blood stream. They will either be used by the muscles or stored in the liver or fat cells. What is one of the (many) factors determines where insulin takes the carbs? Your activity level/state of exercise!  Basically, when you eat carbs right before, during or after workouts, they are much more likely to end up in your muscles and not your fat cells. 

Here’s the sweet spot you are looking for…

You eat a small amount of carbs before workout which begins raising your blood sugar (via insulin). Your workout begins and you start actively using those carbs (plus an added carbs during workout) as insulin is moving the carbs (i.e.sugar) into your muscles. In the post workout period, insulin continues to feed the carbs right into the muscles for recovery purposes. 

Important side note #1 – the addition of protein to the carbs in the pre/intra/post workout periods makes this process even better!!! But that’s for another post. 

Important side note #2 – the ultimate intensity of level of a workout dictates the importance and amount of carbs you can probably tolerate. As a general rule – the harder a workout becomes, the amount of carbs you can eat for fuel/recovery increases.

– Using carbs IMPROPERLY will contribute to fat GAIN and can/will negatively impact performance. Building on the previous point – if you eat carbs while inactive or performing low intensity activity (remember the talk test), insulin will take most those carbs right into your fat cells or liver. This is something you definitely want to avoid at all costs. Also, if you take in a ton of carbs 3-4 hours before a workout or game, you are more likely to experience a blood sugar crash,which can muck up your performance. I’ve actually seen teams of athletes LOSE games over this because they ate too many carbs at the wrong times!

Here is how you would apply these principles for a variety of workout set ups. I have used the following abbreviations and symbols in an attempt to keep things easy to follow. All of these set ups assume a pre and post workout snack. However,  everyone is different and you have to tinker with your individual plan accordingly to find the BEST fit for YOU! 

C = Carbs          P = Protein          F = Healthy Fat    

↑ = High Amount          ↓ = Low Amount         ↔ = Moderate Amount
Early AM Workout 

Wake Up >  Pre-WO Snack C↓P↓F↓ > Workout (5-6am) > Post WO Snack C↑P↔F ↓> Meal 1 C↑P↔F ↔> Snack C↓P↑F↔ > Meal 2 C↓P↔F↔ > Snack C↓P↑F↔ > Meal 3 C↓P↔F↔ > Get In Bed

Afternoon Workout 

Wake Up > Meal 1  C↓P↑F ↑> Snack C↓P↑F↔ > Meal 2 C↓P↑F↔ > Pre-WO Snack C↔P↔F↓ > Post WO snack C↑P↔F↓> Meal 3 C↔P↑F↔ > Get In Bed 

Evening Workout

Wake Up > Meal 1 C↓P↑F ↑> Snack C↓P↔F↔ > Meal 2 C↓P↔F↔ > Snack C↓P↔F ↔> Pre-WO snack C↔P↔F ↓ > Post WO Snack C↑P↔F ↔> Meal 3 C↑P↔F↔ > Get in Bed 

Again – these are just examples for you. Variables like workout placement/type, work schedules, sports schedules, and a host of others will all affect your daily plan. You will have to experiment and find out your BEST fit. However, once you do, you path to great performance AND leanness will get much easier. 

Like/hate this post or have questions? Please comment below!