What a nice weekend we had here in New England. On Saturday I was up at 4:15 AM (yes, four fifteen!) to go to a race with my boyfriend. He was doing a half ironman (actually, “ironman” is a branded race, which this was not one…however, everyone in the triathlon community continues to use it as a generic term like “kleenex.”). I was originally signed up to do the sprint race, which I did last year. I have been ultra unmotivated this year and bailed on the race and instead volunteered. I was stationed at the first run turn of both the sprint and half course, one-quarter mile into the run. The half bikers also went by me twice, so I saw a lot of action. I really expected to be out there and miss racing…but it didn’t happen. I actually totally enjoyed not suffering for once, and just cheering, telling people to turn left, and attempting to stop cars from running into cyclists (I got more forceful with time, parking my body directly in front of the cars, telling them to stop and directing them when I thought it was safe to go ~ most of them listened). Anyway, the point of all of this is that I think I am in need of new challenges, new goals. I raced triathlon for 8 years, the last three at a pretty intense training level. I had an awesome time…and the last three years, in my late 40’s, I had performances I was really proud of. I am not saying I will never race again…I very well might. But I feel in some ways I have accomplished a lot of what I wanted to in triathlon, and am ready for something new. I am a pretty competitive person. I feel I am in need of new challenges.
So what does this have to do with all of you? GOALS!!! Having goals is such an amazing motivator. I think most people venture into weight loss or fitness with goals, but only in a very vague sense. “I want to lose weight” or “I want to get in shape” are pretty common goals. I am a personal trainer. When I take on a new client I have them fill out a health history. As part of that I have them list three goals. Truthfully, at this point, this has become a meaningless exercise for most of my clients. Goals I typically see are “lose weight,” “get toned,” “get fit.” Not to knock my clients (they are all awesome) but these goals are useless. Goals…to be effective they have to be specific. The more specific, the better. So “lose 10 lbs” is a better goal than “lose weight” and “lose 10 lbs in 10 weeks” is better than “lose 10 lbs.”
Personally, I am a big, big fan of small, short-term goals. I don’t even really love a goal of “lose 10 lbs in 10 weeks.” I would prefer “lose 2 lbs this week,” or “exercise 30 minutes, 4 days this week.” I love to share my beginnings in triathlon. When I first started on my triathlon journey it wasn’t even something I felt like sharing with anyone, as I thought I might not be able to do it, and how embarrassing would that be? So I quietly started training. I was doing NOTHING before starting my “stealth triathlon training”. I still keep the notebook that started it all. I set some specific goals for myself…”workout 5 days a week,” “swim twice, run twice and later, bike twice.” I smile when I look back on this. I set weekly yardage goals for myself for swimming, and total running time goals. The week of June 3, 2002 is the first week I started my triathlon “training.” I set a goal of swimming 1200 yards (twice) and running 10 minutes (twice). The week of June 3rd I swam 1300 yards twice and ran 10 minutes the first day and 12 minutes the second day. Very, very humble beginnings compared to some of the 12+ hour weekly training I logged in the last few years. I started off very slowly, with very small, achievable weekly goals. I started off setting gradually increasing swimming and running goals for myself for 12 weeks in advance. By the end of the summer I was swimming 2600 yards and running 45 minutes. Additionally I had purchased a road bike and was riding 30-45 minutes a few times a week.
My point is not that you have to do what I did. Everyone is different, everyone has different goals. I was athletic as a kid, I had a swimming background, I had done some running at various points in my life. My goals were specific to me. Your goals do not have to compete with mine. But they do need to be a) quantifiable b) time sensitive and c) specific to you.
Goals should also be written down. You should look at them every day. You should also let others know what your goals are ~ this makes you more accountable. It’s a lot harder to back off an exercise goal if you have told others in your life about your goal. I have also read that goals should be aggressive, not something that is too easy to achieve. Here I disagree somewhat. For me I often set what I would consider a “realistic” goal ~ something I have to work to achieve, but something that with a little bit of work I am likely to achieve. I think realizing success, especially when just starting out on the journey to achieve your goal, is critical. If a few weeks into something you are experiencing failure, you are much more likely to give up. Small, quantifiable, achievable goals lead to success and success breeds more success.
I am not sure what my next goals are going to be, other than my 5 chin-ups by my 50th birthday goal (which is just over a month away…right now I can do 4). But I like having something to work towards, so I will come up with something. What are your goals?