Get Real! 10 Tips for Setting Realistic Fitness Goals
By Amy Walker
Did you know there are several studies that claim it takes 21 days to form a habit? This reason alone is why most people traditionally abandon their fitness initiatives within one month of beginning a new diet or exercise plan. In my over 10 years as a health and fitness professional, I have seen many a newly-dedicated person fall of the proverbial wagon. So here are a few important points that may help you avoid becoming a statistic.
2. Write down several smaller goals – ideally with dates – you need to complete in order to reach the main goal. A goal with specific, measureable, obtainable tasks along the way is key to having success in almost any area of life, but most definitely in your fitness goals.
3. Start conservatively. Don’t start out by going to the gym for an hour if it has been a while since you have worked out. Remember, 20 minutes is better than nothing. As you get used to the habit of exercise and your body adjusts, begin to add in more time in small, five- to ten-minute increments.
4. If possible, find a workout partner. Ask around in your group of friends, talk to people in organizations you belong to, or take advantage of social media tools like Facebook and post a status saying you are looking for a workout buddy. If you have to contact someone to cancel, you are more likely to stay committed. A partner depending on you should make you think twice about whether or not you are really going to sleep in for an extra half hour.
5. Have someone take a “Before” picture of you from the front, side, and back in the least amount of clothes you are comfortable with, then set a date in your planner to take the pictures again in 4 weeks. This will be a great comparison tool in the future for how far you have come. You may not realize how far you have come until you look back at these initial pictures.
6. Document your successes along the way. Journal the changes you are seeing, make a list of the compliments you receive from family and friends, and/or take measurements. Each of these things will get you through times when you are not necessarily noticing changes on the scale.
7. Make a new “Get Motivated” playlist. I like to name my playlist after the goal I have set. For example, this year my husband and I are attending a wedding in Miami and plan to make it a mini-vacation. Since I would like to feel good about myself in a bathing suit, I named mine “Russ & Jill’s Wedding” so every time I scroll to this particular playlist I am reminded of my goal all over again.
8. Stay off the scale for the first two weeks of beginning a new program. This may be THE most important thing you do. If you do choose to get on the scale, do not panic if you gain a little bit in the beginning. This is extremely normal. When you first implement a program and start doing new, active things, your body’s composition (muscle to fat ratio) will change. As your body adjusts to the activities you are newly engaged in, it will put on some lean muscle. This will make you think you are gaining weight. You are not. You are gaining lean, calorie burning muscle, so give your body a few weeks to turn the corner.
9. Resist the temptation to do the same things over and over. The body is an incredible machine and will adapt very quickly to routines. In order to continue to see new progress, it is important to constantly vary your routine. Try new classes, hire a Personal Trainer at one of several local gyms for a few sessions to get some new ideas, or check into attending a local Boot Camp. Don’t let your muscles “catch on,” and your body will be forced to continue to respond and change. This principle is often referred to by fitness professionals as “muscle confusion”.
10. More IS NOT necessarily better. During cardio exercise, lifting weights, and/or taking classes, you should not stay out of breath for more than 2-minute bursts. If you can’t carry a conversation without gasping for breath, you are burning mostly quick-burning fuels like carbohydrates, sugar, and energy reserve that your body has tucked away in your blood (glucose) and muscles (glycogen). Slow down.
Amy Walker is a Certified Personal Trainer through the American Council on Exercise and holds additional certifications through the Cooper Institute of Dallas that include: Nutrition and Dietary Guidance, Special Populations, and the Biomechanics of Resistance Training.