When you’ve first decided to get in shape there are two dangers.
Firstly, you may have scared yourself by the decision and be thinking you now have to launch into some kind of war of attrition against your own body. Don’t worry, loosen your white knuckle grip on the sofa. Not only is that something that doesn’t need to happen, it SHOULDN’T happen.
Secondly, you may be full of enthusiasm and drive. You may have a plan to gain the endurance of Paula Radcliffe, the strength of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the flexibility of a gymnast…all by next Tuesday. Launching into a frenzy of training on a wave on enthusiasm can lead to you doing too much too soon. You can wind up over-tired, sore and then disillusioned. At which point you will probably head for the sofa and reach for the TV remote again.
Let’s be sensible, let’s be patient and let’s devise a plan that will suit you. Start slowly, get in to a routine from the start and stick to it. Exercise at a time and on days that suit you. What we need is a SMART approach
Setting yourself some realistic goals is the key to staying motivated. To take part in Santa Dash is going to be one goal but not your only one. Think about what you want to achieve. Your goals should be:
Be specific about what you want to achieve. Turn ‘I want to be fitter’ into ‘I want to be able to run three miles without feeling exhausted’. Turn ‘I want to use the gym more’ into ‘I want to go to the gym three times a week’. You should be able to see whether you have achieved you goal or not. Don’t throw in the towel if you fail. Accept it, revise your goals (see below) and move on.
Being specific is a big step towards having measurable goals. Measurable means being able to see whether you have done what you set out to achieve. But also you will see how close you have got. You may not be up to three miles but if you are at 2.5 miles that is not absolute failure! You can see that you have moved towards your goal and what more you need to do.
You may intend going to the gym three times a week. A crisis at work or home may mean this becomes unrealistic. Don’t throw your hands up and say ‘I’ve failed!’ Be flexible. You may want to do a walk or run from home instead, or to cut to two sessions. Adapt to take into account changing circumstances. You may be getting fitter more quickly or more slowly than you expected. Adjust goals accordingly. It’s the smart thing to do.
There’s nothing more demoralising than setting yourself goals that are either too easy or too difficult. You either achieve them early and have nothing more to aim at or realise they are never going to happen! Set a goal or series of goals that you can achieve but are challenging. But remember the previous point. Adjust your goals rather than sticking with ones that become inappropriate.
The best way of setting goals is to have a series of them. You should set some short, medium and long-term goals. In particular, focus on daily and weekly goals to give you motivation to get out there every time. Your short term goals should be stepping stones towards longer terms goals. For example, going to the gym or for a run three times this week will take you towards your goal of being running the Santa Dash.