Yesterday in the gym I heard a conversation of 2 guys that I see there pretty often. It was revolving around one of them not being able to see any progress after 2 months of pumping iron and kinda losing motivation over it (yes, I know – 2 months, right! Almost longer than lifetime). And when he was asked what exactly does he want to achieve, his answer was very simple: “Well, you know… Just want to be, you know…fit and ripped and all that”
That made me think – there are so many people that are dropping out of fitness routine for one reason – not being able to set themselves right goals and thus not seeing any progress. Well, in the above case it would have probably helped if our new-born bodybuilder stopped gulping Gatorade in between his bicep curl sets and followed some structured program…
We can measure progress only when we see a very clear goal in front of us and when we know where exactly we started. “I want to be fit”, “I want to run faster” or “I just wanna lose some weight” are all great, but unfortunately these goals are really hard to measure and track. What is fit? How much weight do you want to lose? How do you know that you are getting there?
That is why every time you set yourself a goal, you should try and follow a S.M.A.R.T. principle:
S for Specific. What exactly do you want to achieve? Instead of “I want to lose some weight” say ” I want to lose 3 kilos” or “I want to run sub 1:45 half marathon” instead of “I want to run faster”. And so on. Be specific about what you want to achieve
M for Measurable. You should be able to measure the progress you are making towards your goal. Be it pounds to lose or benchpress, kilometers to run. Measuring the initial state and the progress will draw a great and clear picture of where you are now and how you are moving forward.
A for Achievable . Set a goal that you can achieve. ‘I’ll run every day this year” or “I will never ever eat my favorite cheese cake again” – well, probably for some people it is achievable, but for me it is not, so why to set yourself up for failure right away?
R for realistic. “I want to break marathon world record”! No, really, I want! But can I? try to set a goal that is realistic for you, and not for your alter-ego from “Matrix”. Yes, I know, we can achieve great things when we really want them, but let us kinda not lie to ourselves. Probably in another life when I am born a Kenyan I can possibly run a sub 2 hours marathon, but in this lifetime or at least for the next couple of years I will just probably set my goal to sub-3:45 marathon 😀
T for Timebound. Goals should be just like bacon, they should have an expiry date. If you do not have a deadline you won’t really have a motivation to work towards achieving your goal! Don’t underestimate procrastination!
Some other things that really help me with setting goals, enjoying the process and appreciating results are:
– Making both long-term and short-term goals. If your goal is only long-term, like 10 years away from now, then it is so easy to lose your mojo somewhere on the way. Achieving smaller things, on the other hand, gives that extra push to remain focused and continue in the right direction.
– Noting down your goals and documenting results. As simple as that! Sometimes we really forget were we started and are not able to see the picture clearly and don;t pat ourselves on the back when we deserve it. I have a friend who only took up running last year, starting with a walk-run program, and this year she has already completed her first marathon. She was pretty disappointed with her time. But just think of this, it is such a great achievement to progress from 3 km run-walk to a full marathon in only 1 year! Always remember where you started and you can see how far you have gone!
– Setting goals related to performance and process rather than “aesthetics”. I know this won’t work for everyone, but this does work for me. I find myself motivated more when I want to increase my squad or run a mile at a faster pace, whereas looks-related goals a-la “legs of Angelina Jolie and abs of Jennifer Anniston” have never been able to inspire me enough to work my ass off.
And one last thing – realistic and achievable goals are good and safe, but people who achieve the most amazing result are those that don’t put themselves into a tiny little box of restricted capabilities and dream BIG!