Setting Fitness Goals: Tips for Slackers

If you spend much time reading health, fitness, or weight loss blogs, you may notice that lots of folks are setting impressive goals for themselves--and more often than not, they meet or exceed them!

For example, Sagan at Living Healthy in the Real World is doing her 200 Reps challenge and Merry is working on the Couch to 5K and Big Girl Bombshell is getting set to work up Pre-New Year's Goals.

And what about Crabby? What does she aspire to accomplish? How come she never posts any creative, challenging goals and then triumphantly reports how she kicked ass despite many daunting obstacles?

Well, as it happens, I do occasionally set goals, and sometimes I even achieve them. Most times not, but whatever. I just don't tend to announce them publicly in case they turn out to be too hard or I get bored and change my mind.

So I wouldn't dare to presume to advise all the Super Fitness Achievers out there on how to set meaningful and motivational fitness goals.

Hey Crabby, it's Dara Again.
Could You Give Me Some More Advice?

Instead, the following Goal Setting Tips are not for the Super Achievers, but are specially designed for other slackers like myself, who would like to get maybe slightly less slacky. (You know who you are).

Crabby's Top Five Fitness Goal Setting Tips:

1. Don't Be a Sheep

After discovering that someone you admire is trying to accomplish a difficult goal--say run a marathon, or climb a mountain, or swim from Key West to Nova Scotia towing a raft of rabid Siberian tigers--it may be very tempting to say: hey me too! I'm gonna shoot for that goal, that sounds awesome!

However, picking a goal is a very personal thing. You need to take into account your own interests, abilities, injuries, and general "screw it it's too hard" threshold.

Upon hearing someone announce a goal that sounds tempting, you might want to ask yourself, what part sounds tempting? Being able to say you did it? Or all the possibly tedious, miserable and brutal steps it would take to get there?

2. Go Ahead, Dream Big--But Break it Down.

I never attempt overly ambitious goals myself, but I know a lot of people have great success by pledging to do something that seems improbable. There are too many people who have dreamed of losing half their body weight or going from couch-potatohood to ultra-marathons who have actually succeeded for me to dismiss this approach entirely.

However, I think what the successful folks do is break it down into smaller goals that are short term enough not to be totally discouraging.

For example, as I've lately been dealing with a foot problem due to (I think) plantar fasciitis, I've been trying to apply my newly invented motivational cross-training system. It's called "Cognitive Restructuring, Accentuating Positivity®!

Anyway, I've been attempting to start biking more often, to replace my regular running routine which I much prefer, and I thought, "wouldn't it be cool to bike up the hill to Skyline Blvd without stopping or walking?" It's not very far, geographically, but for a beginning bicyclist like me it's kinda steep.

But in the meantime, I set a more obtainable goal: To bike up to Skyline with as many rest stops as necessary. (But no walking the bike because skipping the steep parts would be cheating).

See? It's not the most elegant sounding goal.

But let me just proudly announce that the other morning I did indeed bike up to Skyline Blvd! Stopping four times, but who's counting. (Well, I'm counting, obviously. My next goal is 3 stops.)

Last time, I got could only get as far as Uranus. It wasn't pretty.

(Yes, I am still 12 years old. As long as my route requires passing Uranus Ave, I'm gonna keep mentioning it.)

3. Don't Give Up On Your Goal The First Time it Gets Really Hard.

At least wait until the Second Time.

Seriously, we slackers have a tendency to give up easily. We're all enthusiastic when we're making progress, but sometimes you can be doing all the right things... and you get worse, not better! Sadly, in most fitness endeavors, there really isn't a straight line effort-to-accomplishment relationship. Sometimes it's all f#cking effort and no f#cking accomplishment.

The cool thing is though, if you can wait out the sucky unrewarding times, sometimes all of a sudden you make progress when you don't expect or deserve to! So even if you're beginning to suspect you picked a dumb-ass impossible goal, give it at least a little while before you chuck it out the window.

4. But Sometimes, You Just Gotta Stop Banging Your Head Against the Wall.

If you are a lifelong slacker, you may notice that motivation and enthusiasm are not just laying around in unlimited quantities, waiting for you to scoop them up and use them to achieve all your cherished goals. All those type-A, cheerful, dedicated, hard-working super-achievers somehow keep hogging it all.

So if you use up all your energy on something hard that isn't even fun anymore, just because you said some goal out loud and other people heard it, then you may be totally wasting precious motivation on something unworthy. Maybe it's time to say: screw it, I give up! Find a goal that's more fun and if anyone calls you on your earlier goal, just tell 'em that World Famous Motivational Coach Crabby McSlacker said your new goal is way better. I'll back you up.

5. Remember Your Ultimate Fitness Goal

Whether you want to set short-term easy goals, or long term impossible goals, you probably have a "bottom line" fitness goal. Something along the lines of: stay active for the rest of your life!

Don't let the failure to achieve an arbitrary fitness goal mess with your ultimate fitness goal.

Photo: WiredRyo

It's really easy to get discouraged if you set a a goal, sincerely try to achieve it, and just can't do it. It's tempting then, for many people, to slink off and give up on fitness entirely. It's the kind of all-or-nothing perfectionism that dooms many get-in-shape efforts.

Don't be like that!

Doing anything is better than doing nothing. Forget about "goals" if they're not helping you and you can't find one easy enough to meet. Just do something to be active. Motivation ebbs and flows, and you will get more of it, eventually. And give yourself massive credit for hanging in there. You'll be far better off in 10, 20, or 50 years if you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, even if it's only to take seemingly lame little baby steps. Don't focus too hard on arbitrary short term goals if they're going to scare you away from a lifetime of physical fitness.

What about you guys? Do you set particular fitness goals or just generally try to stay active?

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