Attempting a World Record: A Lesson in Setting Goals

by Linh Nguyen, PTA, CPT, Senior Fitness Specialist

Setting goals takes patience, mental resilience, and consistency. Recently, I decided to attempt the Heaviest Sumo Deadlift world record in one minute for females. However, my decision wasn’t a hasty one, and I am where I am today because of goal setting.

My practices extend far beyond the gym walls. My intent for this blog is to encourage others to grow through setting goals, especially if it feels as if something is hard to achieve. 

As human beings, we are meant to excel. If we do the same thing year after year, we go on autopilot and hit a plateau, which is why I believe setting goals can give us a new perspective to improve. I particularly want to embolden females to strength train, and if you are already strength training, then try lifting heavier.

So whether you find one or several ideas, I hope to inspire you to further your goals. 


A Little Bit About Me

Photo Credit: Linh Ngyuen

Throughout my entire life, I was fairly active and played a lot of recreational sports such as basketball, volleyball, golf, softball, paintball, and track and field. Nowadays, I go rock climbing, obstacle racing, weightlifting, and hiking.  

As I grow older, I realize I might not be able to play as many sports. I wanted to continue to stay in good shape, so about six years ago, I started to bring my training into the gym, which is where I was introduced to deadlifting. 


Why I Decided to Attempt a World Record

I have been working on breaking the state deadlift record since last Summer, which I will compete in late August. It wasn’t until the beginning of this year that I was inspired by a fellow deadlift-enthusiast who attempted the Heaviest sumo deadlift in one hour for males. 

I did some research on deadlift world records for females and found that breaking a Guinness World Record was within my reach. So I thought, “why not?”


How To Set Goals

I set what the industry professionals call a SMART goal: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time. Since my initial goal is to break the Colorado state deadlift record, I’ll break down the steps on how I set these goals. 

SMART goal setting

Write Down Your Goals

Goal: “I will break the Colorado state deadlift record in the 57kg class on March 21st, 2020 (postponed to late August), by pulling 3x my body weight at 369lbs.”

I set physical reminders of my goal by writing it down on my phone, inside my work locker (on a sticky note), and in my closet (on a sticky note) at home.

It’s Never Too Early To Train

I know breaking a record takes months to prepare, so I started training in the Summer of 2019. In January 2020, I started my powerlifting cycle to really prep for the Colorado State deadlift competition in March (now rescheduled to late August). 

However, like any significant goal, it can be daunting. Establishing mini-goals and creating habits is a massive part of achieving any long term goal. 

Linh deadlifting

A Breakdown On Setting Mini-Goals

Starting my powerlifting cycle is when I really began to hone in on my mini-goals. My “internal” mini-goals include working on: 

  • Small muscle groups
  • Small movements in multiple directions
  • Accessory exercises to compliment the deadlift movement. 

Then there are the external factors, which make the bulk of my mini-goals. Here’s what I do:

  • I program my workout for a month at a time and graph my progress. Every week the intensity increase either in volume or weight. I make an effort to hit my numbers for the week and evaluate how my body adjusts to the weight, so I can adapt for the following week.
  • I make sure I deadlift a minimum of three times a week, no matter what.
  • I apply my (elaborate) warmup drills every time I lift to ensure I am adequately warmed up.
  • I make it a habit to log my calories, so I can stay within my competition weight class, a max of 125lbs.
    Because of how much I lift, I know I need more food and energy, but I had to make sure I didn’t go over the max weight, or it will be gruesome to cut it right before my competition.
  • I increase my supplement intake to ensure my body recovers right and stays healthy. I take multivitamins, fish oil, and turmeric.
  • I go over my lifts the night before, so I know what I need to hit when I work out the next day. It is a lot of mental focus and structure – I tend to do well with this.
  • To begin my morning, I listen to motivation and uplifting speeches from athletes and speakers, which puts my mindset in the right place.
  • Finally, listening to my body and adjusting my schedule if I ever need to recover earlier in the week prevents me from getting severe injuries.


Fell Off the Wagon?

There have definitely been tough times during my journey. 

Somedays, I can’t lift my goal weight, or I don’t want to spend more time in the gym because I’ve worked there all day. I don’t get enough sleep, or my body is sore from the previous day of heavy lifting. I dread doing my warmup routine because of how long it takes, and there are times I am influenced by people’s moods, and I don’t want to lift anymore. 

set your goals

However, I overcome all these difficulties because of my positive mindset, which takes time to develop. I contribute my positivity from reading personal development books and listening to motivational speeches of people and athletes who have gone from nothing to achieving something. 

Many of them echo a similar belief that reaching a goal takes mental strength. Most importantly, we have to let go of the things we cannot control and learn to focus on the things we can control. 

Adapting to change and being ok with adjusting is necessary for reaching a goal. For example, my strength varies day-to-day, so I can be weaker today and stronger tomorrow. If I can’t lift my goal weight today, well, it surely wouldn’t kill me to lower the weight or decrease the intensity for the day. 

Letting go of my ego when I get frustrated helps me move forward. It’s all about shifting the mindset. I am in control of my situation, patience teaches me to appreciate, and adjustments keep me engaged. 


My Takeaways

Linh preparing for a deadlift

Setting goals has made my training possible and there are many takeaways from this particular experience. I have to fail a lot to succeed, so I know what to do when the same problem arises again. 

I am open to taking advice from others to perfect my lifts, engage my muscles properly, and be mindful of what goes through my head when I am about to lift.

I take care of my body by listening to it during my training, so I do not get injured. It’s common for people to quit because of an injury. In reality, it’s about letting go of our ego and controlling what you can control. If we take steps to learn a little more about our bodies, acute injuries will be dramatically decreased! 

Don’t rely on instant gratification because we all start somewhere. Being patient and consistent is vital because long-term goals are attainable over time, not right away.

Setting goals and being open to adjusting it over time is more helpful than hurtful.

Approach what you know by relearning your craft from scratch. You’ll build an even stronger foundation and have more appreciation.

Finally, if you need help setting goals to better your overall health, contact me through the fitness center, and I’ll be happy to help.