By Joli Guenther, MSSW, NASM-CPT
Have you really sat down and identified the goals of your exercise program? Whenever I meet with a new client for the first time, we talk extensively about their fitness goals. I’m guessing that you can probably relate to some of their desired outcomes – losing weight, toning up, or building muscle mass. Maybe you’ve begun to experience the aches and pains that come with naturally growing older or you want to begin a strength regimen to ward off osteoporosis. Regardless of your desired end result, or your motivation for achieving it, these fitness goals are directly tied to your long-term health and wellness.
Without question, we know that exercise is good for us. Overweight, underweight, and everywhere in between, our bodies are made to be used. Exercise will improve our physical health, our mental health, and increase our enjoyment of day to day activities. So how do you tie this all together? Get started by setting a goal that’s tied to long-term wellness. The key to achieving this long-term goal is to set smaller, progressive goals that allow to you to measure your success along the way. For most people in the early days on an exercise program, the simplest goals are also the most effective.
As a new exerciser, consider redefining your initial goals. Simply starting and sticking to an exercise program is a fantastic, independent goal. But you will have greater success if you’re able to pinpoint exactly what you want to achieve. For example, instead of just “getting stronger” or “toning up,” identify your goal as “I want to be able to play with my kids for two full hours at the beach this summer without needing a rest,” or maybe “I want to lift my grandson with throwing out my back.” Consider the exercise goals that will be the most effective indicator that you are living a healthy life. Keep that up, day after day, year after year, and the rest of the changes you're looking for are around the corner.
Redefining our fitness goals in the context of a healthier and more satisfying lifestyle is a wonderfully freeing and motivating experience. Rather than comparing our body to an idealized image, we begin to measure our progress in terms of improvements in our day to day abilities and indicators of our overall physical and mental health. These changes are frequently more motivating as we can measure them in smaller increments and time intervals than our fluctuating body mass may allow.
Putting it into practice:
My current nutritional goal is to increase my daily consumption of vegetables. In all likelihood, you're trying to do the same. The USDA currently recommends that adults consume between two and (gulp) six servings of vegetables every day! As we gear up for grilling season, it's easy to serve those burgers and hotdogs with a side of chips or potato salad and tell ourselves we'll eat our veggies tomorrow. Next time you're cooking out, think about rounding out that meal by throwing a few veggies on the grill. Asparagus is an early vegetable that's one of my favorites. Just toss the spears with a little olive oil and salt before putting them directly on the grate. Turn them after about four minutes and pull them off when they're bright green and shiny. You can even eat them with your fingers!