Thursday, July 26, 2012

Gooooooooooooooooooal!

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make in their fitness programs (and often in their lives outside of fitness) is that they go through them mindlessly with no goals or vague, long-term goals in mind.  So they might come in and tell me that they want to "lose weight" or "be healthy."  And while that's all well and good, it's really not going to help them in the long run, because these goals are intangible.  They are far too ambiguous to quantify, and there is no game plan to get them there.  Now, I also get people who have fairly specific goals in mind, but they are unrealistic ("I want to lose 100lbs in 3 months," or "I want to lose only the fat over my abs").  Either way, you're going to come away disappointed.

Little goals lead up to big ones.


Here's what I recommend to my people:

1)  Quantify your long-term goal, and ***make it realistic.***  Say you want to lose 100lbs.  First of all, know that I hate going by weight, because it is not a very accurate way of measuring body composition, but let's just say that's how you want to measure it.  I'd say it's reasonable that you might lose an average of 0.5lbs or so per week.  Some weeks, especially at the beginning, will show more weight loss than others, and some weeks will show no weight loss at all, so let's just put 0.5lbs/week out there as a reasonable number.  100/0.5=200.  200 weeks is about 3-ish years.  If we put in a high estimate of 1lb per week (I wouldn't push much more than this if you want to do it safely and with much less of a chance of gaining it back-- yes, there are people who have done it in less time, and if you are one of those people who can safely lose that much weight in a shorter amount of time, more power to you, but let's just stick with what I know is safe right now), it would be 100 weeks, which is about 2-ish years.   So a goal of losing 100lbs within 2-3 years would be reasonable. 

2)  Figure out the steps it is going to take to make your goal a reality.  So, for the person who wants to lose that much weight, there's probably going to need to be a major sustainable dietary overhaul, and there's going to need to be a smart exercise plan.  This person might also need counseling, pain relief if there is pain, better sleep habits, stress relief, etc.  As every person is different, everyone will have different obstacles on their way to optimal health. 

3)  Set tangible, short-term (1 month or less) goals with a definite deadline that help make the "big goal" a reality.  Write them down.  Tattoo them in your brain.  Make them a daily habit.  So, for instance, we'd likely need to chip away at this person's diet, so a short term goal might be something like, "for the next month, I will avoid all fast food."  I like to have people start with their most challenging obstacle and work their way down.  Once that goal has been realized and is not so difficult to continue, we add more (for instance, "for the next month, I will cut all processed foods out of my diet," and so on). 

4)  Particularly for fitness goals, when you have met one of your short-term goals successfully, give yourself a small, non-food based reward (not meeting your goal = no reward).   So, if you've avoided the Mickey D's for the month like you promised yourself you would, give yourself a spa day or a golf game or whatever makes you happy. 

5)  Lather, rinse, repeat.  Keep on adding more short-term goals that collectively add to your ability to meet your long-term goal.  Some people might only be able to address one short-term goal at a time; others might be able to do 3 or 4 (so, for instance, a food goal, and exercise goal, and a mental health goal).  Don't bite off more than you can chew, goalwise, or you will get overwhelmed and not be able to complete them. 

Let me know how it goes!

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