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Set realistic fitness goals

Make your first goals achievable, realistic and measurable


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health


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Most of us know by now that exercise is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle and that we need to get involved in some type of exercise routine. It’s not always easy to get going.

Here are our top exercise tips:

  • Think about what you are trying to achieve with your exercise regime – are you looking to compete in a marathon, to build muscle, to lose weight or just to generally improve all 'round fitness? Your exercise regime will vary depending on what your goals are.
  • Set SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. As we mentioned in this article, this means that you should be clear about your goals (specific), have a way to measure your goal (measurable), set a goal that you can actually achieve (attainable), set a goal that is realistic (realistic), and have a set time frame for when you will meet your goal (timely).
  • Think about how much time you realistically have to devote to exercise. At the start, you may be willing to devote two hours a day to your programme, but over the long-term that amount of exercise is probably not sustainable. It could also lead to overtraining or even exercise addiction. So be careful.
  • Remember that it takes time and dedication to reach your goals. You may ultimately have a goal of running a 10K or bench pressing 200 lbs, but you will have to work up to it. You certainly won’t start out anywhere near those goals!
  • Set a reasonable schedule and stick to it. It’s best to take some days off each week, even if you are really gung-ho, you definitely need to take one day off. Most professional or even competitive amateur athletes take at least one day a week off. It is very important to rest both for psychological reasons (i.e. a well deserved break) and for physical reasons (overtraining has a whole host of negative effects on the body, including increased risk of joint or muscle injury and negative effects on our hormone system).
  • Plan ahead, i.e. lay out your exercise clothes the night before or set a phone reminder to bring your gym bag with you.
  • Try making it social. Many people find it much easier to exercise regularly if they have a partner to work out with. So if a friend or family member is keen to get going, you could do it together.
  • Try to keep to your routine, but don’t beat yourself if you miss a day. Being obsessive can be just as unhealthy as living on the couch.
  • Adjust your goals if necessary. If you had originally planned to run five nights a week, but constantly find yourself missing days, think about reducing your schedule to three nights instead. It’s better to set smaller achieveable goals than it is to set big goals that you fail to reach.
  • If you are combining diet with exercise in an effort to lose weight, many experts also suggest picking one day to enjoy some treats, along with a rest. This can keep your metabolism firing on all cylinders. The more targeted form of a treat day is called a ‘refeed’ and it is more specific than a treat day. Neither a treat day nor a refeed day is meant to be an all out binge.

Building a programme week by week

Weeks One and Two

At the beginning, aim to add a few minutes to your current level of activity. For example, add 10-15 minutes of physical activity to your daily routine over the next two weeks (you could take a walk during school or work lunch hour, take the dog for a walk or go for a walk with your boyfriend or girlfriend).

Weeks Three and Four

Build on weeks one and two, so that in weeks three and four you gradually add more minutes of activity to your day. You could be participating in up to 25-40 minutes of active time over the course of most days (make your current activities longer). You are in control (only you can decide how long you want to be active for) and the more time you are active, the greater the health benefits.

Weeks Five and Six

Aim to be active for at least 60 minutes most days of the week. Remember you can add your minutes up, so that you could be active six times each day for 10 minutes each time (walking, swimming, stair climbing). You can choose how long you want to be active for at any one time. This gives you freedom to vary your pattern, so that activity becomes a convenient and enjoyable part of your daily routine.

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Published December 19th, 2012
Last updated October 29th, 2015
Tags exercise fitness healthy living
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

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