Health and fitness! Hugely important but often taken for granted. Until, that is, we must do without it and then we would pay whatever the price to have it back again. Woven inseparably into our lives, for most of us it ebbs and flows over time seeing peaks and troughs depending on how our focus shifts.
Whether you are very much into working on your fitness, or you sit at the other end of the spectrum where the idea of running fills you with that feeling of having just eaten a day old tuna mayonnaise sandwich for lunch, the level of fitness you’re currently at has a direct effect on how you live your life — whether you choose to ignore it or not.
Many people carry desires of improving their health and fitness which can relate to many things: stopping smoking, reducing alcohol intake, cutting out the fast food, not spending so much time on social media, identifying negative influences in your life and removing them and of course the perennial ‘to exercise more’.
Before we tackle the three key strategies to help you achieve your fitness goals, I’d like to reflect on what it takes to construct big achievements. In order for the Burj Khalifa, the worlds tallest building, to be built, foundations were burrowed some 164ft into the ground to enable the incredible edifice to be assembled and stand at a colossal height of 2,715.5ft.
That’s all well and good, but what’s that got to do with health and fitness? Well, as human beings in the 21st century we struggle to deploy delayed gratitude. We identify a need or a want and based purely on that identification we then expect it to materialise. Besides displaying my neat fact finding, the construction of the Burj Khalifa highlights the need for setting solid foundations on which to build your lofty goals and targets. This often requires that the first step to building up is to actually dig down and resist the temptation to just jump straight into whatever our health goal is.
There are many obstacles that crop up on the journey to health and fitness goal fulfilment, but we can help overcome them by setting a deep-rooted foundation from which to build on. So let us begin.
Step one is to self-assess. Knowing what your starting point is enables you to plan accurately how you will achieve your goal. This step can sometimes be painful because it involves admitting to yourself that you aren’t where you want to be, that you aren’t perfect and, likely, your ego won’t like this. This is the stage to embrace humility and banish ego to the back of the classroom. Ego’s fragile exterior isn’t ready to hear the truth and will likely attempt to hoodwink you into thinking all is well, despite your counter arguments.
Be honest with yourself, totally honest. This doesn’t mean that you should be putting yourself down or underscoring your ability, it just means be honest. If you haven’t exercised with any frequency for two years then don’t consider yourself to be an athlete ready to start training six times a week straight away. If you are exercising regularly but are seeing off half a bottle of wine and take away most nights don’t mark your diet as “clean”. Having a clear starting point enables you to set a clear plan for the way forward.
Set clearly defined goals
Knowing what your goal is, is half the battle. The second half is knowing how you will achieve said goal. You may have come across the idea of SMART goals before. This convenient acronym stands for Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Timed goals:
· Specific — consider your goal in absolute terms. What are you going to achieve in a very particular way. For example; “I am going to improve my 5k running time”.
· Measurable — How will you know when you have achieved your goal? What marks success in your fitness endeavours? For example; “I am going to improve my 5k running time to 25 minutes or less”.
· Achievable — the goal set needs to be within your scope, is it possible?
· Realistic — is the goal and the parameters you are setting realistic to you with your resources
· Timed — What is the time frame you are setting for yourself to achieve this goal
To continue the example, the goal of “I want to improve my running fitness and lose weight” has good intentions but is a poor goal. It lacks clarity and direction. If we apply the SMART principle to the same goal we may end up with something like: “I want to improve my aerobic fitness by improving my 5k running time to below 25 minutes, and reduce my weight by 4kg over the next 10 weeks. I will do this by training three times a week”.
In the SMART goal we have specific aims that can be measured, with indications of how you will train with a set time frame, all of which are both realistic and achievable. Hopefully this indicates how setting clear goals can keep you focused on your pursuits. By reducing ambiguity in your goals, you can clearly track your progress which gives your motivation a welcome boost when things get tough.
What’s your why?
With anything worthwhile in life there will be obstacles along the way to success. I encourage you to see the value and reassurance in the presence of obstacles, it means you are on the path to better things (if you’re path is too easy, you probably need to reset your goals).
However as these obstacles come along you will be forced to make a decision. Do you continue along the path and embrace the discomfort as you move towards your goals at the top of the mountain, or do you flop peacefully into the river heading in the opposite direction that’s always ready to take you back to where you started.
These obstacles can come in many forms; injuries, illness, having to work late, social commitments, family commitments, the weather, and many others. When you are faced with an obstacle, trying to decide whether to push on up the mountain or fall into the river it helps to remember why you started climbing the mountain in the first place. Again there are many many reasons for this, but if you have a clear vision of why you are doing this, why you are putting yourself through physical pain, why you are investing your time in getting an early night instead of going out drinking with friends and why you picked green beans instead of fries, you will likely pick the route that keeps you pushing on up the hill.
In order to spend time doing anything in life we must have a reason, a ‘why’. Write yours down and look at it daily. Repeat it to yourself as you drift off to sleep. Shout it at your alarm clock when its buzzing and its early and you’re tired and don’t feel like getting up early to make a nutritious lunch to take to work that stops you buying fries from the canteen or getting that pre-work run done. Hold your why close and cherish it’s power.
To see success in your health and fitness goals, set yourself up to succeed by:
– Self-assessing and accurately take stock of where you are starting from
– Set clearly defined SMART goals that keep you focused and allow you observe your progress
– Know what your why is and remind yourself of it daily
Follow these steps to set solid foundations from which to build your health and fitness goals upon. I wish you well in your endeavours. Be strong.