It’s a new year, which means new resolutions for many people. One of the most common resolutions is to get healthier. This might include losing weight, getting stronger, or just being more health conscious all together. Whatever the goal is, it seems that most of the time people have a hard time reaching them. I would like to offer some strategies that will help us reach New Year goals.
There are two different types of goals that need to be set to be effective. They are outcome goals and behavioral goals.
An outcome goal is the end result. For example, “ I want to lose 50 pounds” is an outcome goal. Another example would be, “I want to run a marathon”. Both of those are the ultimate goal. Just because you set it doesn’t mean that it will happen. In order to reach an outcome goal we have to have a plan.
The plan for reaching outcome goals comes in the form of behavioral goals. A behavioral goal is an action that will progress you toward your outcome goal. For example, “I will exercise three times per week” or “I will drink 4 glasses of water every day”. Each of those goals is an action that leads to the ultimate goal – lose 50 pounds, for example.
Setting Outcome Goals
There are several different goal-setting methods, and I am sure that many of them are effective. When setting outcome and behavioral goals, I like using the SMART method. Depending on the source, SMART is an acronym for:
Specific – An outcome goal should be very specific. The following goals are not specific: lose weight, tone up, get healthier, get stronger, etc. These goals are specific: Lose 27 pounds of fat, gain 7 pounds of lean muscle, reduce total cholesterol by 20 points, or bench press 250 pounds
Measurable – Your goals should be something that can be measured. Changes in body weight and body fat% can be measured; increases in strength can be measured, decreases in cholesterol points can be measured. Examples of goals that cannot be measured, or are very difficult to measure, might include: toning up, looking better, or obtaining more energy.
Attainable – Don’t set goals that are unattainable. If you set a goal to lose 50 pounds, then be sure you have 50 pounds to lose. Many people I have met have a fat loss goal that, if reached, would put them in worse health than if they stayed the same. A goal that is attainable might be something like, “I want to lose 1-2 pounds of fat per week”.
Realistic – Setting realistic goals allows you to actually reach them. There is nothing worse than consistently setting goals that can’t be reached. Discouragement sets in and motivation decreases. An example of an unrealistic goal (depending on your fitness level) might be, “I want to run a marathon next month.” If the longest distance you have ever run is 5K then setting a goal to run a marathon in a month is unrealistic. A realistic goal might be, “I’d like to run a 5K next month, a 15K in 6 months, then a marathon in 18 months”. Those goals allow you time to train and include milestones that lead to the marathon.
Timely – Putting a goal on a time line allows you to set smaller goals that will help you reach the long-term goal. If you set a goal to bench press 250 pounds but don’t put it on a time line the chances of reaching the goal are slim. However, if you say I want to bench press 250 pounds by June 15th then you can start setting benchmarks. A goal without a time-frame is just a dream!
Setting Behavioral Goals
Each behavioral goal that is set is meant to be a step in the direction of your outcome goal. If you set a goal to lose 6 inches around your hips or waist, what are you going to do to get there? You might try to exercise on a daily basis, or drink more water, or maybe even reduce calories. Whatever the goal is, make sure that it follows the same SMART method as the outcome goals.
Behavioral goals should be challenging, but realistic. All too often I hear people set goals that are much too difficult relative to their current lifestyle. For example, if you have never been to the gym and have never achieved a weight-loss goal in the past, don’t set a goal of coming to the gym 7 days per week. Likely, it’s not going to happen.
When I sit down with my clients and help them set behavioral goals I always ask them, “on a scale of 1-10 how confident are you that you can reach that goal?” If they are not at least 90% confident, then we make it easier. For example, if a client says they want to come to the gym 5 days per week I would then ask them to rate their confidence in that goal on a scale of 1-10. If it were anything less than 9 then we would revise the goal. Maybe we would change it to coming to the gym 3 days per week. If that increases their confidence to a 9-10 then we stick with that. Additionally, if we set a goal for 4 times per week and end up making it to the gym 5 times one week then we have reached beyond the goal, which motivates us and keeps us going. If after a couple weeks we have gone to the gym 5 times then our confidence increases and there is less chance of missing the mark. We would then increase our goal to 5 times per week with a confidence of 9-10.
It is very important to set goals that can be reached. I am not an expert in psychology at all, but I do know that when people reach goals it motivates them to continue. The more goals that we can set the more chance we have to reach those goals. Additionally, if we set multiple goals and reach most of them, it doesn’t make missing some goals as detrimental. For instance, when I set goals with my clients that are interested in losing weight we will set an overall weight-loss goal, a fat loss goal, and circumference measurement goals, which contain multiple sub-goals. That way if we re-evaluate and end up gaining a pound over a two-week period we can still see reductions in fat loss and in circumference measurements. So, even though we missed our weekly weight-loss goal, we hit several other goals and still maintain the feeling of accomplishment.
One of the most helpful ways of reaching fitness goals is accountability. At Sky Fitness & Wellbeing, we run a group training program a couple times a year called Sky180. It is intended to provide people who are ready to get in shape for 2014 with a regimented program that includes strength training, cardio training, mobility training and nutrition coaching.
Sky180 is $329 and begins February 3rd, 2014. It consists of 3 sessions per week with up to 8 people per group. The program is 6 weeks long and life changing! My group will be meeting on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 5pm at Sky of South Tulsa located at 101st and Sheridan. If those times don’t fit into your schedule there are many others to choose from!
To sign up go to www.sky-fit.com/sky180signup. Under registration code enter OKATHLETES and under Sky Representative enter Danny. Once you are all set up, I will get in contact with you and start setting some goals! I look forward to meeting you and hope that you have a successful goal-reaching 2014!
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