• Sign In
  • Register
  • Virtual Classroom
    Articles | Mental Health

    Soul searching for tangible goals

    By Tim Stevenson

    I probably do some of my deepest thinking when I’m training… by myself. I once saw a quote that said:

    Some people need to move to think.

    This is 100% me and the depth is amplified significantly depending on the state of mind I’m in at the time. My head is generally a busy place, processing what’s going on, juggling the various demands of my life and blue sky thinking. I’m not good at affording myself the time to sit and be still. I can’t keep my head clear and my thoughts wander, but when I’m moving things are different.

    I had the idea for this blog whilst I was out running in some woodland I didn’t know well. What I found was a hill side with lots of single track mountain bike routes through dense trees. The terrain meant I could put a challenging interval session together whilst exploring new paths, but with no fear of getting lost because the hillside was sandwiched by two main fire roads. The session intensity helped to focus my mind, yet still allowing me to be free to think.

    Tangible Goals

    At this point, I was ready to write about tangible goals and creating a structure in your life that means you have reason behind your actions. Personally, I want to get more metabolic work in my weekly training programme. I also want to have more motivation to consistently hit lower body sessions that have a purpose. So, my tangible goal is a number of obstacle course races this year and I want to enjoy the experience, not just survive it. That requires me to consistently include both of the above training objectives. If I set the race dates and sign up, I have a deadline and a tangible goal.

    This is one reason why Jacko and I enjoy calisthenics so much. Your goal might be a human flag, muscle up or a handstand. When you can do it you have achieved your goal. But, how can we set ourselves up for more growth? We know that often things worth doing require us to go outside our comfort zone or do something different. Calisthenics offers this opportunity in adundance because getting a beautiful handstand or a strict muscle up is going to force you to address your weaknesses. It might be flexibility, strength, co-ordination, stability or something else. Bodyweight training at this level will expose whatever it is that you lack. And, to be successful, you are going to need to address it.

    Setting a tangible goal that has depth will lead you to learn far more about yourself and cause much more growth than doing something which is the same as what you’ve already done, or sits within what you’re already good at. If we’re honest, we know where the path of least resistance leads. The destination of the road less travelled is far more exciting and rewarding. Providing we are prepared to make the decision to take the first step and commit to seeing it through.

    Soul Searching

    Some recent reflections led me to realise that I haven’t been happy with my training and physical progression for three years. This time in 2016, I was flying back from a training camp in Thailand after taking on the lead strength and conditioning coach role for British Para-Swimming. Mine and Jacko’s job was to get the team ready for the Paralympics nine months later. That year I travelled a lot, worked really long days, spent more nights in hotels than my own bed and finished the year close to burnt out.

    In February 2017, my little boy Jack was born and my world got turned upside down. He didn’t sleep a full night until January 2018 and throughout that time we were investing a lot of energy in developing the School of Calisthenics. On to the rest of 2018, well we were busy and it felt like we did about two years work in 12 months. It finished with three months solid work on the new Virtual Classroom and having launched it less than a week ago, I finally feel like I’m able to come up for air. Temporarily at least.

    The Four Burners

    I can really relate to the four burners analogy. You have four hobs on your stove which represent the major components of your life. Career. Family. Health. Friends. The theory goes that to be successful you have to turn off one of the burners. To be really successful you have to turn off two. I’ve had career and family on full whack for a while now and I’m fortuante that I have a small group of friends around me that understand and are there regardless, otherwise I might have found that one was fizzling out by itself.

    Health/training has taken a hit. At least to the standards that I expect of myself and believe myself to be capable of. This year I want to turn that burner up, but what might the cost be?

    Hopefully none. Using tangible goals my first port of call is to service the hob and optimise the burn. Left uncontrolled, we probably all have a hob that tends to take over. Mine is my work. For others it will be social life, or perhaps training. Tangible goal setting applies to all of these and it will help us to become more efficient whilst also growing in all areas of our life.

    Structure your diary better. Be present when at home. Work harder in the gym and reduce session time. Focus on deep work and minimise distractions. Listen more and communicate better. Prepare meals at the weekend. Eliminate things in your life that don’t make you happy or add value. Create time to think.

    These are good statements of intent but they need to be backed up with action and a way of making sure they happen. You need to make them tangible if they are going to have lasting impact. This is a personal thing and you need to find a way to do this that works for you.

    The road less travelled

    Jacko often says that training should be part of your life, not the only thing in our life. The path of least resistance leads us to what we have always done, but growth requires us to do something different. It’s easy for me to work more, but it’s a challenge to work smarter. If, however, I can achieve this I’ll have more time and energy for my training and be a better husband, father, son and friend.

    I think mental wellbeing, physical health, great relationships and happiness is about balance. My take home message is this; when you’re thinking about the things you want to achieve in 2019, set tangible goals that take you outside of your comfort zone. But consider all the things in your life. I think it is ok to really focus on a couple for a season, but it isn’t a long term strategy that will bring success in all areas.

    Class dismissed


    If you have enjoyed this blog or anything you have ever read or watched from us, we would really appreciate it you would have a look at the Virtual Classroom and considered joining an amazing community of people that are supporting each other to optimise their training and health burner!