Ready, Set … Goal!

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This is a guest post by Diane Raymond. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

Have you ever set out to accomplish something, such as saving money for a new car, to visit Europe, upgrade your certification, or train for marathon, only to find yourself procrastinating, or giving up after only a few consistent attempts? If so, rest assured, you are not alone. Achieving goals takes more than a verbal announcement, “Hey, I’m going to run a marathon this year!” Fitness goals take tenacity, focus, commitment…and a plan. Ready to get started?

1. Start where you are. Begin by analyzing your current fitness program (if you have one, and if you don’t, then starting one is a great place to begin.) Do you already exercise most days of the week? How many minutes per session do you exercise, or how many minutes per week? If you’re just getting started with an exercise regimen, and you haven’t exercised regularly for a long time, your first stop is your doctor’s office. Get his/her nod before starting anything.

2. Think about where you want to be in December of 2010. Twelve months is a good amount of time to accomplish a goal – plenty of wiggle room if you mess up or get off track. Do you want to lose weight? If so, how much? Do you want to train for a 10K or half-marathon? Get stronger? Faster? Improve your endurance? Take the time to think your goal through.

3. Ask yourself, “is this a realistic goal?” If you plan to train for a half-marathon, for example, and you haven’t run further than the mailbox lately, you might have to train longer than someone who regularly runs or jogs 10 miles every week.

4. Start with an achievable distance. If you want to run a half-marathon in July, start walking now. After your doctor’s A-Okay, begin with 1/2-mile, just walking. Any pace will do for now. Over the course of several weeks, build up to 1-mile, then 2-miles, etc. When you get to 4 or 5-mile walks, begin to add a few minutes of running. Again, gradually increase the time spent running and decrease walking time. When you are running 4 or 5 miles, gradually increase the distance. There are numerous training plans available online. Good places to start are Hal Higdon and Jeff Galloway.

5. Write your goal down. Remember the parts that comprise a SMART goal?

S Specific
M Measurable
A Attainable
R Relevant
T Time-bound

For example: “I will run 4 times per week for twenty weeks, starting with 15 minutes per run and gradually increasing to a 90-minute run by week 18 so that I can complete a half-marathon on May 16th.”

Now, sit down and map out this goal. Which days during the week will you train? At what time? What is your contingency plan if you have to miss a training day? Have you bitten off more than you can chew, or is this plan achievable?

Once you’ve digested your small bite, go ahead – take a bigger one.

Then, the real work begins. Sticking with it…

Part 2: Sticking with your goals will post Sunday, February 7.

Diane Raymond is the Founder of Blue Sky Gym, a personal training business specializing in outdoor and in home personal training, lifestyle and weight management coaching, workshops and educational resources. She is a noted consultant, workshop presenter and freelance writer. Check out her daily musings about training, health, and personal fitness at Diane Raymond’s Blue Sky Blog and Fit Girl in the City.