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Author: Richard Symister

Practical Goal Setting for Athletic Performance — Rule #1: Don't Panic!

Rule # 1: Don’t  Panic 

Don't panic!
Don’t train in panic mode

In December of 2014, I am sitting on the end of an examining table, naked except for a pair of boxer briefs, waiting for my doctor to return with my yearly physical results.  There’s this long mirror hung on the door, reflecting an image with which I was not familiar. A small, pot belly.  Flat chest. Slumped shoulders. “Who the hell are you?” I whispered, vexed.
My doctor walks in, sits on a rolling stool in front of me, her eyes bewildered, sort of reading me over the rim of her glasses. She asks, “Are you still exercising?  Has your diet changed dramatically? Have you been under a lot of stress?
“I’ve been working on the business…a lot.   Why? What’s wrong?
“Well, since your last exam 1 year ago, you’ve lost 10 lbs, your body fat is up to 21% and both your blood pressure and cholesterol — particularly your LDLs —have gone up.”
I shut out everything else she had to say.  I had mentally committed myself  to reversing this damage to my body and get fit again. I started planning  all sorts of muscle building, high-intensity training regimens. No plan or structure, of course. But, hey, I had determination. Get my body fat down to 15%. Gain back 10 pounds of muscle. Start weight training again. Add some crazy miles to cycling. 

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”   Albert Einstein.  

Have you been here before? Making plans with no solid plan at all, fueled by anxiety, anger, depression, desperation or a dented ego? Where did this get you?
I was halfway home when I realized I had been here before, many times.  Feeling that I’ve fallen so far from the fitness wagon, that there was precious little time. I had to get physical now, jump right back into intense training, as much as my body could tolerate, until I had reached my goals. The result — every time — burn out, injury, illness, early plateauing, chronic joint aches and training staleness.
In both career and sport, we all need to properly set goals, mapping out individualized plans and road maps to reaching them. Otherwise, unless you are extremely lucky or gifted, your bond to waste time, train inefficiently or fail.
Get there faster.
Stand in front of your mirror and ask yourself, “What do I want?” Run a ½ K. Complete an Iron Man.  Bike a century.  Start mountain climbing. Join Special Forces.  Perform 12 shows a week.Write your list down.
Now turn your back to the mirror? “What do I need to?” Drink more water Rehab my ankle for running.  Tackle a chronic hip flexor dysfunction. Work on my balance. Up my protein.  Check my knee stability. Fix my posture. Again, write your list down.
Each list is important, encompassing practicality, safety, and ultimate satisfaction. For now, make the “needs” list your short-term goals (STGs) and your “want” list your long-term goals (LTGs).  You are writing your own success story, the STGs being the body of each chapter and the LTGs each chapter’s exciting climax.
Here’s my list:

  1. Drop my LDSs out of the danger zone
  2. Work on my knee pain and core weakness
  3. Get full range of motion back in my shoulders
  4. Alter my diet: more protein, more water, more fiber, more “green”, less starch
  5. Make time for sleep, rest and recovery
  6. Avoid stress: be early for appointments, compartmentalize daily duties by importance, learn how to say “no” and take time for myself to play


  1. Lose the Wants/LTGs
  2. Lose the belly
  3. Increase my weight from 174 to 185 pounds
  4. Drop my body fat > 8 %
  5. Tone up and gain some more muscle
  6. Return to weight train 2x/week
  7. Return to martial arts training, 2x/week

Start your list and next BLOG, we will jump right into training … our brain!
heal. move. evolve.