The year’s almost over. Now is a great time to review the year behind us. I don’t know about you, but I’m asking myself what worked, what didn’t, and how I can use this information to make next year better…. I could write a whole entire post about that. And I will. But for now, let’s talk about fitness.
You want to be fit, right? Me, too.
But if you tell me, “This year I’m going to get in shape!” I will tell you I see a year that’s just like any other year in your future. I don’t have a crystal ball. All I have is a Magic Eight Ball, along with a 20+ year history as a runner, six marathons, two ironman triathlons, a gazillion other races, a lot of mistakes, and a few successes under my belt.
So, I know a few things.
I know that you should not binge on Cool Whip, Honey Bunches of Oats cereal, and peanut butter, and immediately hit the pool for a hard workout. (Even if you have a raging case of PMS. Just trust me on this one.) I know that you should never, ever, do an open water swim or a long bike ride close to dusk if there’s even the slightest chance you will get lost. You should think about weaning your nursing baby off of the mid-morning feeding that happens at exactly the same time as the last three miles of a half marathon sometime before race day.
And I know that you will never reach your fitness goals if they are not specific and measurable. Here’s everything you need to know to set goals and reach them this year. The good news is, setting the right goals is easy and free. The bad news is, it probably doesn’t involve Cool Whip. Actually, that could be good news.
1) Choose an objective, measureable goal
If your goal is Be a better runner, do not pass go. If you strive to lose weight, do not pass go. If your goal sounds similarly vague Do Not Pass Go! If your goal is not objective and measurable, how will you know when you’ve accomplished it? Answer: You won’t. Worse, you will not have any way of knowing whether you’re on track toward meeting it. Examples of objective, measurable goals:
-Lose ten pounds.
-Run a four-hour marathon.
-Do a set of 50 pushups.
These goals include numbers, and they are not subjective. Either you have met them or you haven’t.
2) Give yourself a deadline
Choose a date- any date. It could be December 31st, it could be the day of your wedding, or it could be your baby’s first birthday. Maybe your target date is the day of the race or event you are training for. I don’t care if it’s National Mustard Day. Just pick a specific date on or by which you plan to meet your goal.
-I will finish the swim portion of the local sprint triathlon on July 1st in under 15 minutes
-I will complete 100 pushups in a row by November 1st
-I will be back to my pre-pregnancy weight on or before Dec 31st
3) Set smaller, manageable short-term goals
If you want to run a marathon, you need to gradually increase your weekly mileage and the distance of your longest run in order to prepare your body for the challenge. Similarly, if you want to lose 20 pounds by May, you should plan to lose five pounds a month every month until then. If you want to win a regional cross fit competition, first set a goal of winning your gym’s competition two months. Breaking your goal down into smaller chunks serves several purposes: It provides motivation for your journey toward your long-term goal. Striving toward smaller, less intimidating achievements helps prevent you from becoming overwhelmed by your long-term goal. Additionally, your ability to achieve your short-term goals will give you objective feedback to determine whether you are on track to meet your overarching goal, and allow you ample time to try a different approach, if you discover that what you are doing is not working.
4) Create a plan
How do you plan to reach your goal? Simply wanting it is not enough. Once you’ve determined your goal, when you will achieve it by, and what short-term goals you need to reach on the way, you will need to determine what you must do in order to make it happen. What do you need to do each month, each week, and each day to get you to your goal? If you need to do specific workouts, schedule them as you would any other appointment. If you need to eat a certain number of calories, find a way to track them, whether on paper, in a note in your phone, or via an app. If you’re not sure how to get where you want to be, consider hiring a professional, such as a coach or a dietician.
My goal is to be injury-free and to complete a half marathon in 1:45 if I do a local race at altitude, or in 1:42 at sea level by the end of 2016. I haven’t put a race on the calendar because injuries won’t leave me alone! I’d take a random piece of dog shit stuck in the sole of my sneaker any day over running injuries. For now, I’m working on my core, as I am suspicious that despite physical therapy, self-massage, chiropractic, and stretching, and lots of single leg squats, my sad, weak core is the source of my issues. I have my second pregnancy to thank for that. To strengthen my core, I will attend Dailey Method classes three to five times per week from now through January 21st. (After attending a couple of freebie classes, I decided to go for it! I signed up for the first month at a low introductory rate, which grants you unlimited classes. I started today at 6am.) Depending how this month goes, I will develop another, specific goal for February. I can’t map out the half marathon plan until I can at least run 20 miles per week pain-free for a month.
If you remember one thing when you think about your fitness goal this year, remember this: A goal without a number, a date, benchmarks for success, and a plan is just an idea. Attainable, motivating goals are ones that you can objectively measure. And if your goal is to eat one tub of Cool Whip per week, every week, I suppose that’s fine. Whatever you do, don’t set out to eat more Cool Whip.
What are your goals this year? How are you going to get there?
A version of this post originally appeared on Social Butterfly Mom.