Although you may have an overall goal to get fit, remember that fitness is not just a target but something you want to maintain in your life forever.
It’s not as if you want to run a marathon and then retire to couch-potato land forever (well at least I hope not) so fitness goals need to be looked at a little differently from those you might have for your career or finances.
Once you have reached a reasonable level of fitness with your initial goal “to get fit”, you may want to set a goal to reach a higher level or you may just want to set standards for yourself.
You don’t have to strive to get fitter and fitter unless you have really got the fitness bug. But if you don’t challenge yourself regularly, you will lose the level of fitness you have reached.
Standards could be things like
- I will work on strengthening my muscles for twenty minutes three times a week
- I will walk at least 30 minutes every day
- I will practice yoga 5 times a week
- I will eat 7 portions fruit and vegetables a day
- I will try a new activity every month
- I will find a dance class I like and attend twice a week
The difference is that standards type goals never end – though you should review them regularly to make sure they are taking you where you want to be.
Keeping up standards can be just as challenging as working on improving fitness and in some ways you need to be even more motivated to keep this up as you will not be seeing so many dramatic positive changes in how you look and feel.
Maintaining a log can help with motivation – you’ll be able to see in black and white how well you are sticking to your standards when you mark off what you do each day.
Fitness Goals image by Dale Gillard
Having a goal to get fit is all well and good and many of us decide that we’d like to do that.
This seems to be the case particularly around January 1st when we are replete with festive food and fat and also as summer approaches when we realize the layers of winter clothing will no longer be hiding the evidence of our neglect.
But what does getting fit mean exactly?
What are you aiming for when you say you want to get fit?
- Do you mean you want to be able to run for the bus without going red in the face or to be so fit you can run a marathon in under four hours?
- Are you looking for cardio fitness or muscle definition? flexibility or bulk?
- Do you really just want to lose weight and get in shape and think getting fit will help?
You see there are as many types of fitness as there are types of people and your goals should match what you are trying to achieve.
For this you need to know why you want to get fit
It helps your motivation to have a precise vision in mind of what you are aiming for when you think about being fit.
What exactly will be different when you achieve your goal ?
- What does getting fit look like?
- What does getting fit feel like?
- What will you be doing differently when you are fit?
Only once you know why you want to get fit and what exactly you are aiming for can you start to work out the steps you can take to actually achieve your goal to get fit.
21 days to Form a Habit?
They say that it takes at least 21 days of consistent action to form a new habit. So, if you want to make fitness a habit in your life, you’ve got to be committed for at least that period of time before the habit becomes just “what you do”.
Many people know about the 21 day theory, but did you also know that if you fail to carry out your habit at any point within those 21 days you have to go right back to the beginning? You can’t just start counting where you left off.
Knowing that fact may be just enough to keep you going through a rough patch and avoid sabotaging your efforts in the early days.
Also, don’t rely on the 21 day rule. You may find that it takes you a bit longer than 21 days to make a fitness program part of your life (21 days is just the average) so you may want to focus on your new habit for 30 days to avoid sabotaging yourself in that doubtful period between 21 and 30 days.
30 Day Fitness Experiment
Any new fitness habit is a good case for a 30 Day trial which personal development writer Steve Pavlina recommends. He likes to try out many new things for length of time and then decide whether they are worth continuing with. (His current 30 day experiment is eating a totally raw food diet).
It’s a helpful concept because it means you can safely give up any habit which does not suit you without feeling like a failure – it was simply the end of the experiment and you decided to try something else instead.
With any new fitness habit or program this makes sense because by the time you get to 30 days you
a) will probably be seeing some results (good or bad)
b) have given it a fair shot
c) are seeing whether the “experiment” will slip easily into your lifestyle.
One Small Fitness Habit at a Time
My other plea is for you to not take on too much and set yourself up for failure. Try a tiny habit at first. Self-discipline is like a muscle that has to be exercised.
Give yourself an easy load to start with – say 10 minutes of exercise a day rather than an all out gym routine 5 times a week. If you have the discipline to manage 10 minutes a day you will probably find that you feel so good you will want to do more. But if you fail at the much harder goal it makes it so much more difficult to try again in the future and your self-esteem will take a bashing it can do without.
Do what you know you will succeed with and build on that.
It’s too easy to give up a new exercise program when you don’t seem to be getting results but please don’t let unrealistic expectations about changing your shape and fitness level within a few days get the better of you.
Results CAN be truly remarkable within a few weeks – but you have to be a little patient with yourself if you are trying to reach that next level in your fitness goals or even to go from a complete standing start to super lean and fit.
A shiny new exercise program or workout routine IS often the best way to jump start your achievement. You just have to give it time to work its magic.
I have seen people have results within a week and I have seen others have a wait a month for similar results. Some of that has to do with the effort put into a fitness program or with the choice of program but in some cases it’s just that our bodies are all different and so is their response to any particular exercise regime.
The guy lifting mega weights at the gym is not you. And you probably haven’t been into a dozen sports since the age of 6 like the girl at the pool. You have your own body, preferences and capabilities so work with them and avoid comparing notes with anyone else.
The important thing is to get to your individual point of no return – the point where you start to see your hard work IS worth it and you decide that you want your new level of fitness to become part of your life. You need to reach that place well before the point where you decide to jack it all in and give up on your new program.
To increase your chance of success give yourself time…
- Have no expectations for 1 to 2 months – just decide to do the program no matter what and then review it
- Have an open mind – just see the program as a 30-day or 60 day experiment in looking and feeling good. Be curious about the results
- Schedule your sessions so they fit into your day – if possible complete them first thing in the morning before your life has a chance to get in the way
- Don’t be resentful about the time and effort – look at your fitness sessions as giving your body a treat and spending time focusing on you
- Choose an exercise program that fits into your lifestyle rather than one which you will continually struggle with. If it helps join a health club or gym near your office or home – whichever will be most convenient or work out at home if that suits you better
- if you doubt your ability to stick with the program get a personal trainer or partner to keep you accountable
Those who have reached the other side of this “motivation divide” and know how it feels and could tell you that the effort is SO worth it. In fact, you have probably heard quite a lot from them already. The problem is you don’t really “get it” until you experience it for yourself. So make sure you give yourself enough of a chance to find out how good being fit and getting in shape feels.