Fitness Rule #14: Break It Up

The holidays are approaching quickly, and many of us are starting to think about how we are going to maintain our fitness through all the preparations and parties that fill our autumn and winter months.  It’s time for a fitness rule to support all of us wondering how we are going to squeeze in those early morning workouts, after-work gym time, or into that little black dress we bought last year.  Today’s rule addresses staying on track through a goal-oriented approach.

The first thing I ask my clients when they hire me to train them is about their goals.  I ask them to prepare for our first meeting by coming up with three goals they would like to achieve with a personal trainer.  What do they want to get from training?  Are they interested in being fit?  Do they want to lose weight?  Both?  Do they want to feel/look better in their clothes?   Are their goals around lowering their blood pressure or cholesterol?   Sometimes it’s as basic as maintaining their current level of mobility and improving it a bit.  Many times, a new client doesn’t have a concrete answer to my question at all.  They simply know they need support to get their bodies moving.  Jumping in without a plan can be overwhelming.  Part of my job is to support a client to decide what they really want, then to help them find the path that works  for them.

When we meet, we sit down and talk about the different aspects of fitness.  I help them turn their goals into measurable goals, a fitness rule I have already written about.  Measurable goals are ones that have a start marker and an end marker.  A simple example:  a client can walk a mile.  They would really like to do a 5k walk to raise money for a cause.  Or they might want to lose some weight in time for a special event.  We set the big goal— 5k or 25 pounds, write it down, and then make little goals to support the big one.  So how do I break up big goals into smaller ones?

I work with each client to determine a time line.  If they want to be able to walk a 5k event, I break up the time frame into weeks, planning a fitness program designed to support it by lengthening their walking distance each week, and by including some intervals to build speed and endurance.  Each week, we examine their personal fitness goals and when a goal is met, we create a new one based on their current level of fitness and the time frame of their big goal.  If the goal is to lose weight, we examine their level of fitness and their diet, look at changes to support their goal, choose a reasonable time frame for achieving the goal, then note what is working each week.  There is lots of tweaking— the individuality of each client is taken into account; what works for one person might not for another.  The one thing that seems to be  consistent from person to person is breaking the big goal into smaller goals that support attaining the big one.

Fitness Rule #14: Break It Up.

Breaking up big goals into little pieces has great advantages.  The feeling of success comes much earlier when a small goal is achieved and checked off.  We made it to the gym.  We didn’t walk the 5K— we ran it!  We can fit into our favorite old jeans again.  That feeling carries over into the next goal or set of goals, urging us to continue to move forward and stay on track.  The big goal suddenly becomes manageable.  When we maintain our fitness logs, food journals, or use whatever tool we have chosen to monitor our behaviors and celebrate our successes, the big picture takes form and becomes real.

Break it up can be applied to other areas of our lives—  work, home, garden, even relationships can benefit from us looking at the big picture, writing down a long-term goal, and figuring out how to break that goal into smaller pieces.  Sitting around thinking about the work and preparation it takes to run a marathon, lose 50 pounds, give a Power Point presentation, or clean the whole house in one day can consume every ounce of our energy, leaving us none for the actual doing.  Preparing ourselves for success by reaching our goals one step at a time helps keep us from that stuck ‘thinking about it, how will I ever get there’ place to a place of action. Checking off a list of accomplishments increases self-efficacy.  It leads to strength, confidence and success in all aspects of our lives.  It leads us to the place where our dreams come true.

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