3 Ways to Set and Achieve Physical Fitness Goals While Adding Enjoyment to Your Life
Why do we dread New Year’s resolutions? Because they remind us of the goals we never achieved? That we are one year older? Or maybe because we set the same vague, non-serious goal every year, and hope that this year will be the one we magically achieve it...only to abandon the entire idea before January is over?
For those of you who identify with this struggle, I have some good news and some bad news. Let’s start with the bad news first: you will not achieve your goals through the mere hope and wish that this year will finally be the year you make some overdue changes in your life. There is no magic diet pill that will help you take and keep the weight off. You will not consume fewer calories by breaking cookies into smaller pieces. However, there is good news: setting and achieving goals is entirely possible if you look at it as a source of joy, connection, and even competition, rather than as a chore or punishment. Decide what your most pressing needs are: improve a medical condition, lose weight, increase your exercise, modify your diet, or even tone up for a summer vacation. Then set out a detailed plan to achieve those results. Here’s how:
1. Determine Which Goals Are Realistic and Fit With Your Lifestyle
The first, and most essential, aspect of setting a goal is to determine what types of goals are actually achievable, and fit with your lifestyle. For example, if a juice diet or cleanse will cause you to be lethargic, hungry, and cranky, explore ways to detox while keeping away the hunger, not those close to you. Research the right diet for you online, with a nutritionist, or with a health and wellness coach. If you know you hate mornings and outdoor activities, getting up at 5:00 a.m. for a boot camp in the park may be a bad idea, even if you purchased a Groupon for the hot new class you heard about from your colleague. However, if you work late and find that you have the most energy in the morning, go to bed early so that you can exercise before you start your day. You will find that you not only start your day with increased energy, but will also be kickstarting your metabolism.
Next, determine how many days per week you can realistically schedule exercise into your routine. Factor in commuting time, child care activities, and social engagements when making your plans. Even if you can only afford a walk around the block on your lunch break, make it a point to get moving every day. To combat the late afternoon energy slump, get up from your desk and take a lap around the office. It is not only healthier than an a sneak attack on the vending machine or a fifth cup of coffee, but may provide some social interaction that your computer screen cannot.
Rotate the types of activities, classes, and machines you use in order to prevent boredom and a plateau in your work out. For example, you may want to do an outdoor hike, weight training, a group exercise class, and a home DVD work out on different days in the same week so that each experience stays fresh and new.
Most importantly, treat your fitness goals with the same priority you would give to a business or family commitment. Respect what you are doing by programming the work out, travel, and shower time, into your calendar. This way, you will be less likely to miss a work out if you know you will be busy on the same date and time every week.
2. Don’t Do It Alone
Just imagine that you never had a boss, client, spouse, or parent to report to in your personal and professional life. Would you complete all of your assignments on time, all of the time, or would you find ways to cut corners? Similarly, if you have no one to report to regarding your physical goals, you may hit the snooze button instead of making that spinning class, have another “cheat day” on your diet, or quit a run around the track a few laps early. Selecting a person or group to report to, whether in person or online, may provide you with the turbo boost you need to achieve your fitness goals.
One of the easiest, but most expensive, ways to ensure your accountability, is to hire a personal trainer. The motivation to keep your word is inherent: once you have paid top dollar for an appointment with a trainer, you will think twice before canceling a session. In addition, a trainer can take your measurements and monitor them over time, outline a fitness plan, correct your technique, prevent plateaus, suggest a diet and supplements, vary your routine, and most importantly, provide motivation.
If hiring a trainer is outside of your budget but you belong to a gym or health club, group exercise classes are an excellent way to get a comprehensive work out that would be much more intense than you would do on your own. In addition, if you attend the same classes frequently, you may have the opportunity to develop new friends and acquaintances who share similar fitness goals. The camaraderie and competitiveness of the group experience may also help challenge you to complete one more rep, add additional weight, or jump a little higher. Most gyms offer dance classes, which also provide the added accomplishment of learning new choreography. Outside of the gym, belly dancing can provide a great core workout, and salsa dancing can be a way to meet new people or create a new challenge with a partner.
If free outdoor activities are more your style, grab a friend, family member, or neighbor for a walk around the neighborhood, a scenic bike ride, or a challenging hike. Websites like meetup.com provide endless opportunities to meet people in your area with similar interests to take part in together. You may even discover new parts of your city you have overlooked.
Finally, if you like to compete with yourself for your own personal best, or with people who live outside your area, you can compete with them via online fitness tools that upload your results to the cloud from a device such as a bracelet or monitor.
3. Use Technology
Forget counting calories or the number of steps you take in a day. More good news: with all of the technology that is currently available, measuring your goal progress is a breeze. With equipment like FitBit and Jawbone Up, you can wear a bracelet or device that counts the number of steps you take and the amount of time you are active during the day. It even charts the amount of time you are restless during the night so you can measure the quality of your sleep, and allows you to enter your food intake with online tools and mobile apps.
One of the greatest benefits of this type of system is that you can compete with friends, family, and colleagues in fitness contests. The data can be uploaded to a server and shared with the subscriber community, or the people invited to your specific contest. For example, roommates, friends, or co-workers can create a challenge to walk a certain number of steps per week, and the winner of that week will earn a point for the most steps taken during that period. Reset the competition each week so that no one participant falls behind during a bad week and gets discouraged. The prize can be as simple as a free dinner or massage, or more encouraging, such as the winner receiving a free car wash from the other participants for a year.
Get creative with the contest, and enlist friends to help support you on your way to the success. The best part about this challenge is that even if you don’t win the prize, you will still achieve the health benefits of the added exercise or conscientiousness of your eating and sleep habits.
Other useful apps and devices include CalorieKing (online weight loss club), bodybugg (wearable personal calorie management system from 24 Hour Fitness), and myfitness pal (free calorie counter, diet, and exercise journal).
By setting realistic goals; enlisting the support of friends, colleagues or family; and using technology; you can make goal setting something you look forward to. You may even turn it into a habit.
Special thank you to RoseAnn Linder (National Association of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer), and Mark Diment for their contribution to this article.
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