Learn all about the why and the when in your fitness plan by setting goals! Also, you will find a few tips on helping you with the how in your plan!
By: Mauro Di Pasquale
Here’s an idea for your next vacation. Take a week off from work, gas up the car, pack up the kids, and set off with absolutely no idea of where you want to go. No map, no plan, no schedule. Just drive and let the road take you wherever, whenever, it will. It’s safe to say that before long you’ll either run out of gas, or get so bored and discouraged you’ll pull the car over and trash the whole idea. You may be saying to yourself, “Why would anyone want to take a trip like this?”
While you may put more thought than this into your precious vacation, you may not be so strategic when it comes to planning and designing your fitness program. Millions of first time, as well as veteran exercisers, plan their personal journey to physical fitness in just this way. With no thought, no plan of action, and no goal. What results is, more often than not, a lack of motivation that leads to yet another casualty on the fitness highway.
Goal setting is more than important; it serves as your road map to fitness success. If instituted properly, effective goal setting can motivate you to reach new personal horizons. Or, on the other hand, it may help you get back on track if you’ve made a wrong turn. Goal setting can be learned, but it’s not easy, it takes practice and careful evaluation. Here are a few tips to not only help you become an effective goal setter, but a successful achiever as well.
Do It For You
Your goals will only mean something to you if they are just that – yours. It’s not what your wife or husband want for you, it’s what you want for you. Don’t get wrapped up in others expectations of how your life or body should be. This will only lead to frustration on your part. Take into careful consideration the changes you want to make in your lifestyle.
Whether it’s to lose 50 lbs., or to run a marathon within the year, make sure the goal you choose really motivates you. This can make the difference between how much you’ll put into your program, or how quickly you’ll lose interest.
For your goals to truly encourage you, they must not only be specific to your needs and wants, but they must be realistic as well. Far-fetched goals only discourage good effort and add unneeded pressure. It’s not realistic to believe you’ll look like Arnold Schwarzenegger after six months on your new strength training program. Nor is it feasible to expect to start a professional football career at the age of 40. The bottom line is goals like these are completely unrealistic.
Setting unreachable goals will assure only one thing – Failure. You won’t see the results you think you should be seeing, no matter how dedicated you are. The solution is to set goals that you know can actually be achieved if you put forth the effort.
That’s not to say that you should throw all of your dreams out of the window. We are all driven by goals that seem a little beyond our reach. That’s what keeps us going. Just start off on the simple side at first. Once a pattern of achievement has been established, test yourself by setting your sights a little higher.
Let’s Be Honest
Now this is the hard part. Find a nice, quiet place to sit down and do some serious soul searching. Here’s something to ponder – The more you put into your fitness program, the more you will get out of it. Exercising at the minimum (3 days per week or less) is going to give you a minimal training effect. That may be okay for some people, but if you are a professional athlete, it just won’t give you the improvement you’ll need in order to be a success.
If you want a body like Demi Moore or Micheal Jordan, it is going to take not only hard work but hour upon hour hitting the weights, on the versa climber, and at the training table. No one said that this was going to be easy. On the other hand, if you are a housewife who just wants to trim down in the thigh and butt department, your program may take half as much time and effort. Ask yourself a few simple questions. Just how much can you put into this fitness program? How much are you willing to sacrifice to this new way of life?
Do I really have the time to exercise everyday, or are 3 days more realistic for my schedule? Am I willing to dramatically change my eating habits for the sake of my health? These questions may be hard to answer at first, but realize that you may have to face them eventually. Many first time exercisers start out so gung-ho that within a few months they encounter complete burnout.
Most of the time these people are trying to live up to self-imposed expectations that are completely unreasonable. The solution to this problem is to be honest with yourself right from the start. For example, start off exercising 3 days a week and add an extra day if you find that it fits your schedule. Or, from a nutritional standpoint, attempt to cut out all junk foods and simple sugars from your diet first, then make other gradual changes as time goes on. Problem solving before the problem presents itself may help you avoid the inevitable pitfalls that face all exercisers at one time or another.
