If you want to be successful in anything, it’s essential to set goals. Whether you seek a higher education, better career, improved health or enhanced existence, the steps to triumph are the same. S.M.A.R.T. goal setting is highly recommended for any of these objectives.
Let’s focus on health through fitness goals. The S.M.A.R.T. philosophy is:
Specificity begins the goal setting and is necessary to keep motivated. Ask yourself what you wish to accomplish. Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to train for a marathon or walk? Do you want to firm up? Whatever the objective, make it as specific as possible. For example, I want to be able to walk ten miles. You can combine goals, if you have more than one in mind. I want to be able to walk ten miles and lose 20 pounds.
The goal needs to be measurable. Establish criteria to document the progress. If your goal is to lose weight, you should weigh yourself each week and track the losses. If you are working toward walking further or running faster, keep a weekly log of the progress. This motivates when you see the improvement and enhances your achievement.
Make certain the goal is attainable and adjustable. It should be flexible in case something happens that detours you from the goal, such as an injury. The goal should not be abandoned, but modified. If you twist an ankle, then try a rowing machine until you heal (maybe try climbing, spinning, cycling, kosama). Identify goals that are significant to you and then figure out a way to make it happen. Any goal can be achieved when you plan it efficiently and effectively. When you put the goals in writing and watch the progress, you build self-esteem, which encourages the course even more. I always say the best motivation for losing weight is weight loss. When you begin to see great results, it stimulates you to continue.
Make sure the goals are realistic. If you’ve never run a marathon, it’s probably not best to begin with a goal to run one. Think about beginning with a 5K or a 10K, then a half-marathon. Alternatively, you can begin by walking one of these distances and then increase your speed to running. On the other hand, you don’t want to make your goal too simple. You won’t obtain as much satisfaction from a goal that is too easily reached.
Set a time for the goal to be accomplished. For example, say you want to walk a 5K, and you’ve only walked as far as a mile. You could set your goal to walk a 5K within 2 months and then track your progress. Or, if you already know that you can walk a 5K at a slow rate, like a 15-20 minute mile, you may decide you want to walk or run a faster mile. You could set your goal to increase your speed to a 10 minute mile in 2 months. You can also set shorter timelines to keep you on track. Consider working up to a marathon by achieving shorter distances first. It’s not suggested, however, to set goals that go beyond 6 months. To keep motivated, goals should be re-evaluated every 2 to 3 months.
I have a few short-term and long-term goals. My long-term goal is to become completely physically fit by the time I retire in 2022. With that in mind, I set short-term goals. In order to keep weight off, my goal is to lose at least 25 pounds each year. I have accomplished 65 pounds lost, with about that much more to lose. I also have increased my walking distance to 6 miles and speed to a 17 minute mile. As weight comes off, my speed automatically increases. My next short-term goals are to lose 10 pounds, increase my speed to 15 minute miles and to increase the distance to 10 miles within the next three months. I accomplish this by increasing my distance once per week and increasing my speed 2 to 3 times weekly.
There are several websites, programs and smart phone applications, such as “Couch to 5K” running plans, that are conducive to the S.M.A.R.T. way of thinking. These are especially good for those who have never ran or walked in any type of race. They work best for those who are not extremely overweight. These plans did not work for me. Because of my size, the goals were too quick for me, so I incorporated my own pace to avoid injuring myself. Here are some suggested websites for the Couch to 5K:
- Cool Running
- Beginner Triathlete – This one has a program for the “aggressive” and “conservative” runner.
Another way I keep motivated and goal setting is to sign up for 5K’s in my area. Most often, it costs a few dollars, but it’s usually for charity and encourages me to show up. Frequently, you get a cool t-shirt to wear at the gym. Here is a great website to find the 5K’s, marathons, etc. in your area: http://www.runnersworld.com/cda/racefinder/1,7151,,00.html.
Good luck and great goal setting!