At the start of a new year, it is not unusual for folks to have a list of new year’s resolutions. Some common resolutions include saving money, getting a new job, or taking a trip. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention exercising more! But when it comes to making different health and fitness goals, how can we make goals that are realistic, flexible and manageable?
Here are 5 strategies that can help you make effective and realistic health and fitness goals.
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) has developed a five step goal-setting strategy with a catchy acronym of making SMART goals. Each letter represents a key component for developing effective health and fitness goals:
Being specific about your goals gives them purpose by answering who, what, where, and when/how often. For example, instead of saying “I will go to a gym to workout,” a more specific goal can be “I will go to XYZ Gym with my friend Sally for a yoga class on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30pm after work.” This allows you to clarify your goal which can help hold you accountable with a specific task.
Having a goal that is measurable answers the question “how will you know when you have reached your goal?” Instead of having a daily goal of working at a moderate intensity, a more measurable goal can be “I will work at a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) of 6 for ten minutes.” This helps you to keep track of your goal and measure when you have reached your goal.
You may have heard the phrase “no pain, no gain.” Well I am here to tell you that if you are feeling pain while you are working out, it may be a sign that you are overdoing it. Yes if you are new to working out or to a specific fitness format, you may feel some soreness for a day or two after. But as you get stronger, that is a feeling that should go away. Working out shouldn’t be painful, it should be fun, but also something that is reasonable and attainable. As you begin to feel stronger and more confident, you can always restart this process and increase the level or intensity later. For example, if you have never done a plank before, it wouldn’t be a good idea to start off by doing a three-minute plank. A more attainable goal would be to do a plank with proper form for 30 seconds. This is good especially if you are new to doing a plank. And as mentioned before, you can always increase the length of time as you go on.
It is important to make sure that your goals are relevant to your particular interests, needs and abilities. If your goal is to lose weight, it would not be relevant to focus your goal on lifting weights. Lifting weights builds your muscles which actually increase your body mass index (BMI). A more relevant goal for losing weight can be, “I will increase the amount of physical activity by doing a boot-camp class twice a week.
When we talk about time, we are thinking in terms of how soon, how often and for how long. Instead of saying “I will lose 10% of my body weight,” try thinking “I will lose 20 pounds in the next four months at a rate of 1-2 pounds per week.” Putting a time-sensitive deadline, helps to keep you motivated. Also, on average we can safely lose 1-2 pounds per week. Of course some weeks we will lose more than others, but that is nothing to be discouraged about. Progress is progress, no matter how big or small. As long as there is progress, that is motivation enough to keep going!
I am all about setting goals, but let’s make sure our goals are SMART. For 2019, I hope that you make goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.
Matthews, Jessica (2016) Creating Memorable Movement Experiences. Daniel J. Green (Ed.), ACE Group Fitness Instructor Book, (pp. 103) San Diego, CA: American Council on Exercise
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