Fitness Starts with Setting Goals

Would you plan a dinner party without a menu or recipes? Would you begin a woodworking or sewing project without a plan or a pattern? Would you head out on a vacation without an itinerary and some maps? Probably not. You can view your dinner party, your project, or your vacation as your goal.

“Would you plan a dinner party without a menu or recipes?”

When you decide that now is the time to get fit, set some goals for yourself at the outset. Be realistic and make them achievable. If you are a middle-age woman who has given birth to three children and packed on 40 pounds, it’s not realistic to think you’ll be a size seven as you were when you graduated from high school. If you are a man with a sedentary job and a lardy middle, it is unlikely that you will become the totally muscular GI you were when you finished basic training. Don’t even think you’ll look like Vanna White or Arnold Schwarzenegger. In fact, if all you focus on is the number on a scale or being the physical clone of some celebrity, you are doomed to frustration.

Instead of dreaming about the unachievable body, think about improving, not perfecting, the body you have. Here are some examples of goals you can set:

♦ You can set general goals such as slimming down, trimming your belly, toning your thighs, or building your upper torso in relation to your body now.

♦ It is even more effective to set a specific goal such as losing 25 pounds, going down two sizes, or fitting into an outfit you outgrew five years ago.

♦ You can set an exercise goal such as being able to do 25 pushups, bench press 50 pounds, sustain an hour on a stationary bike or treadmill, or make it through an aerobics class without having to stop.

♦ You can set a functional goal such as running or walking in a race, hiking up a high mountain, or refereeing your child’s soccer game without practically collapsing as the final score is posted.

♦ You can set a health goal such as reducing your blood pressure or lowering your cholesterol level.

♦ You can set a scheduling goal such as working out at least three but preferably four times a week for a month or every other day until you’ve used up every session on a membership card at the gym.

♦ You can sign up for a class that runs for a certain number of weeks and see it through such as a beginner weight-training course, a low-impact aerobics course, a water fitness course, a beginning yoga class, or planned walking sessions with a coach.

You might do better breaking down your goals into short-, medium-, and long-term goals. Instead of vowing to lose 25 pounds in four months, for example, you might set incremental goals. A man might aim to lose 10 pounds in the first month, another 10 within two months, and five more in the third month. A woman might try for eight pounds in the first month and five to six pounds during each of the next three months. As your long-term goal, you might select a race distance such as 10 kilometers, which is 6.2 miles. To prepare for the race, set a short-term goal of walking or jogging 1 mile around a local school track without stopping. Your medium-term goal could be 3 or 4 miles on the track or on the road, and then you can begin aiming at 5 miles or more to train for that 10-kilometer run.

Couples or friends often are successful if they embark on a shape-up program together. This can work splendidly for motivation. After all, someone is depending on you for that daily walk or visit to the gym. The goals don’t need to be the same. In fact, because men and women lose weight at different rates and build muscle differently, they can’t be identical even for the most devoted couple.

Reward yourself for achieving a goal. If you are a woman, when you’ve succeeded in going down two sizes, buy a sleek new outfit or perhaps a daring swimsuit to show off your new body; or treat yourself to a massage, a facial, or a “day of beauty” at a local spa. If you are a man who has hankered for a particular tool, gadget, or sporting-goods item, buying it is a suitable reward for achieving a goal. If you and your spouse or significant other have both reached some kind of shape-up milestone, reward yourselves with a lovely, low-cal candlelight dinner or a getaway to a romantic inn. The one reward that would be counterproductive is a dinner in your favorite, filling restaurant.