Think about bowling for a second. The main target is to hit pins at the end of the lane right? Setting a target or end goal is significantly important. Knowing where you aim helps to better direct your effort. Lining yourself up strategically will give you the best result. However, there are many things that affect that ultimate goal as well; the way you turn your body, angle your wrist, power the release, how waxed the lane is, etc. that could cause for a good or not so good result. Outside distractions, a not fully focused throw, and fatigued technique could also affect the end result. Now use this and think about your health. Losing weight, feeling better, gaining strength, becoming healthy is your “end goal”, your destination, or your finish line. Now I say “end goal” because with health every ending is a new beginning. Furthermore, having a target provides us with direction. Take the time in the beginning to plan. Lay your goal out… follow the acronym SMART by making your goal specific, measurable (There's a management saying that 'what gets measured gets done’), attainable, realistic, and timely... what will it take to reach that goal? Be as detailed as possible! I will walk you through eight different tactics to think about when creating fitness goals.
1. Define exactly what will be achieved in a given time period, what the overall outcome of the plan is (The usual time period for an exercise plan is 4-6 weeks).
2. Define weekly targets (process goals) that will ensure the overall outcome can be achieved (These might be as simple as 'attend all defined classes/trainings' or 'add 5 minutes to cardio exercises')
3. Schedule the workouts on days and times that suit your schedule, what does that look like on a weekly format.
4. Define the FITT (frequency, intensity, time, and type) of each workout (i.e. weights or cardio, 30mins or 45mins, high intensity or low etc)
5. Define the most likely barriers to completing the exercise plan (What are the excuses that will come) and how can we override these barriers.
6. Define what you would do if the plan is not working (i.e. call a friend and discuss the problem, adapt the plan/programs to suit)
7. Define the tasks your trainer/spouse/accountable counterpart will undertake to train, monitor and support you
8. Agree to a start date
Remember, however, that bumps in the road will come (slight turns of our wrist happen) therefore it is key to plan all the way to the end goal. This means taking into account all the possible consequences, obstacles, and twists of life that might try to reverse your hard work. By planning to the end, you will be less overwhelmed by circumstances and you will know how to move around, move past, or get through the obstacles that you face. Gently guide and give yourself a way around misfortunes by determining the future and thinking far ahead.
Having a plan (whether that is a nutrition plan, exercise plan, moving more plan, 5K plan, etc) is essentially a 'roadmap' that clearly identifies for you the steps you will need to take to reach your desired destination. Research has shown that goal setting greatly increases the chances of adherence and the achievement of outcomes. There is also evidence to support the use of ‘intervention strategies’ which essentially are a form of relapse prevention training. Plans clearly establish what the goals (smart goals) were at the beginning of a period of work and then allow you to accurately monitor your progress, see roadblocks ahead, and effectively execute a new or modified route to your goal. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail (Thanks Bob Wright!).