It’s easy to set a goal, it’s a whole different animal to set an objective goal and then create a doable plan to reach it. The goal setting part is easy, but the reason they may not reach them is lack of planning. Here, we will establish some good tips to reaching your fitness goals. We will start by tackling basic barriers that we all encounter.
Finding the why. Often people ask us as therapists, “but I’m already pretty active, why do I need to exercise?” While it’s true some people do have very active lifestyles (chasing after 3 kids under the age of 5 or maybe a hard labor job like construction), your body gets used to this amount of work. It plateaus. Typically this kind of long duration work at moderate intensity throughout the day does not target all your systems. Cardio training for example is recommended 5x a week for the average person, this means your heart rate must get higher than 120 beats per minute (roughly) in order to count as aerobic activity and should remain elevated for about 20-60 minutes (ACSM standards). Constantly cleaning your house will not get you aerobically fit because you’re heart rate doesn’t elevate high enough for long enough to make an impact. Same thing working construction with muscles. Some will get used a lot more than others day in and day out, while others are atrophying (getting small, weak, and tight), which increases your risk of injury such as low back pain! It’s important to have a well-rounded approach to keep you healthy and that’s why we all have to do a little more to remain healthy.
Vague goals. Be specific. Don’t just say “I want lose weight” or “I want enjoy running.” Try “I want to lose 20lbs” or “I want to be able to complete a 5k.” Results from one recent study done by Western Washington University show those who set goals were more likely to complete more/longer exercise sessions per week while those who didn’t set goals had a minuscule increase in frequency per week over 10 weeks and actually decreased the duration of their workout sessions by 35 minutes per week compared to the goal setters. On average the goal setters outdid the control group by an average of 50 minutes per week (87)! It’s also important for your goals to be performance related, this means you are only competing with yourself. Comparing is the thief of joy, as well as progress! Focus on then vs. now. What can you do now after training, that you couldn’t previously do?
For example, our therapist Matt Ross pictured right (let’s just appreciate this finish line photo in all of its glory for a second) has a goal to run 2018 miles in 2018. That’s not my goal, so I’m not going to get upset when he out-does me on mileage. Matt’s goal (while being mind-blowing to most of us peasants) is attainable for him because he has been training for it consistently, conquering smaller goals along the way. In fact, he’s already surpassed it this year!
Part of being objective isn’t just setting an attainable goal, but breaking down that big goal into smaller goals. You might not be able to run a 5k your first time, but you CAN start setting apart 2 days dedicated to running per week before dinner. Tackling small goals will give you a good sense of accomplishment and will propel you into the next small goal. Don’t set yourself up to fail. If you want to run 5x a week, but don’t know if you can manage it, try 2x a week first and build every couple of weeks.
Set a concrete date.
This is very important. You have to give yourself the time to achieve these goals. If you’ve never ran a 5k before and try to just go for a 3 mile run you are going to feel tired, may have to walk, might feel very sore the next day, causing you to be unable to train comfortably the next day, and most significantly feel like you failed. If this sounds familiar you didn’t give yourself enough time! Put a date on it. “By April 22nd I will complete a 5k.” Be kind to yourself! But also don’t allow yourself to get lazy (like setting that 5k goal for year 2020). Paying for a race, event, or class ahead of time makes a difference too because you are more invested. If you feel like you can do more, do it! Don’t be afraid to push yourself, but don’t push past the small goal. That’s how injuries and setbacks happen.
“I just don’t have time.”
This one is a doozy. People often say “I just never have time” or “I’ll do it tomorrow.” If you want something, you have to make it a priority to work on it. Be consistent, but don’t get upset when you get a setback. You have kids, you’re always on call for work, you’re schedule changed, you’ll get sick and may have to skip that day etc. Creating a plan with time carved out to spend on your goal in your daily/weekly schedule to allow for “uhohs” will go really far in making your goal a reality. For instance, waking up a half hour earlier to go for a walk/jog before breakfast on Saturday seems pretty doable right? It’s also worth mentioning that the participants in that previously cited study were also graduate students juggling projects, finals, and research papers and they did better when they set goals and made time. There is hope for us as well!
Doing it all by yourself.
Your goal will be specific to you. However, it can also be a group project! People that recruit family and friends to keep them accountable have a higher likelihood of completing their goal. These chances go up even more if you start getting involved with other people who have similar goals. This is a great reason to join a local running club or start recruiting friends to exercise with! It’s easy to say “it’s raining out. I’m not going.” It’s much harder when someone calls you asking “We’re still up for running tonight right?” Hint. The correct answer is yes. Get yourself some cheerleaders and coaches!
Keep it fun!
This is probably the most important piece of the whole puzzle. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, you’re less likely to stick with it. This might be a good time to try different things out. Hate cardio? Maybe try Zumba. Tendency to over-heat? Try swimming. Feel like you slack off when you try to exercise alone (don’t feel bad, that’s my downfall too), try to get involved in some kind of group or challenge your co-workers to work out a certain amount of minutes a week. Download a fitness app to help you track everything and make it a competition.
If you have fitness goals and are unsure where to start please contact our team at Bader PT. We are passionate about what we do and we would love to meet you, whether you want to improve your balance, decrease your pain, be able to run a 5k, or teach you proper positioning in preparation for your max dead lift we have therapists who can help you succeed!
Buckman, Rahmin, “The effects of a goal setting program on the exercise commitment and fitness levels of university students” (2011). WWU Graduate School Collection. 124. https://cedar.wwu.edu/wwuet/124