Now go off and think about the why and the when in your fitness plan and write it down! Tomorrow’s article will be a few tips on helping you with the how in your plan.
Now & Later
Goals exist in two forms. These are short-term goals, and long term goals. Both short and long term goals are important for your personal success and longevity.
Short Term Goals
These may not get you going, but they will definitely keep you going. Short-term goals should not only be reachable but they must be very specific. Just saying, “I want to get in shape”, is not being specific enough. In addition, you should try to work these goals into a reasonable time limit. For example, a good short-term goal may be to work out 5 of the next seven days. Or perhaps you could set a goal to lose 1 pound a week over the next month.
Short-term goals can be a little more complex than these mentioned, but generally a short-term goal should take you no longer than three months to complete. Any longer and they can become difficult to adhere to. Always remember the purpose of the short-term goal as well – Motivation. As we mentioned earlier, the best way to gain motivation is to set reachable and realistic goals. Give yourself something to get excited about at first.
Long Term Goals
These goals can be more general in nature but should once again be realistic and reachable. Long-term goals are typically the things that get people exercising in the first place. For example, after a recent class reunion you may be disappointed by how much you have changed physically, and how little your classmates have. The promises you make to yourself in this situation are typically of the long-term variety.
Unlike their short term counterparts, long term goals don’t really need a time table, but most people find it easier to place limits on them in some way. Goals like losing 50 pounds in the next year or decreasing your body fat by 5% in the next five months are good long-term goals. As you can see these are still fairly specific in nature and I feel they should be. Specific goals not only provide your mind with the pinpoint accuracy it needs to reach a goal, but they also furnish a template for effective measurement. One more thing to remember – Most, if not all, of the benefits of exercise come in the long term. So if you’re having a hard time setting a long-term goal for yourself, here’s a great one to embrace – CONSISTENCY!
Write It Down – Cross It Out
Many people find it beneficial to make a semi-permanent record of their goals and fitness plans. Writing your ambitions down in a journal can serve as both a great motivator and an effective critic as well. For one thing, it’s harder to forget your goals if they are actually down on paper. You may find that you are a better at procrastinating than you are at achieving your goals. Both scenarios provide you with positive feedback that can help you to make the necessary adjustments. Make it a point to cross out goals as you achieve them. Some people even enjoy writing the word “ACHIEVED” over a recently accomplished task.
Either of these methods not only provides you with an enormous amount of personal satisfaction, but they give you an accurate, visual record of successful accomplishment.
There’s only one way to know if your exercise program is effective in helping you meet your specific goals. I can sum it up in two words. HEALTH ASSESSMENT. Fitness and health statistics such as: body weight, blood pressure, resting heart rate, body fat and cholesterol levels, are just a few of the measurements that can provide useful data for you, as well as your doctor. For example, you may find that after 6 weeks of exercise your bodyweight has decreased but your body fat percentage has not.
This, as you may imagine, is a negative characteristic of exercise, but through careful manipulation of your training intensity, can easily be alleviated. By regularly checking your progress, or lack thereof, adjustments can easily be made to put you back on the right track.
If you only remember one thing from this article remember this – Life is short! No one should feel like they have to exercise every single day, nor should they dine only on tofu burgers and rice cakes. Give yourself a break now and then. If you’ve been consistent with your fitness and/or nutritional program, treat yourself to something you really enjoy. For some that may mean a few chocolate chips cookies or a scoop of Rocky Road ice cream.
For others, it may be a couple of days away from the gym or an afternoon at the movies. The bottom line is that you have to reward yourself for being good. That reward should be special to you, and you should enjoy it to the fullest. Not only do rewards serve as a good break from a regimented schedule, but the desire to accomplish something that deserves rewarding can serve as sufficient drive to stick to your program when your dedication begins to wane.
Article Retrieved from bodybuilding.com, by Mauro Di Pasquale: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/md16.htm