“…we have some stuff to work on first”

“That’s an amazing goal!


…we have some stuff to work on first.”

We’ve all been there, start of the school year, New Years resolution, working with a coach or simply coaching ourselves.

“So, what’s your goal?”

“Well…” (long pause, even longer for those of us realising we don’t have one so we are desperately making it up on the spot)…”I want to ‘insert goal here that typically includes one of the following'”:

Lose weight.

Gain weight.

Get stronger.

Get faster.

Compete in a show.

Be healthy.

Be able to do 10 chin ups.

Do a marathon.

Live life to enjoy it with my kids and actually have fun with them.

Whatever it may be, and however general it may be, firstly we need to try and get it specific. Yes, we have all heard of them before, you gotta get SMART and set S.M.A.R.T goals. Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Realistic. Time-framed. Just doing that alone can be a challenge for some of us but that’s not what I am here to talk about.

When I set a goal with a client I want to know “why”? Why that goal? Not just a general why either like “cos I want to be leaner and have a six pack” or “cos I’m currently unhealthy so I want to be healthy”. That’s still waaaaaay to general.

I will use myself as an example. My goal this year is to add 5kg of muscle, to maintain symmetry whilst staying at 10% or less body-fat, ensuring I can sleep solidly through the night without wake-ups, and to maintain a high volume of working and learning capacity. Could I aim higher? Yea for sure…I’d love to get straight on the gain train to swole town. Could I set it in 6 months? Yea absolutely I could but then there may be some things that need to be compromised along the way that I am not comfortable with, plus I have a relationship I enjoy and like enjoying. Here’s the thing though, I have some higher order shit that is always a challenge to overcome, so if I can pace myself and make it sustainable, then I am more likely to be successful and be further ahead this time next year instead of still being stuck with the same goal and the same things holding me back.

We at Muscle Nerds work with a LOT of different people from a HUUUUGE variation of walks of life. Not everyone presents with the same goal and I am thankful for that, otherwise where is the challenge in working with individuals. One thing I notice a lot though is people setting goals for which there is nothing wrong with, but they are not yet truly ready for. Going back to my example. I was overweight as a kid. Then anorexic and became a training junky. Then got better and became a workaholic and physique freak. Seeing any trends yet? I have been through a lot of therapy (not saying everyone does or doesn’t need it, just my story) and now I have a lot more clarity about who I am and what is truly meaningful to me. If my goal is too big, then I know when things get crazy and work or life or health needs attention, I may revert back to old habits. So, for me, I know this goal is achievable. Then once achieved. Reset. Maintain. Plan the next step.

I do however know there may be days I hop on the scale, or look at progress pics and that voice may creep in saying “you’re getting fat, stop eating ya pig”. Yea I deal with this daily but I also know I am much stronger than who I used to be and have much more trust in the process I set in place.

So how does all this apply to you, because so far it probably just sounds like story time with Shane.

If your goal is to lose weight, or more specifically body fat. Somewhere along the road there is going to need to be some sacrifice or behaviour adjustment. If every weekend FOMO (fear of missing out) kicks in and you go on a pizza and cocktail bender (I don’t drink so I assume that’s a good combination), then you may very well never allow your body to be in the deficit it needs to be in order to progress towards liberating, mobilising and burning lipids…science talk for losing fat. Maybe you need more sleep, less stress, more movement, reprioritisation of time. In which case, we need to plan for this and have a heart to heart talk to understand why you feel the need to do those current behaviours and how we can adjust some or all of them.

If your goal is to put on muscle on the other hand, then somewhere along the journey you are going to need to be in a surplus of calories aka. Eat more. Muscle is expensive. Expensive to put on and expensive to maintain. Your body and higher order centres (the big squishy thing inside your skull) need to be ok with that. If you’re identity has been Mr. Lean for a long time then again, we are going to need to have a heart to heart talk and come to some understanding about how we work towards your goal.

Regardless of your goal, your brain has to be in on it. If not, we are going to be in a literal pushing shit uphill scenario and one of the results may well just be frustration.

I want to leave you with this.

You’re driving along the road in a convertible. The sun is shining, the wind glides past your hair and you’re looking around thinking DAM LIFE IS GOOD.

The gas light comes on and that splutter noise kicks in just before your car comes oh so gracefully to a halt as you pull over. It’s clear what’s wrong. No gas. Nadda. You’ve run out.

You get out, pop the hood and begin to start pulling the engine apart. You check the tyres and replace each one (you know, because you are conveniently carrying 4 spares…you’re a true boy/girl scout). Try the ignition, nothing. So, you’re stuck.

You wouldn’t do the above would you. You would see the fuel is out. Call for help or walk to the nearest fuel station. When it comes to our goals and bodies though, we sometimes avoid the obvious and go searching for any other possible reason. I am not saying the walk to the gas station will be comfortable. Neither will acknowledging if there is something standing in your way that is mental, emotional or psychological. Sometimes we need to make that journey though. Sometimes we need to be prepared to get a little uncomfortable before we can carry on enjoying that journey.


– Shane O’Leary

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