How to Set Attainable Goals

Happy New Years!

Ok, I know I’m a little late, but it’s the thought that counts, right? We’re six days into January and I already can’t wait for the snow to melt and summer to arrive. Time to dig out the cross-country skis though!

January 1st is the time that most people start setting their New Years Resolution. Many of them involve losing weight, getting healthier, and eating better. Statistics show that 64% of people who created Resolutions were still making a valid effort at the end of January, but 6 months later the number drops to only 44% of people.

Personally, I’m not one to make New Years resolutions. I perfer making goals and believe me, I have a lot of them! Goal setting is important in life and also in sports and fitness. Goal setting can be defined as a strategic approach to behavioral change by which progressive standards of success are set in an attempt to increasely approximate a desired standard of achievement. For example, an individual may chose the ultimate goal of successfully completely 10 pull-ups. In order to meet that ultimate standard of achievement, the individual may break the progress into smaller goals, such as completing 10 band-assisted pull-ups, followed by completing 2 strict pull-ups and 8 band-assisted pull-ups.

There are several different types of goals an individual can make.

Process goals are goals that an individual has a high degree of personal control over. For example, the amount of effort one applies during a workout is a type of process goal. Other examples include focusing on and keeping good exercise form and technique and/or positive attitude throughout an exercise routine. Process goals are important for maintenance of exercise behavior and success.

Outcome goals are goals that an individual has little control over. Outcome goals are exemplified by social comparison as in winning or in beating an opponent in a race. Outcome goals are great for individuals who are competitive; however, outcome goals present less probability of success compared to process goals.

Performance goals are more difficult to achieve than process goals and are typically based on a self-referenced personal performance standard for an individual rather than in comparison to another opponent. For example, a person may want to break the 20:00 mark in their next 5k or improve their maximal strength in the squat or bench press exercise.

Goals should be broken down into long-term and short-term goals. Short-term goals provide a strategy to achieve the long-term goal via attainable steps. A long-term goals should be a meaningful pursuit for an individual. The NSCA recommends that short-term goals be made effective yet challenging and has about a 50% chance of success. A short-term goal that is meaningless and/or not difficult enough will allow a person to go through the motions as opposed to investing real effort into attaining the goal.

When setting goals keep in mind the following:

Specific

Measureable

Action Oriented

Realistic

Time Bound

(also known as SMART)

Let’s look at an example. Jill is a sedentary women who weights 200 lbs. She wants to lose 10% of her bodyweight. Ten percent of her bodyweight is 20lbs. Because Jill is working with a personal trainer, she knows that losing 20lbs in one month is unrealistic and very unhealthy. Working with her personl trainer, she devised an effective goal and training plan. Her goal is to lose 20lbs in 6 months. The goal is realistic in that it is healthy to lose about 0.5-2lbs a week. Jill should lose 20lbs in 20 weeks, but she decided to give herself an extra 4 weeks in case she had a bad week or two. Jill and her trainer also created several process goals, such as replacing her normal Diet Coke with a large glass of water and keeping a positive attitude when working with her trainer.

So as many of you start making your 2013 goals keep in mind the above information. For the past week I have been writing up my 2013 goals in my triathlon, professional, and personal life. Of course, I have some lofty goals that I know I may never reach (i.e. KONA!), but it keeps me motivated to work hard in the mean time. Personally, I don’t think there is anything wrong with having some big dreams.

~ Happy Training!

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