By Lydia I have always been bad at tracking my progress in the gym. When I'm not training for a specific event or sport I'm never really sure why I'm there. I have weighed between 145lb and 152lb since I was about 20 years old, and for almost as long I have had a goal weight for myself of 130lb.
Is this an impossible goal?
Not really, it would however require a certain amount of sacrifice and hard work.
Why then have I gone nearly a decade without achieving this goal? I honestly think it's because weight loss was never the real goal. I wanted to be better physically, or more athletic, but didn't truly know what that meant.
I use mindful goal setting at work, with my relationships and even to help me focus on spirituality, so of course I would use it when approaching fitness. Goals however work best if they are clear, achievable and trackable. Since I didn't have a clear idea of what I wanted, my goal became vague and well, kinda useless.
The more I work and play in the fitness world the more I see there are many different and more specific goals out there. I want to touch on just a few today and maybe this can help you think about what your goals are and how you're approaching them.
Everyone wants to be healthier and live longer. Tons of research has shown that moving more and eating better can help fight diabetes, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, asthma and much more. But “healthy” is never going to be the same for different people. The question then becomes how to make “be healthy” a tangible goal that motivates me to get up and put the work in.
Recently I was able to get a health screening at the pharmacy of my local grocery store for pretty cheap. They gave me the numbers of my cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure. They told me what the numbers meant, what was good or bad, and how my habits were affecting them. Having these basic numbers gives me a base to build a training program from and something tangible to track my progress with.
Performance has always been my biggest motivator. I am a highly competitive and slightly aggressive individual who happens to also be intrinsically lazy. So if you tell me “we are going for a jog, it'll be good for me, we'll have fun”, most likely I will complain the whole time as I half walk half dawdle behind you, and that's if I get off the couch at all.
Now tell me I have a race to prepare for and I'll be out there running everyday like I'm Usain Bolt. Performance is a passion motivator, it'll make you fall in love with training. The great thing about performance goals is they can be as big or small, or as public or private as you want.
It could be to run in a marathon or just to jog for a mile straight. It could be to pass a fitness test for the fire department or a new personal record on the bench press. It could be to complete an obstacle course race or even win it or to hold a difficult yoga pose for a whole minute.
This is a hard goal to nail down because it basically boils down to “do I feel good.” Do I have the energy and vitality I need I need day to day to live my best life? A more specific goal may look something like: “not fading everyday at work after lunch”, “be able to get a good night's sleep”, or “be able to keep up with my kids at the park.” Believe it or not sometimes the best way to gain energy is to spend energy, and you can train for it.
Let’s take fading after lunch as an example.
First I may to want to adjust my lunches, maybe too much sugar is making me crash, or swapping in more protein or fat could help sustain me longer. I'd also want to make sure I have time to digest my food properly. And finally, I'd add in a little light movement, maybe walk around the block a couple times or do some stretches before heading back to work. By setting a specific goal I was able to make a concrete plan of attack for something as simple as I “feel better.”
I started by talking about how I never meet my weight goals but that's not to say weight loss or gain isn't a good goal to have. On the contrary hitting a target weight can be a great goal, but it works better if you're not looking at weight alone. If I finally lost that 10-15lbs but nothing else changed, I would look exactly the same, there would just be less of me.
This is where I want to figure in body fat percentage and overall body physiology. Remember muscle weighs more the fat but it's also more important in the look and health of your body. There is a very big difference between losing weight and losing fat. When I was setting weight loss as a goal I wasn't just thinking about the volume of my body but the tone and the shape of it. When I figured out what that meant I was able to to come up with a much more precise goal that is easier to plan and train for.
So with those things in mind I now have new and improved fitness goals.
My current goal is to be able to do a full pull-up and to drop about 3-5% in body fat percentage. Now dropping body fat percentage may or may not mean losing weight but I want to focus more on gaining muscle tone and definition. Which means there's a good chance my weight doesn't change too much.
I have a training routine in place to help me work the muscles and control I need for a pull-up which allows me to see myself grow and progress, which keeps me inspired to work hard at other parts of my workout as well. Plus I tailor my meal plan around fueling my body for these workouts and helping me tone down. In other words, now I have a realistic, achievable and trackable goal.