As a fitness trainer I am distinctly aware that each client is different and each presents their own unique challenges. I know that what works for one may not work for another and must constantly remind myself that what works for me usually won’t be in my client’s best interests. It’s a little known fact that beginning exercisers often see extraordinary gains during the first weeks of a program when an experienced athlete may work months for the same results. Beginners who abide by a program and do as they are instructed soon see results and their joy and excitement is contagious. However I would still rather coach an experienced athlete any day of the week. It’s not because their experience makes my job easier but because their maturity as an athlete as given them a more realistic approach to training and fitness. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the setting of goals.
Many trainees start out with very vague and ambiguous goals. “I want to lose weight, or get in shape,” is an admirable goal. It’s not enough though. Change requires a certainty of purpose and a clearly defined outcome. How will you know when you’ve lost enough weight if you have no target to aim for? How will you know how healthy you’ve become if you have no idea of what healthy means to you or looks like for that matter? There’s nothing wrong in wanting to look a certain way, many of those that start a fitness program this year will be motivated by looks more than health. Regardless of your motivations or experience there are six general rules for transmitting a desire or goal into tangible results that everyone should follow and I will list them below. Whether you’re working with a trainer or alone remember these six rules and it will help you not only in defining your goals but in finding the way to achieving them.
Rule 1: A goal must be well-defined. Vague wishes or desires just don’t get it done. Instead of “I want to lose weight!” Try “I want to weigh 175lbs” or “I want to cut my body fat percentage by 10%.” Work with your trainer or a knowledgeable professional to determine a specific goal that will be consistent with your end weight, body type, fitness goal, or look. A specific goal is always more attainable than an idea.
Rule 2: A goal must be stated in writing. Make a contract with yourself and put it somewhere you can see it each and every day. Busy schedules have a way of reducing good ideas to distant memories. Give your trainer a copy and maybe even a friend so they can remind you of your contract. When it’s in writing; it’s real.
Rule 3: A goal must always be stated in the positive. Your mind does not understand negatively worded goals. While it may seem trivial the outcome is not. Negative thinking leads to negative results. When we say things like “I won’t drink too many beers this week,” or “I won’t eat junk food anymore,” all that your mind heard; was beer and junk food. State your goal in an assertive positive frame. Say what you want to be not what you don’t want. For instance “I eat healthy food, I am healthy and strong,” Is much better. Likewise don’t focus on being overweight or out of shape, instead focus on your target. “I weigh 175lbs, I can do 100 pushups, I CAN run 3 miles.” At first these affirmations may seem silly or just outright wrong but the fact remains whatever we speak with our mouths, our minds will make happen if we say it enough and believe it.
Rule 4: A goal must have a deadline for completion. A deadline sets the finish line and puts it into perspective. It also gives you something to look forward to and work towards. Also a time deadline can help to develop a sense of urgency in completing your goal. Think of it as a mission if you must, and do not deviate from it. Get your friends and family involved, while I would never encourage the use of peer pressure as motivation for fitness the fact remains that while many of us have been conditioned to feel no pain in letting ourselves down we still hesitate to disappoint others. Be flexible though and realistic, if you get sick or injured add a few days or weeks into your goal to allow for the lost time. Also if you lose a few pounds less than your target or fall a few reps short of your goal don’t fall apart, simply set another timeframe in which to make ups the shortfall and get it done. True fitness is not a onetime goal, it is a lifelong journey filled with many goals that are constantly changing and evolving as our fitness grows and matures.
Rule 5: A goal must have sincere emotional appeal behind it to be effective. Without this the will be no urgency or passion behind what you’re doing. To quote a famous saying making the rounds on Facebook these days, “Some people kind of want success; you need to want it as much as you want to breathe!” The reason many of the people we see on TV are so successful in their weight-loss goals is because their obesity has reached a level where it literally threatens their life. There is no greater motivation then to know if you don’t succeed you’re dead. That knowledge drives them on, it makes something that many of us see as a chore into a live or die choice. Find a way to put that emotion into your goal. I promise you if you look deep enough and hard enough you will find that reason to change your life. Keep it close to you once you find it and revisit it often whenever you’re contemplating giving up.
Rule 6: A goal must be difficult, but still realistic. Easy goals are often ignored or marginalized. Likewise extremely hard goals are often intimidating and will be avoided out of fear. Your goal should push you past your comfort zone and even involve a little bit of healthy anxiety, after all this should be new territory for you; however your goal should always build on previous triumphs taking you ever higher one step at a time. Set your goals in a way that with determination, effort, and continuous hard work you know you can see it done, even if you don’t want to sometimes.
Where you begin in a fitness program is as important as where you want to go. Without a concrete foundation your program will soon crumble along with your drive and motivation to finish. Be clear in what you want and make goals that can be seen, and touched. Ideas are great but are often diluted and forgotten in the stress of life. Work with your trainer to build goals that are realistic, concise, and attainable. Make sure your trainer understands what you want. If you’re doing this on your own then make sure you know where you want to be when this is all over. The time you spend today to define your goals will save you aggravation and frustration down the road.