Do You Bother With Baselines? April Goals & Giveaway

So for those who are new here, this is a monthly Cranky Fitness feature in which Cranketeers check in about goals, or maintenance, or life in general, and offer each other support and encouragement by replying to each other's comments.

We've got a couple of nifty MOVband activity monitors as a giveaway at the end of the month, for those who like to measure stuff to see how they’re improving. (Though sadly, this is one of those "U.S." only giveaways, sorry).

And, in my usual awkward attempt to link the giveaway items with some sort of theme, I thought I’d offer a couple quick thoughts on whether or not to bother establishing "baselines."

No, not the kind you have to hit a baseball on the correct side of or it’s foul.

Or, if you prefer, “fowl”.

No, I mean the sort of baseline that establishes exactly how pathetic or awesome you are currently, before you start messing around with some new sort of plan or scheme to get better results.

Oh, and, we'll also find out who the winner of last month’s Polar HRM Monitor is!

Baselines: Where the Heck are You Starting?

Sometimes it may be profitable to take a little time, anywhere from a few minutes to many months, to get more information about baselines before getting all hardcore about a new program or goal.

For example, say you wanna eat healthier, exercise more, and lose weight. Great!

Would it be helpful to have some clue what and how much you’re eating now, and how much and what kind of moving around you’re doing? Or would you rather just start doing things differently, content with the vague notion that you kind of suck now and would like to suck less in the future?

Why You Might Want to Establish a Baseline:

For some people, this can be useful to:

1. Ease the transition from thinking about changing to actually doing stuff differently. Not only is tracking existing behavior a convenient way to put a toe in the water of a possibly chilly but invigorating lifestyle change, but strangely enough, separating out the "self-observation" part from the "have to do anything about it" part can help you get better at both.

2. Get more information about what you're dealing with. The more you know about your existing habits and patterns, the better shot you’ll have at finding good opportunities to troubleshoot and design your environment to encourage success and avoid self-sabotage.

3. Establish an "It’s All Good: mindset." By measuring before you start changing things up, you can relax a bit about how much you might suck, because you're determined to make things better. And heck, you’ll notice improvements more quickly if you have a long ways to go!

Or, conversely, if things are not as bad as you thought, that’s great news too!

4. Motivation Boost: getting specific about what and how much you want to change can lead to concrete targets, which can get some people really fired up in a way that “I want to be better” just doesn’t seem to.

For example, after years on the sidelines, I recently started running again despite a history of plantar fasciitis, probably a bonehead move. And, not shockingly, I run a lot slower than I used to. But finding out how long it takes me to run a given distance is a strangely compelling piece of data! Now that I know what my baseline is, I’m way more eager to try to improve it.

5. Discouragement-Prevention. Change is often kinda f--cked up in the way it goes back and forth and up and down unpredictably. Knowing where you started, particularly if it seems embarrassing and pathetic now, will really help you down the line when you’re in a slump and tempted to forget how far you’ve come.

On the other hand…

Why You Might Want to Just Say Screw It and Jump Right in

These are far more self-explanatory, and you’re all probably bored by now anyway, so let’s keep this brief.

1. It’s too darn depressing to confront your current starting place and it just makes you want to crawl under the covers and weep.

2. You’re so psyched and full of momentum you don’t want to wait a second to start making changes, and you have a short enough attention span that you could get swallowed up by the internet trying to research measuring devices and tracking options and end up on the other side of a web wormhole watching sea urchins mate on youtube to the musical accompaniment of Enya, self-improvement plans long forgotten.

3. Tracking of any kind seems like a huge pain in the ass and you figure "you'll know it when you see it" in terms of changes for the better.

In any of these instances, then the hell with the baseline, just charge right ahead!

About the Activity Bands

You can learn more at the MOVABLE site; these are also designed to be used on a larger scale by companies or institutions, if you happen to have one that is trying to challenge everyone to get their butt moving.

Cribbing from promotional literature, you can:

Track your movement with our easy-to-use, wrist-worn activity monitor that records all movement, not just steps. The MOVband is equipped with three modes, making it easy to switch from time, to daily moves, to total move mileage.

About these Goal Posts and Giveaways

We're easy here!

A goal or aspiration could be about anything and it doesn't have to be healthy. Or you could be an anti-goal person who thinks goals are counterproductive but nonetheless have some interesting observations about your own inner workings or experiences or practical advice for others.

And while there is a giveaway component, the real point of these posts is that it's easier to stay on track with our continuing efforts to make our lives better when we know others care how we're doing! 

If you'd like to join us, the post is "open" all month, and I'll be reading and commenting as will a few hardy regulars, even if we all do tend to slack off a bit after the initial week or so.  (And hey, it occurs to me that the inherent drop-off is actually a good subliminal advertisement for life coaching!  Because you can't wander away as easily from your self-accountability if you have a life coach on your ass every week wondering how you're doing).

Giveaway winners will be chosen by Random Number generator, but as usual, a smaller secret group of participants will be nominated by me based on participation and/or other arbitrary indicators of awesomeness. And sorry again about the U.S. only thing.

Winners have a week to check back to discover if they've won.  And winners who don't think they'd use the prize or are from an ineligible country who check in in time can still "win" in that if they'd like, they can choose whom they'd like to have the prize go and feel all generous. Otherwise I'll re-draw.

And finally, Last Month's Polar HRM Winner is...

Walking with WalkerLady!  Congratulations!

Any thoughts on baselines? How did goals go last month and what's next on tap for April?

San Diego Chicken via Rolling Stone

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