Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” From late night informercials to large sporting goods stores to fitness industry conventions I am always surprised by the many types of gimmicky workout products being promoted as providing, “All of the results you want in only a few minutes a day.” If this were actually true, there would be no obesity epidemic; despite all of the attempts to make exercise as easy as possible there are only a couple of tried and true methods for getting results:
- Be consistent; and
- As the late Dr. Stephen Covey suggested in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Begin with the end in mind.”
Whether it is setting a PR in your next race, having the energy to play with your kids or wearing your favorite pair of jeans, results only happen when you apply consistent effort towards a specific goal. If you don’t have a purpose for what you’re doing or why you’re doing it then it can be hard to make the time for exercise. If you find yourself stuck in a constant cycle of starting and stopping exercise programs then you may need to take a step back and, as motivational speaker Tony Robbins suggests, “Find YOUR why!”
If you’ve been struggling with making exercise a consistent part of your life then here are a few suggestions for setting and achieving realistic fitness goals. In addition, on my All About Fitness podcast I interview former Navy SEAL and inventor of the TRX Suspension Trainer, Randy Hetrick, about how he accomplished his goals of joining an elite military unit and starting a successful business. In our conversation Randy shares his strategies for setting and achieving challenging goals. Even if you don’t like to exercise you will gain valuable insight that can help you become more productive. (To hear the story of why Randy created the TRX when he was a SEAL, watch this video).
How to set realistic fitness goals:
- Set a goal of exercising three times a week: twice during the work week and once on the weekend. I know that you think working out everyday is important but if you haven’t been successful at following a regular exercise program then vowing to workout every day is simply unrealistic, try this for two months and you will find that you’re able to make exercise a regular habit. The foundation of reaching your goals is by achieving small successes. If you state that you want to workout everyday and find yourself having to work late, caring for a sick kid or dealing with any other one of life’s unforeseen challenges then it can be easy to throw in the towel and quit. Achieving small goals can help you develop the confidence to reach other goals.
- Write down your goals. If you take the time to write out your goals then you are committing yourself to achieving them. “It’s only a dream until you write it down, then it becomes a goal.” I’m not sure who said it, but it’s true.
- Once you write out your goals, identify the necessary steps to reach them. If you want to look great for an upcoming event or get a PR in your next race then identify what you need to do to make that happen. Will it require joining a gym, buying a new pair of workout shoes or finding a workout buddy to help keep you accountable? Do you need to eat healthier or make the time in your schedule for workouts? Whatever the steps necessary to get you to where you want to go – identify them and knock them out one at a time.
- Identify potential barriers that can get in your way. Do you have kids? Then join a gym with childcare. If you can’t afford to join a gym then look for a program or product that you can use it home; for example Daily Burn offers live streaming and recorded workouts with some of the top trainers in the country at very affordable prices.
- Identify the timeline for reaching that goal and make sure it is realistic. Losing thirty pounds in four weeks? Ain’t gonna happen, not in a way that helps you develop long term adherence. A goal in the relatively near future, from 4-to-twelve weeks away, provides ample time for executing the steps you have already identified. Vacations, running races or participating in other athletic competitions will give you a specific date for reaching your goal.
- How will you determine your success? What is the metric for reaching your goal? Whether it is a certain body weight, clothing size or race time, you can’t reach a goal you can’t measure. A quantifiable goal is essential for success.
- You will stumble, don’t let it stop you. You can’t help it if you have to spend every waking hour at work because your boss gives you only one week to rewrite the Van DeLay proposal. Exercising for as little as ten minutes at a time can help you to maintain your gains. If you find yourself short on time my blog post here will give you ideas for adding more activity to your day. If something gets in your way, adapt and overcome.
- Find actives and exercises that you enjoy and DO THEM. Even if lifting light weights while pedaling a million miles an hour on a stationary listening to an over-caffeinated instructor screaming motivational quotes is the best exercise ever (it’s NOT, it’s not even close) if you don’t enjoy it, then you’re not going to do it in the first place. Rediscover a sport you haven’t played in years. Explore your city parks. Dance the night away at your favorite club. Whatever it is, if you enjoy it, you’ll do it more often.
Yes, I know the SMART acronym for goal setting (Specific, Measurable, Attainable and Time-bound) but I wanted to provide you with a few specific ideas relevant to exercise. My working definition of fitness is: Having the physical ability to do WHAT you want to do WHEN you want to do it. Be positive, believe in yourself and, most importantly, HAVE FUN! Remember:
“Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.”