What's the secret to effective training?

I spend my days walking around the gym talking to clients about their goals. Often, the answers are similar - lose weight, stay fit, keep up with my kids, hike a mountain without dying. 

Those are admirable goals to be sure, but they aren't always specific. 

Instead, we ask clients for their BHAG. 

Big. Hairy. Audacious. Goal.

No, I don’t know why it has to be hairy, but there you have it. (And I can't take credit for the term. Someone I work with made it up.)

I used to get asked what I was training for when I worked in a commercial gym. 

"Life," I'd say. "And the Zombie Apocalypse."

Performance goals, deadlifting a certain weight or performing an unassisted chin ups and ten push ups from the floor, help to re-focus the attention away from the body image goals on which most of us focus, myself included.


Yes you want to lose 20 pounds. Yes you want to fit into that black dress for the wedding in October. 

The challenge with focusing purely on those goals is that they can be tougher to measure. They can also derail our progress quickly when we don’t see changes. Nothing is more frustrating than working your butt off for a month and then getting on the scale (don't 'get on the scale) or measuring your waist only to find the numbers haven't moved. Measuring your body can not only tank your day, it can also tank your motivation for weeks to come. 

And you are more than a number.  So much more than a number. 

But when we switch our focus to performing, we're looking for different numbers. It's about adding to who we are, not subtracting for who we are. So much of the fat loss journey is about losing, losing, losing. When we chase performance goals, it's about gaining. 

The highlight of my week was a client who began pursuing a deadlift goal of 200lbs in July. 

“I lifted 230 pounds three times,” she said. 

You can lift that kind of weight without some body recomposition going on, and that's exactly what happened. 

"My co-workers want to know what I've been doing to lose weight," she said. "I tell them deadlifting." 

In my own journey, I’ve been chasing the 300-pound deadline for awhile, and a nagging shoulder injury has gotten in the way. But if I’m going to ask clients what their BHAG is, I feel it’s only fair that I can answer that question myself. 

So, with my 40th birthday floating off a little more than two months in the horizon, I decided to set a BHAG for myself. I’m going to continue to train for that 300-pound deadlift milestone, but I decided to simultaneously train for a marathon as well. 

The deadlift is a big goal, but I wouldn’t say it’s hairy or audacious. The marathon has been my great white whale for my entire life, though. I haven’t attempted to train for one since 2011. I’ve never been able to stay healthy enough before, and I might not be able to do that now. But I’m going to try.

So that's the hairy and the audacious. 

What is your BHAG? 

My comments section is a little lonely. I'd love to know what your goals are, or what you like or don't like about these posts. Or topics you'd like to see. Or your fear of the zombie apocalypse.