Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How to Set a Goal

It's important to know where we are going when we head out for a drive lest we end up somewhere we don't want to be. The same is true of our fitness goals. We need to know what we want to achieve so that we can plan our route successfully.  But how do we set these fitness goals?
There are a 3 simple things to consider when we set a goal: attainability, length of time, and resources.
First, attainability. Any goal that we set for ourselves must be realistic. To say that I want to run a marathon this year is a realistic goal for me. To say that I want to scale Mt. Everest, is not. We must set goals for ourselves that are not only personal, but also attainable. I'm not saying that you can't aim for Mt. Everest, but be sure to set measurable goals along the way so that your motivation and self-satisfaction stay strong. Losing 10 pounds in 2 weeks is not attainable. Losing 1 pound a week for 10 weeks is. Weekly goals to meet a longer term goal.
The second thing to consider is your timeline. Back to the marathon, if I were to set my sights on the Flying Pig Marathon, May 1st in Cincinnati, I'd be hard pressed to make it. That's only 6 weeks from now. Considering my longest run is 8 miles, I'd be crazy to think I could complete a marathon successfully (the average training program for a marathon is 12 - 16 weeks). However, if my goal is to complete the Columbus Marathon, October 16th, I have a great chance at succeeding. The race is 31 weeks out - more than enough time to prepare for a marathon, even if I haven't run a mile. Set goals that you have to work hard to achieve, but that aren't so out of reach that you are doomed to fail before you start.
The third and final thing to consider when setting a fitness goal is our resources. Resources can be time, money, knowledge or support, among other things. When we set our goals, we need to consider the wealth of resources around us. You don't need a swanky gym to get in your cardio. You need shoes and a sidewalk. You don't need 60 minutes everyday. You need 30 minutes most days of the week. You don't need a personal trainer to meet you at the gym. A personal commitment to get to the gym and/or a fitness partner is all you need. Assess the resources around you: the internet, the local library, your physician's office, the local community recreation center, your friends and family. All of these are resources that can help you identify and achieve your goals, as well as support you.
Take a few minutes now to think about any goals you have set and see if they are attainable, if you have time to achieve them, and if you have the resources you need to succeed. If not, re-evaulate your goals.
If you haven't set any fitness goals lately, now is a great time to do it.

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