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Where Do You Want To Go?

IronMan Magazine, April 1990

Where Do You Want to Go?, IronMan, April 1990.By Dave Draper. Property of Ironman Magazine.


One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree.
"Which road do I take?" She asked.
His response was a question: "Where do you want to go?"
"I don't know," Alice answered.
"Then," said the cat, "it doesn't matter."
Lewis Carroll
Alice In Wonderland

As a 12-year-old boy growing up in Secaucus, New Jersey, where immigrant farmers raised pigs and New York City dumped its garbage, my weightlifting goals were simple and to the point: build big and strong arms and get tough.

That's what motivated me to buy my first set of barbells and set my mind and body to training. With the big arms came shoulders and a back to match. In high school I was hard to catch, bring down and pin.

As these things became evident and as my abilities and appearance improved, goals began to emerge. Interestingly, I didn't set lofty goals, like becoming a champion or Mr. America. I wasn't a fan and didn't seek out heroes. My ambitions were focused on getting better each day, one day at a time.

This is not the kind of goal setting, reaching out and striving encouraged in the '70s and '80s. It's not the kind I necessarily endorse as I look back over some 35 years of avid bodybuilding. Yet my trudging along with dogged determination has its qualities and should not be ignored.

Today's world of bodybuilding is out of the garages, and it's high on the minds of people. There are 10 major publications and more than a hundred books devoted to the sport, and it's seen on ESPN via satellite all over the globe. World and Gold's gyms are in hundreds of cities from east to west, and almost everyone alive wants a lean, hard body.

The incredible media, television and computers are upon us and have us expecting more of ourselves every day. Advanced technology has boldly taken its place alongside the barbells and dumbbells, and nutritional and medical research has brought us to bright new horizons.

And so goal setting has become more than a primal function. Goal setting has been researched, tested, evaluated and turned inside out. Man, by nature, is goal-oriented and has spent the past two decades writing books, articles and courses on the subject. Imagery and visualizing (using our imagination to maximize our aspirations) have become effective and practical in business, sports and medicine. "I can if I think I can" and "I'm getting better every day in every way" are axioms that seem to work in today's pressing world.

Goal setting is your first concrete step toward turning dreams into reality. Using your goals as guidelines, develop action plans to accomplish them and then make your personal commitment to yourself to realize your goals.

Goal setting is the number-one key to bodybuilding success. Goals come in all shapes and sizes and can be broken up into two basic categories: long-term goals - what you expect to achieve in the years to come; and short-term goals - what you expect to achieve in the next days and weeks. Both of these need to be addressed thoughtfully to assure clean and positive action.

We often dreamed as children, our goals masquerading as our fantasies. This type of dreaming is healthy and keeps our eyes on the horizon. But as adults we sometimes allow the child in us to set goals, and we then mix fantasy with reality. Goals must be realistic, or disappointment is the only thing you're sure to achieve. You'll be more successful if you plan your next short-term goal slightly, but not too much, above your last achievement. That way you'll steadily raise your level of aspiration. Long-term goals should be carefully evaluated before you make a commitment: Is the goal possible at all?

Intelligent self-evaluation is the preface to realistic goal setting. Self-evaluation requires time, careful consideration and unbiased insight. Determining your strengths and weaknesses and your current position are invaluable to realizing your potential and essential in arranging a productive and realistic goal.

I've arranged a comprehensive list of 20 guideposts to consider to help you assess yourself. The material reads like an application for a life insurance policy, but separately and collectively it will give you a valuable overall impression of who you are, how you are, where you're going and where you can go if you choose.

Evaluate each of the following items to help you in your initial goal setting. Consider the topics thoughtfully, honestly and with a pencil and paper to note your answers.

I can't stress enough how important this step is. If you just read through the points, you'll miss the most important guidance I can offer after 20 years of professional bodybuilding. Arrange a couple of hours alone with your tablet to concentrate on these important thoughts. These honest answers will guide your goal-setting sessions and help you to set realistic goals both short and long term.

1) Begin at the basics, from age, height, weight, general and body/muscle measurement. Measure your bodyparts from chest, upper arm, waist, thigh, shoulder and calf.

2) Consider your medical history: Have you seen a doctor recently and had a physical evaluation? What were the results? Are you in excellent health, moderate or even poor health?

3) Be aware of your vital statistics, such as blood pressure, resting pulse, etc. Make a habit of checking your resting pulse each morning to monitor your progress and check for a rise, which may indicate either oncoming illness or overtraining.

4) Do you have any current injuries, ailments or physical weaknesses? How about permanent or recurring weaknesses, such as back or shoulder problems?

5) Determine your bone structure (large bone structure, narrow hips, broad shoulders, thin wrists, etc.).

6) Check your skin tone. Is it thick or thin, healthy in color, and is there any acne or oily skin?

7) Be aware of your body chemistry/body type (endomorph, ectomorph, mesomorph). Do you seem to have a fast or slow metabolism? Have you carried extra fat or been very thin all your life?

8) What is your current state of fitness, energy and endurance (flexibility, ability to run or jump, strength based on other activities)?

9) Do you have a specific physical attributes and abilities, such as excellence in other sports, outstanding beginning physique, large muscle bellies since childhood?

10) What is your current state of mind (relaxed or anxious, attitude - positive/negative, are you comfortable and confident)?

11) Review your past mental attitudes - level of discipline, attention span, patience, persistence, willingness and ability to commit for months and years.

12) Analyze your current lifestyle. Do you relax at home, or do you party or eat out often? Do you get enough sleep? Do you want to alter any habits that will slow down your bodybuilding progress, or would you rather make goals that will allow more tolerance in your lifestyle?

13) Note your job description (stress, overtime, 9 to 5, physically demanding, doctor, lawyer, Indian chief). How much time is available to dedicate to training each week?

14) What are your current nutritional habits, and what were your past eating habits? Do you enjoy good, wholesome food, or do you need fast foods or sweets to satisfy your hunger?

15) How long have you been attracted to bodybuilding/powerlifting? Have you already tested your commitment through plateaus and occasional boredom?

16) Review your knowledge of weight lifting/nutrition, etc. Have you read books on the subject, and do you keep up with the latest nutritional findings?

17) Take a look at your peer influences both at the gym and away. Will your non-athletic friends influence you to skip your workouts to do other things? At the gym will your friends gradually influence your goals without your being aware of it?

18) Are your training facilities adequate? Do you train where the equipment is kept in good repair? Do you have all the equipment you need, and if not, can you go elsewhere?

19) Is there coaching available? Do you have mentors locally that you can go to for answers to your questions?

20) How is your training partner? Do you train alone or with a partner you can count on? Is your partner committed to the same type of goals, and if your partner's goals change, will you begin to flounder?

If you've spent some time with these self-assessing guidelines, it's probably been a bit of a confrontation. Perhaps it's the first time you've honestly faced these considerations, and it might have opened your eyes and maybe even closed a few doors. You're to be applauded if you've finished a truthful self-evaluation and you're ready to decide what exactly you can do with your weight training.

Where do you want to go? Don't be caught like Alice, who, after she peered in the looking glass, wandered through unknown lands with no sense of direction or purpose. Use your time at the looking glass; make your long-term goals and follow that with your short-term plan of action.



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