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Every personal trainer undergoes a very dull, bland and unrealistic study module called 'SMART goal-setting' as part of their certification.

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-constrained. I should get that in italics tattooed across my chest.

This is all fine and well, but when starting a journey with a trainer, most struggle formulating their goals, or don't even know what they are.

So I ask again - forget the measurable, forget the realistic, and forget that time is a concept:

What is your goal when you come into your gym?

What is your goal when you weigh out your chicken breast to the gram?

What is your goal when you are pushing through endless hours on the stair master? What do you see?

Be honest with yourself. First of all, where are you now? Before you tell yourself you are fat for the countless time, try and objectively assess whether you are actually medically classed as overweight, or you just hold a perfectly healthy amount of subcutaneous tissue in places where you would rather not.

Secondly, where do you want to be? Are you wanting the 2020 Instagram model look, with curvy hips, soft abdominal definition and slim arms? Or is it more the bikini division of Ms Olympia 2020?

The image in your head will dictate the path to be taken - and they are different. Generalised weight loss is a fairly straightforward (in theory) formula - calories in, calories out. For example, I would consider prescribing fasted cardio specifically only for those aspiring to reach peak, unsustainable levels of conditioning - so special occasions, shoots, and so on.

If you are simply seeking to lose a bit of fat, there is just no need for it as the benefits are marginal. So marginal that it only makes a difference when you already have done absolutely everything else to do and your body is desperately clinging onto the last grams of tissue. In fact, cardio as a concept is by no means an essential for fat loss at all, particularly in its early stages - of course it has its physiological and psychological benefits, but it is not necessarily a pre-requisite.

So before jumping into popularised, elite-level (I cannot stress this enough) conditioning practices, stop and re-assess. Do you really need to count your macros to the last gram and eat 1500 calories? Why? Are you due to go on stage any time soon? Are you aiming for an unrealistic, unsustainable level of body fat achievable only for a very short amount of time? If you are, then I wish you luck in your endeavours - drink your electrolytes and crack on, the stairs aren't going to do themselves.

But if you are not aspiring to be an elite-level athlete in the realm of aesthetics, a lot of the methods you see on the internet are simply not relevant to your own individual journey. Why are you doing single-arm tricep extensions if you are twenty odd kilos overweight and lack a baseline of fitness? Fat loss as a fitness category is vastly broad - it covers everything between dropping down to a skin-peeling 5% body fat and losing your post-natal weight gain, but each individual situation is so much more nuanced than that.

Right now, whatever stage you're at in your journey, and whatever you are doing, I want you to stop for a second and just reflect. What is the purpose behind your practices? What is the vision, what's the dream, what's the ultimate goal? Now, does whatever you are doing align with that? Are you doing too much, or maybe too little? Amongst all the clients I have seen, it's a pretty even split between both - you can't aim for the crown while putting in the minimal effort, and there is no point driving yourself into the ground when you don't have to.

Fix on a point you really, really want. And outline what needs to be done to get it. Struggling? Get in touch.

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