EXERCISE: How To Set Goals to Meet Your Fitness and Performance Objectives

Photo by: Kamal H.

It’s the New Year.  You have completed your personal year end review and taken note of what worked and what didn’t.  You also created a new list of fitness and performance goals and you are ready to start working on them.  Cool.  I am happy for you.

But for me, going to the gym in January is a depressing lesson in futility.  It is packed with people that are REALLY going to do it this year.  But, by Valentine’s day these jokers are gone and the regulars have the gym back to themselves.  It is the same sad story every year.

Many of the regulars can be depressing too, as they stick to their same old routine, not changing a thing, maybe not losing ground, but certainly not improving.  They are stuck in a rut.  How many people really bust out and make the killer gains that they promise themselves at the beginning of a new year?  Not many.

Well, this year it is going to be different.  Whether you are just starting out or are a gym rat from way back, this year you are going to make those killer gains in performance.  Here’s how…

First, let’s cover a key point, before we get to the 4-step process that will make you a goal reaching machine.  Bottom line up front, you have to believe in manifesting results.  Absent some sense that you can impact your life-course, working on your goals will either seem pointless or feel like punishment.

Every goal starts out as a point, an idea in your mind.  Your mind may be very real to you, but it does not exactly have a massive presence in the physical world.  So, you need to get the idea out of your head and into the real world.

The easiest way to start transferring an idea from your mind to the physical world is by writing it down.  Use your words, create a diagram, draw a picture, make a map, be as creative as you want, but get that idea out of your head and onto a legal pad, a drawing tablet, whiteboard, etc.  When you are done, a two dimensional representation of your idea exists in the physical world.

You now have something that you can look at, share, with others, modify, edit, etc.  Working from this representation, you can create a heightened level of awareness within yourself and your network of family, friends, and co-workers.  Awareness of this sort will bring you options, opportunities to experiment, and offers of help.

With that bit of meta-physics out of the way, let’s get to the 4-step process:

STEP 1: Set Your Goal.

When setting a goal, you must keep two key points in mind.  One, the goal must be challenging.  In the beginning, you want to feel anxious about whether you can achieve your goal.  As you make progress, anxiety will start to fade and be replaced by a sense of control.  If you encounter a set back, then anxiety will return.  Oscillating along a spectrum of anxiety, arousal, flow, and control is to be expected.  But, if the goal is not challenging, then you will be facing apathy, boredom, and relaxation.  Not exactly states that will push you forward.

Two, your goal must be specific and measurable.  Without metrics, I will get in better shape this year, is not a meaningful goal.  Similarly, I will eat healthier this year, is not going to cut it.  Sometimes, general goals work as a starting point.  For example, your goal may start off as This year I want a better looking butt or I want to run a marathon (If a better butt is your goal for this year, check out this article by the Glute Guy.) But, achieving these larger goals will require setting smaller training goals for you to work on throughout the year.  There are coaches, trainers, friends, clubs, books, web sites, etc. out there that can help you establish specific, focused, training goals.

My fitness/training goals for this year:

100 push-ups

500 squats

20 pullups

Run 1 mile <  6 minutes.

Note: I am toying with the idea of making this the birthday challenge and trying to do all 4 as a circuit.

STEP 2: Publish Your Goal.

See what I just did.  I told you what my goals are.  Feel free to publish your goals in the comments section for this post.  Once you publish your goals, other people can check in to see how you are progressing.  If you aren’t making much progress, then your real friends will call you out and the only way to avoid the shame is to do the work necessary to reach your goals.

Meanwhile, the more people that know about your goal, the more people will be able to help by providing support, passing along informative articles, or letting you know what has worked for them in the past.  With enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow. Consider it an open source approach to helping you overcome problems with reaching your goal.

Note: I am very anxious about my 1 mile<6 m goal.  Anyone with expertise, advice, tips, resource material, etc. on how to train for improved running times at this distance, please leave a comment or send me an email.

STEP 3: Advertise to Yourself.

Vintage Ad Browser

Say what you want about advertising, but it gets people to do things that they normally wouldn’t.  Successful advertising breaks the 2 dimensional barrier by appealing to your physical senses.  Lynn Brem’s Take Back Your Brain site is chock full of marketing strategies for advertising to yourself.  Use them!

Designing a personal ad campaign is an area where you can really let your creative side show.  For example, I draw colorful mind maps and tape them to the inside of my medicine cabinet.  Every morning, when I reach for the mouthwash, my attention is drawn to these wild images and I can’t help but think about where I am and where I need to be.  You can use white boards to list projects and corresponding action steps, design personal flyers to post on bulletin boards, make a screen saver slide show that advertises to you when you walk by or when you login to your computer, craft text messages and have them automatically sent to your iPhone or Blackberry.

Photo by: sirwiseowl

Think of all the different ways that advertisers grab your attention and then generate positive feelings about their product.  Now use these same tactics to your advantage.  The point is to maintain awareness of your goals and to generate feelings of desire for achieving them.  The competition for your attention is intense.  Use self-advertising to give yourself a fighting chance to stay focused on achieving your own goals.

Note: For an interesting read on the psychology associated with persuasion see Robert Cialdini’s Influence the Psychology of Persuasion.

STEP 4: Stay Positive.

This may be the most difficult part.  There are always interruptions and set backs when pursuing goals.   Staying positive in the face of challenges can be difficult.  To make it easier, don’t forget to reward yourself for interim successes.  Set marks to meet and reward yourself for meeting them.

Don’t to be too hard on yourself when things aren’t going perfectly.  To reach your goal, you will have to make adjustments along the way.  Just like the perfect shower temperature, you have to adjust, test, adjust, and repeat until you have everything dialed in.  Then, inevitably, someone down the hall flushes a toilet and you have to start all over again.

Finally, you need to know going into this that the end result never quite matches the perfect image you had in your mind when you dreamed up this goal.  But, did you really expect that after moving an idea through 3 dimensions, it wouldn’t get warped a little in the process?  I did not promise you perfection.  I promised that you could achieve your goals.  Trust me, I didn’t imagine myself looking like a zombie at the end of my quest for  forty flights of stair lunges.  But, my goal was to do 40 flights of stairs and I did 40 flights of stairs.

OK – That’s it, That’s all.  Now, you have a 4 point formula to keep you from being one of the many that fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions.  With a specific and measurable goal, published to your supporting and honest admirers, a personalized motivational ad campaign, and a positive attitude you will achieve your performance goals this year.


For a sample of related Stretch Exercise Eat posts SEE:

EXERCISE: The Importance of Rituals

EXERCISE: What I Learned From the Birthday Challenge

STRETCH: Recovering From Injuries


2 responses to “EXERCISE: How To Set Goals to Meet Your Fitness and Performance Objectives

  1. Awesome post! I am very inspired.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s