Back to Fitness: Goal Setting 101

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John Andersen

August is the best time of year for setting personal fitness goals. We find ourselves in the throes of warm summer weather and plenty of daylight where time and flexibility are forgiving to start something new. And fall is coming soon, a time many of us associate with new schedules and new beginnings, adding to our momentum for change.

Many of us are hit with ideas for goals but simply have a hard time making them happen. Whether driving in the car, talking with a coworker, or taking a shower, thoughts of a better self come and go.  I just need to get into a regular exercise routine. I want to run a 5k without stopping. I want to be able to bike with my daughter. I want to lose 20 pounds. I just need to change…something.  

Much like other ideas that zip in and out of our heads throughout the day, we want them to stick.  However, without putting a plan together, these goals and ideas have about as much likelihood of getting met as me painting the trim in my bathroom. (I really need to get around to that…)  

This brings me back to August. Most of us are likely more active now than, say, in January, so why not take some of that momentum and turn it into something real? The temps are warm and we still have almost 15 hours of daylight. Also, for most of us in the country, the end of August/beginning of September has been associated with a return to schedule with the return of school. Whether for us or our kids, the new school schedule is a time to get into a routine and make it stick. With this schedule change comes cooler temps and lower humidity! Anything we can start now will only get easier once the heat and oppressive humidity drop. Last, fall is a great time for putting all of our hard work to task. Fall is arguably the nicest season to be outside in Virginia, which makes setting goals that much more motivating – races, events, road trips.  

So, let’s get started!

What’s your goal?  Don’t let anyone else tell you what your fitness goals should be. This needs to come from you only. What do you want or need to do? Getting healthier is always a worthy end point. Choose a very specific goal and write it down. Seriously, write it down on a piece of paper to make it real.

Keep it realistic. “Lose 100 pounds in 2 months” is probably not realistic or healthy.  Don’t discount the big ideas but refine your goal to something that seems possible for you to accomplish.

It should require work. You need a goal that is something you cannot do right now.  Otherwise you are missing an opportunity to challenge yourself and grow as a person.

It should be hard. Not only something that will require you to work for it, but to work hard for it. Go ahead, challenge yourself! The only thing standing in your way is…. you!

So, whether a race, a hike or trip with friends, a weight goal, or whatever it is, make a goal and write it down.

Come up with a plan.  This is where the organized people are in heaven and the disorganized folks like me groan. But you’ve got to make some semblance of a plan on how you’re going to get from point A to point B. Coming up with a fitness plan can be intimidating and challenging because let’s face it, you probably don’t exactly know the best way to reach your goal! Here are a few suggestions:

Do some online research, but do not let this be your only guide. We are fortunate nowadays because there is an unprecedented amount of great information on just about anything on the Internet. This is a really good and valuable thing, however as someone wading into new territory, all the expert advice in the world can be meaningless if not applied correctly. So, do some research and learn about some common repeating themes that you hear and also consider some of the things you read that just don’t sound like good ideas. 

Speak with an expert. Or at least someone with a lot of experience. This is so valuable and I find that in the fitness world, people are incredibly supportive and willing to spend time sharing information with those who ask! It can be intimidating for someone who knows nothing about cycling to go into a bike shop, but I can almost guarantee you that the people that work there would love to share their enthusiasm with you. Likewise with nutritionists, runners, and fitness instructors. Nothing is more inspiring than someone who really wants to get better at something. Don’t be afraid to approach someone with experience and knowledge, tell them your goal, and ask for help!

Set a schedule. Okay, so you’ve got a plan. Now when are you gonna get all this work done? I find that the best way to make a fitness plan work is to have a regular weekly schedule that you can follow. Likewise, the best way to sabotage your fitness plan is to just “wing it” without a set schedule. We all have busy lives, family and work balance, etc., so it’s important to actually schedule the time that you need to achieve your goal. In my family, Michelle and I have a set weekly plan on who is going to go running on which day and at what time. We both agree and respect these times and now it’s up to ourselves to make sure we get out the door. I can’t say enough how important this is to do, especially getting your spouse or family on board.  

And last, execute! The hardest part: getting up early. Making it happen, consistently. This is where you change, or you don’t. You’ve got a goal, you’ve got a plan, and you’ve got a schedule, now make it happen! Do things that you don’t want to do and get uncomfortable. I HATE getting up early.  It’s the worst! But I have never once regretted getting up and out the door because once I get back home, I know I’m a little better than I was when I was lying in bed. That is a powerful feeling and it makes it just a little easier to get out the door the next day. Likewise, shutting off that alarm and rolling over makes it that much more difficult to get out of bed the next day.  

Life is full of a lot of little choices that have big consequences when added together. Here’s to the hard road! 

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