Fitness column: Get what you want by setting goals
Have you ever tried to hit a target with your eyes closed? Or tried to catch something without seeing it? Or tried to drive somewhere without directions?
Not having a specific objective can get frustrating. It is impossible to get anywhere, and if you do it’s just by luck.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t let luck control my life. I set a target and go after it. This is how goal-setting works.
Sometimes people create vague goals that end up being unhelpful. For example, many people choose to lose weight, increase strength and be healthy. However, in order to truly be goals, they need to be specific, attainable, reliable and measurable.
Let’s take one of those goals into consideration: to lose weight. First we need to know why we want to lose weight. Perhaps we want to avoid disease, enjoy a longer lifespan or improve our appearance. After we’ve determined our purposes, we need to find the specific objective, such as losing 48 pounds in a year. Next we break down the goal into smaller goals, such as dividing the year by 12 months, which leaves only 4 pounds to lose per month. We can be flexible, perhaps losing 5 pounds one month and 3 in another month.
The long- and short-term goals are now set up. We know that to achieve them we need to honor exercise and diet commitments. At this point we can brainstorm and ask ourselves exactly how we are going to achieve our monthly goals. What do we need to do? What aspects of our life are we willing to change? For weight loss goals, we will need to institute changes in our lifestyle, exercise and eating habits.
Minor and major everyday commitments will lead to every-week commitments, which in turn will lead to achieving monthly goals.
We can get more specific to how many days we are doing strength training and how many we dedicate to do cardiovascular training and for how long. It can be Monday, Wednesday and Friday strength training and Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday cardiovascular training. This can also get broken down by periodization.
To this we could add the habit of eating a healthy breakfast, decreasing extra calories, walking to places, and perhaps even learning to play some type of sport. We can define these changes of habit more precisely, for example decreasing 500 calories per day overall, which quickly turns into 3,500 fewer calories per week, which should result in losing four pounds of fat a month, or one a week. If we have the habit of eating junk food, perhaps that’s the way we lower our calorie intake: Just cut out junk food. Or maybe we substitute water for alcoholic drinks and soft drinks or replace some high caloric foods with veggies or fruit. These changes will decrease our caloric intake and still give us enough important nutrients for health.
All these new commitments can be adopted one by one, at different times in our health journey. After we are settled in these exercise habits, we might even be able to increase caloric expenditure if we increase our exercise commitment. Depending on the exercise, this could help us lose an extra 500 to 1,000 calories, which is the equivalent of 4 to 8 pounds of fat per month.
As you can see, it’s useful to be clear in how we create our exercise and diet goals. The more specific and realistic our goals are, the more successful we will be. When you set up your goal properly it is very clear what you need to do every day to achieve it.
Sandro Torres is owner of Custom Body Fitness in Carbondale, author of the book “Lose Weight Permanently” and a Watch Fit columnist. His column appears on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month in Body & More.
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