Learn how to set realistic fitness goals
We are just about through the second fitness kick of the year. It’s a predictable cycle. Each year begins with the New Year’s resolution contingent, motivated by a Christmas of over-indulgence, followed soon after by the beach body brigade determined to shape up for summer.
It’s a never-ending sequence, usually typified by returning to former habits soon after the initial impulse has halted
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But, instead of accepting that this is merely the natural order of things, it’s worth discussing why this is the case.
Surely the natural instinct should be for fitness and training to be a year-round pursuit. So why are so many people failing to stick to their programmes?
The foundation for any successful training programme should start not in the gym or pounding the streets, but on a piece of paper, as you plot out your training goals. Put simply, goal setting improves performance by directing attention, increasing effort and persistence and is a positive motivational tool.
For goal setting to work however, it must be well planned.
An effective goal should be written down and monitored regularly, to ascertain whether any progress is being made
For goals to be effective, they should be aligned to the SMART acronym (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-framed).
Now let’s consider the twice-yearly fitness gang. How SMART are their goals? The truth is that, invariably, they are time-framed and possibly measurable, but they’re rarely achievable or realistic. With the recent Summer holiday breaks, many people will have undertaken an exercise programme to look good on the beach.
However, enough time is rarely left to achieve this goal, particularly without the necessary planning. And when you factor in other life events and and commitments, it can be even harder to ensure the success of a programme.
Next goal wins
By outlining goals early on, we manage our own expectations. Being ambitious is fine, in fact it’s great, just as long as you’re willing to put the necessary commitment into achieving it. However, to avoid the disappointment that accompanies unsuccessful targets, establishing realistic goals is a must.
Let’s put it bluntly – training is a sacrifice and is hard work. So, if you are not achieving your goals, it becomes very easy to lose motivation. Therefore, the key at the outset is to set goals which, given the right dedication and commitment, are possible.
For many of you health conscious people out there I’m sure I’m preaching to the converted. After all, your passion for fitness is such that you exercise regularly. But are you exercising in the right way? For instance do you all keep a record of your training? Or better still, do you have everything planned in detail in advance of your session?
I’d predict some of you do, but a larger contingent will sheepishly be reasoning that you always mean to, but something gets in the way.
Once goals are set, devising an effective training programme is the next rung on the ladder to success. This is the case, whether you are novice or an experienced exerciser – the only difference will be intensity.
Whether your over-arching ambition is to run long distances, build your strength, develop your power or simply be fitter, there will be numerous periods where you’ll be fatigued, drained and uninspired.
Imagine at these moments, you’ve reached the gym with nothing planned for that session. How do you think that session will go? Most likely, at
50% intensity and finishing early – we’ve all been there!
The key when putting your training block together is to know your current fitness levels. When training any new client, I’ll put together a few goal-specific tests to work out their starting point. These results will then form the basis of the training programme.
An effective programme should steadily build intensity
So, from week 1 to week 12 make sure each session is challenging. The most common mistake is that people will not establish the correct intensity from the outset. This ultimately results in injury, if the intensity has started too high, or a lack of results, if started too low.
A final tip for success is to be patient. If you’ve approached your training programme in the correct manner, you should have a clearly defined SMART goal, an intensity which is appropriate for your fitness level and a well structured plan. Remember your body will take its time to develop, though.
If you don’t see or feel the results straight away, don’t worry. A perfect training programme should have you always on the edge of fitness and fatigue. If one session feels harder than you expected, it may simply be that you’re fatigued from previous exertions – it’s nothing to panic about.
A well-structured plan should push you to your limits, but will also promote appropriate rest at the right times. By the end of any 12-week plan, you’re sure to find that you’ve made significant progress and all of the planning and dedication will prove hugely worthwhile.
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