"Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” - Tony Robbins
Goal setting is an important aspect of all areas of life. In order to accomplish anything you have to figure out where you want to go, then make a plan for how to get there. This is no less true when it comes to fitness and living a healthy lifestyle. The American Council on Exercise recommends setting goals the SMART way:
SPECIFIC: The fitness goals must specifically state what is to be accomplished. They must be easily understood and should not be ambiguous or subject to interpretation. For example, rather than stating you would like to improve your fitness level, set a specific fitness goal to be able to run a mile in 12 minutes.
MEASURABLE: The fitness goals must be measureable so that there is no doubt about whether you achieved them. Measurable fitness goals also allow you to evaluate your progress. Goals can be measured objectively or subjectively (i.e., how you feel and look), or both. For example, you could measure your percent body fat and body weight, but also monitor how your pants fit.
ATTAINABLE: The fitness goals must be attainable—not too difficult or too easy. Easy fitness goals do not motivate, and overly difficult ones may frustrate you and lead to a perception of failure.
RELEVANT: The fitness goals must be relevant or pertinent to your particular interests, needs and abilities. For example, when preparing for a 5K walk, running quarter-mile sprints would not be the best approach.
TIME-BOUND: The fitness goals must be time-bound by specific deadlines for completion. Timelines can be both short-term and long-term and should help you stay focused and on track.
Make sure you choose goals that are realistic. It is much healthier, and much more easily maintained, to set a goal to lose 1-2 pounds per week than 10. Choosing fitness a goal that is unhealthy or unreasonable leads to burnout and injury. Ultimately, you want to establish habits that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Measureable and attainable goals keep discouragement at bay. Tangibly assessing how many pounds you have lost, either by stepping on the scale or by seeing how your clothes fit differently, keeps you encouraged and wanting to continue. Find the sweet spot between goals that are too easy or too hard so you don’t get lazy or frustrated. You may need to set some short-term goals along the way to your ultimate goal.
A good mix of goals that are either process oriented or product oriented will keep you motivated. An example of a process goal would be, “I am going to go to kickboxing three times this week.” A product goal would be increasing the amount of weight you can bench press or losing an inch off your thighs.
Have some activity or fitness workout routine that you enjoy and grab someone to enjoy it with you. If you enjoy it you will tend to stick with it. Be prepared to work through the times when it is just plain hard, though. Establishing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle takes diligence and self-discipline, but goal-setting can keep you on track.
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