Exercise and goals

One of the most popular questions relating to exercise is ‘What are your goals?’. And in theory it sounds easy to answer “I want to lose weight” or “I want to get fit” or “I want to tone up”. While these are all valid goals, they tend to be very generalised. If you have ever felt like your goals are out of your reach or maybe you don’t feel like you are getting anywhere with your exercise or fitness, or you’ve fallen off the wagon, then this article is for you. Read on to see how you can set achievable goals, track your progress, and what to do if things get in the way.

How to set goals:

The best place to start is to follow the ‘SMART’ principle –

Specific: As above, having a goal like ‘I want to lose weight’ is very general. What does it (eg: ‘losing weight’) mean to you? How will you know when you are there? What will make you happy? An example might be: “I want to exercise regularly and lose 15kg by the end of the year’ then you break it down eg: “I want to do a workout three times a week and have one personal training session per week”

Measurable: Again using the above example, you might have a goal like ‘I want to be able to get around the block in 35 mins instead of 45 mins’. This way, you can monitor your improvements and you will know that as you can make it around the block faster, you are getting fitter.

Achievable: Yes, you can do absolutely anything you set your mind to. I mean anything. There is no harm in thinking big or aiming high. By aiming high, you build your self esteem and self-worth as you get closer to your goal. If you want to complete an Ironman Triathlon or if you want to lose 30kg, then you can. The trick is in the next part of the goal setting process.

Realistic: You have to be both willing and able to do the work to reach your goal. So, if you have a goal like losing 30kg, you need to commit to the work. If you start off by saying ‘I’m going to workout every day’ but once you start you realise you forgot about work commitments, taking the kids to sport, and family functions, you’ll get disappointed. So, be clear about what you are able to commit to. Is everyday unrealistic? Perhaps saying ‘I will exercise 3 times a week’ is more the case. Factor in your other commitments. Losing 30kg is realistic, trying to do it in 2 months like those on shows like ‘The Biggest Loser’, is not.

Timely: When do you want to achieve your goal by? Having an end point is important because it motivates you to get it done. Examples are: ‘I will compete in a Half Ironman Triathlon in January 2012’, or ‘I will lose 20kg by December 2011’, or ‘I will be able to run around my block continuously in 3 months time’. Give yourself a time frame so you know how long you’ve got and you can break it down into managable chunks.

What do you do if you fall off the wagon?

Get back on!!

Go back to the SMART principle and see where it went wrong. Ask yourself:

* Why did I start in the first place?

* What motivates me to keep going?

* Where did it start going wrong? What was happening at the time?

* Did I set myself a goal that was too general?

* Did I over-commit myself?

* Did I have unrealistic expectations when I started?

* Do I need to ask for help?

There are lots of reaons why you fall off the wagon. However it is essential that instead of staying off and complaining about how it was that you came off the wagon, and how other people are on the wagon and look like they are enjoying themselves. Stand up, dust yourself off, realise how you came off the wagon in the first place then sit in a different spot on the wagon when you get back on.

Still not getting anywhere?

Time to re-evaluate your priorities. Perhaps losing weight isn’t as important to you as you first thought. If things aren’t happening the way you want, you can either change your goal or you change you.

Changing your goals can be as simple as taking the pressure off ‘losing weight’ to using your exercise sessions to de-stress. Take away the guilt of not getting anywhere with your weight loss, and focus on feeling better about yourself for just getting your exercise done.

Changing you is harder but can be more worthwhile. You have the power to do whatever you want. You decide if something is worth the sacrifice or not. Make a decision and commit to it. Instead of changing your goal, make a conscious effort to do anything it takes to get there. Sometimes it means knuckling down and saying ‘no’ to going out with friends for a couple of months or braving the cold and dark and just getting out of bed earlier to do your workouts. Just do it!

If at the end of all of these things you still struggle, getting another perspective by talking it over with a friend, your trainer or other professional (Counsellor, Life Coach etc) can be very helpful.

Here are some great quotes to get you moving on your goal setting:

“It’s never too late to become what you might have been”. -George Elliot

“There are plenty of difficult obstacles in your path. Don’t allow yourself to become one of them.” – Ralph Marston, Author and Publisher of The Daily Motivator

“You have to do what others won’t to achieve what others don’t.” – Unknown

“Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do” – John Wooden, UCLA Basketball Coach

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning form failure. – Colin Powell, U.S. Secretary of State