Setting a “real life” fitness goal for when it really matters
To keep making progress in times of tribulation, it helps to have something on the horizon that allows us to stay on course towards what is really important to us. I propose that you take a few moments to clearly define what it is that you are setting out to achieve through fitness. Doing so, and revisiting this notion regularly, is the best way to stay on track with behaviors that get you closer to that goal. This is especially true in times of distraction, diversion, difficulty or dismay.
For those of us on “the inside”; it is difficult to imagine not getting in our workouts, skipping an important meal, or missing out on half a night’s sleep to catch the latest movie release. We have the distinct advantage that the behaviors we fall back on when things get busy or get tough include fitness. If you’re one of “us”, that’s great, but you’re in a distinct minority. Let’s keep in mind the 85% of the rest of the population that doesn’t default to fitness.
For those of you who “know” you need to get to the gym, and “know” you need to “eat better”, the process of setting a goal is probably even more important. The thing we on “the inside” often overlook, is that an appropriate goal should be highly individualized, relevant to each of our own lives and should take into account our hopes, dreams and aspirations for our current and future self.
Let’s get a few things out there to help you get started on identifying your fitness related goal. First of all, it is PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE to use fitness as a means to an end. That said, identifying that end is an absolutely essential part of success in achieving fitness results. Your goal can be to “have more energy” to share with your family. It can be to “lose 40 lbs”, to run a 5k, to get a “stronger core”, to “lose the love handles” or to “tone up for bikini season”. Carefully choosing and scrutinizing your goal can make all the difference when you hit a speed bump (or a canyon) on your path towards achieving your desired outcome.
It doesn’t have to be something that can be measured in the gym. The goals I admire most are the ones that aren’t measured in a gym, but are measured out in the real world. For example, “to get the economy size bag of dog food from the trunk to the back door”, or “to be able to get onto and off of the floor without help so I can play with my young grandchild”. The point is that identifying what it is that you’re trying to get out of fitness is what keeps you going when the going gets tough. Indeed, the going WILL get tough, and those of us with a goal have a constant reminder to reflect back upon that keeps us moving forward when life pulls us away from the process of achieving the end we seek from fitness.
The hardest part about setting a fitness related goal is that we often don’t have a clear “outcome” that we seek; we very well may know that we don’t want to be where we are, but may have no clear idea of exactly what it is that we’re working towards. In that case, once it is clear that something has to change, then sustaining or implementing a behavioral change IS the goal! For example, if heading to the gym is new to you, and you haven’t already made it to the gym once a week, the simplest goal to choose is “make it to the gym this week”. This goal can be repeated until it is automatic. From there, the next goal might be coming to the gym twice a week, or it might be sustaining the once a week trip to the gym and adding a 20 minute walk one day a week. Either way, these small behavioral changes, sustained over time is truly the key to achieving the outcome you seek through fitness when things at the gym lose their luster.
Overwhelmingly, each of us believe that we “ought to be” exercising and “eating better” but it’s easy to let life’s hurdles divert us from sustaining these behaviors. Having a personally relevant goal keeps us all on course when the winds get unfavorable, and the sky is dark. When the storm passes, we may have lost some ground, but the goal remains on the horizon.
Our obligation, as fitness coaches, is to help you identify your goal and help you keep it in your sights!