So you've decided to make a change, to make a commitment to eating healthy and becoming more active. The specific reasons why you've suddenly found a need to better yourself varies from person to person, but by being clear and setting smart goals will be the difference between success and failure. Don't become one of the many who sign up for gym membership, attend for the first 4 weeks, and then come back. Follow my advice and set clear goals to achieve actual results.
First and foremost you need to set a specific goal of what you want to achieve and when you want to achieve it by. If losing weight is a goal, it’s important to specify how much weight you actually want to lose and what are the areas of your body you really want to see change. As an example ‘I want to lose 15kg and be able to fit into a size 28” jeans by Christmas’ is a specific long-term goal that you can measure yourself with. A common mistake people start off with is being too general with their goal setting; ‘I want to lose weight’ (how much weight do you want to lose?) or ‘I want to improve my strength and get healthy’ (how are you actually going to judge if you are getting stronger and what does ‘get healthy’ mean?). To make a change in lifestyle and body shape does take a big commitment. You will need to develop a clear focus of what it is you want to achieve because you’ll need something specific to help drive you when you’ve had a busy day at work and the last thing you want to do is to go to the gym.
Once you’ve determined your ultimate goal it’s important to have measurable short-term goals to track your progress through the weeks. Having a weekly weigh-in or performing weekly body measurements is a great way to track progress and to keep you focused. If you’re just getting started with exercise again after a long hiatus or if you’ve never stepped foot in a gym before then a good short-term goal that I recommend is to simply just attend for the first month and to exercise at a level that doesn’t need you feeling 100% on your game to complete. If your workouts are too intense you will soon develop excuses not to turn up, resulting in your fitness never really improving because your workouts are too infrequent. I recommend in the beginning to keep your workouts achievable, aim to walk away at the end of each session feeling energized rather than feeling absolutely exhausted.
Your goals should also be realistically achievable. Using the weight loss goal as above, it’s unrealistic to think that you can drop 15kg in 6 weeks, or on the other hand by setting your sights too low will not challenge you enough and probably won’t give you a feeling of satisfaction at the end. For weight loss, a healthy body weight reduction should be in the region of 0.5kg-1.0kg per week - so aiming to lose 15kg in 6 weeks is sure to leave you in disappointment.
The last point I stress is to set a time frame and to set a deadline. Human nature is such that unless you’re challenged or being put in the ‘hot seat’ then you won’t be pressured to make a significant change. Once you’ve set ‘what’ you want to achieve give yourself a timeframe of ‘when’ you want to achieve them by, whether that be 8 weeks, 3 months or 6 months.
If you’re in doubt as to what you can achieve in a given period of time or need help to evaluate your goals then speak with a personal trainer who can help you set some realistic targets.