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Set Your Goals, Give Yourself Structure

Updated: May 8

If you are thinking about training your first step is figuring out your Purpose. As I've stated before, you have to decide your why, once you have a meaningful why any how is possible.

At StratFit, we are experts in the How, and I've provided insight into the means and methods of training elsewhere.

This article is more concerned with your Why- your Purpose. 

Many people struggle to define a clear purpose for training. Since most aren't serious competitive athletes they often struggle with a direct Why for training.

This article is for those of you who have never thought about a Purpose for training or are having trouble moving beyond vague ideas. It's also for you if you are a trainer working with clients in this situation.

Everyone in the fitness industry knows that the attrition rate for clients and gym members is higher than we would like. One reason is that many people pay and start exercising before defining their Why.

One consistent principle for sustained human activity is that one will not continue doing any activity that requires significant time and effort if the mind does not see a clear reason for doing so.

Goal setting is an often ignored but mandatory component of the training process. Goals are landmarks across your fitness quest, they let you know if you are headed in the right direction and at what speed.

As trainers, it is our job to help our clients and athletes find their purpose, set clear goals, and train to achieve them; we're the guide on their quest.

 Your Why

So what do you do if you don't have a clear purpose for training? Simply, ask yourself 'why?' until a clear answer emerges. It usually won't take more than 5 'whys.' Here is an example of how that can go-

Why 1: "Why do I want to train?"

Answer 1: "Because I want to be in better shape." -Not a clear purpose

Why 2: "Why do I want to be in better shape?"

Answer 2: "Because I know if I get in better shape my overall health will improve." -A purpose is starting to emerge

Why 3: "Why do I want to improve my health?"

Answer 3: "Because I want to live a longer and fuller life."

Why 4: "Why do I want to live longer and fuller life?"

Answer 4: "Because I want to have more time and do more meaningful things with my family."

There you go, answer 4 is your real Why- "I want to get and stay in shape so I can live a long meaningful life with my family."

That's your purpose for training, it's what you need to think about every day you step into the gym, this will push you to keep going even when you may not want to.

Your Goals

For athletes, it's easy to set goals. If you're a coach training a boxer, the athlete winning a fight on a certain date is a high-level goal.  Then we could set other goals like achieving a certain Rep Maximum on Power Snatch, Bench Press, Squat, or Pull Up; a certain Vertical Jump height, Plank Max Time, 100 meter Dash time, or a certain Vo2 Maximum. All of these would be smaller goals to ensure we subsequently achieve the larger goal.

It's hard to set goals for a non-specific purpose like the one in the previous section, but we need them.

There is a clear and direct way to solve this issue. The first step is measuring and testing the pillars of your fitness.  In the linked article I defined the pillars and the best way to test them in depth.  

To reiterate, the Pillars are-

  1. Stability

  2. Strength

  3. Endurance

  4. Power

  5. The Base: Muscle Mass (/ your body composition)

The most effective exercises (the key metrics) for testing/measuring and developing each are:


  • Standing Balance Test Time

  • Stork Balance Test Time

  • Plank Test Time


  • Squat 1-5 Rep Maximum

  • Bench Press 1-5 Rep Maximum

  • Deadlift 1-5 Rep Maximum

  • Pull Up Rep Maximum


  • Resting Heart Rate

  • VO2 Maximum


  • Snatch 1 Rep Maximum

  • Clean & Jerk Maximum

  • Vertical Jump Height

Muscle Mass

  • Skin Fold Measurements

  • Limb Measurements

  • Waist/Height Ratio

Once you have all the results of the tests you can get objective about your fitness, the key requirement for setting clear goals and getting results.

For each of those tests/measurements, there is an international standard. Your result will fall under one classification:

  1. Untrained

  2. Intermediate

  3. Advanced

  4. Elite

  5. World Class/Superior

You can see where you stand for each and an average for all of them.  This will tell you exactly where you are in terms of the structural state of your body and your performance abilities.

With this info, we have a logical system for goal setting. Each Pillar of Fitness is important, and each test is important. However, this is a hierarchy of importance among them, not because one is more important than another but because there is a natural chronology to their development. This chronology informs a sequence for goal setting for anyone.

Stability is necessary for Strength. A system that is not stable cannot develop significant force. So we should set goals to improve our international standard for blank and balance tests first, then Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift, and Pull-Up 1 rep maximum strength goals would follow.

A solid base of strength is necessary for good usable running technique so strength goals are chronologically before cardio endurance goals like improving VO2 maximum.

Good Cardiovascular health is necessary for any physical performance and is directly correlated to longevity, so after reaching goals for balance and plank times, and squat, bench press, Deadlift, and Pull-Up maximums, the next goal is to get your VO2 Maximum to the next level.

The final and most potent determinant of performance is Power. Once you have achieved solid stability, strength, and endurance, you will set goals to Power Snatch and Power Clean & Jerk more weight, jump higher, and throw a medicine ball farther. Achieving these goals transfers pretty directly to improvements in athletic competitions of all sorts. 

So a clear timeline of goals would be:

  1. Take my Standing Balance and Plank times to the next standard.

  2. Take my Squat and Bench Press Training Maximums to the next standard

  3. Take my Deadlift Training Maximum to the next standard

  4. Take my Pull Rep Maximum to the next standard

  5. Take my VO2 Maximum to the next standard

  6. Get my Power Snatch, Power Clean & Jerk, Vertical Jump, and Medicine Ball Throw Distance to the next standard

  7. Get my body fat % to the healthy international standard (this will happen as a matter of course if you achieve the other goals while controlling calories)

Once you have achieved each goal and moved each fitness pillar to a higher standard, just set new goals to move up another standard higher. Keep going to greatness.

Of course, these goals and your achievement of them are interlinked and will overlap but this is a solid, logical, and chronologically ordered system to give shape to your fitness quest. 

The beauty of our Pillars of Fitness philosophy is its naturally holistic approach, development of the each pillar has a positive effect on the others, especially in the order listed above. 

The really cool thing is this objective system gives you a straightforward, achievable long term goal that will 100% lead to you living your best life-

Set a goal to get all of your standards on all the tests/measurements above Intermediate.

If you can achieve that is a 100% stone cold lock that you will be able to do whatever you want physically. You will the Stability, Strength, Endurance, and Power to finally take that surfing or mountain climbing vacation, take on that challenging ski slope, or just dominate in your recreational sports league. Anything is possible when you set goals for what's important, and stay with it.

This framework sets you up for the first step of the O.D.M.R paradigm for training success- being Objective about where you stand and how to improve.

From there, you're ready to take off to new heights. After only a few training sessions you'll start to see the short-term benefits of each session and why you need to train now and forever.  You will be fully motivated to see it through to the Best You.

If you are in the Kansas City area you can come by our studio and we'll get you through an entire fitness assessment for free. We'll send you a PDF showing you exactly where you stand. We will help you find and lock your Purpose in your mind and set clear goals.

In short, we'll start you on your quest and guide you every step of the way. The world needs the best you. Let's Go.

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