Thursday, January 19th, 2012...8:38 am

Setting Manageable Goals

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“I’ve decided I’m going to work out more.” I can’t tell you how many times every new year I hear that resolution articulated to me by others. Working at the Rec Center, the Spring semester is our busiest season, bringing with it an increase in participants looking to achieve a wide variety of fitness goals in the new year. There are lines of Black-Friday-esque proportions outside the gym right before it opens, you have to stalk cardio machines like you would Banner during add/drop, and attending a Les Mills class during Free Week just might be the most electrifying adrenaline rush you’ve ever experienced. The thing is, I can visually tell when most people give up on their New Year’s resolutions because the traffic in the gym is much lighter. Generally, the transition occurs either right after Spring break or right before midterms. The fear of not having the spring break body is replaced by the fear of mid-term grades and job hunting.

However, I don’t blame anyone in the least for losing motivation with a resolution like this so soon. I know if I had the goal ‘to work out more’ I wouldn’t last a week. Why? Because this goal tells me nothing about  1) Specifically what I’m trying to do, 2) how I am going to Measure this goal, 3) if and how this goal is Attainable for me, 4) if it’s Realistic given my level of ability and level of motivation, and 5) what length of Time I’m giving myself to complete it.  The preceding statements are based on the S.M.A.R.T. method of goal setting which argues that in order to be successful at a goal, it has to be written to account for those qualities.

By applying these principles to the generic New Year’s Resolution of “I’m going to work out more,” we can create a greater likelihood of a successful fitness goal. For instance: this year I’m not just going to work out more. 1) I’m going to specifically work on increasing my running mileage up to 2) 6 miles total (almost a 10k). I will make this goal 3) attainable and 4) realistic by scheduling my runs at the beginning of each week and gradually working up to 6 miles over the 5) timeline of 12 weeks so that I can run a 10k in April.  This way I have a specific plan for how to see my resolution through to completion and (vs. an obscure weight loss or workout goal) can actively affect and control.

For this new year and new semester, I encourage you to reflect upon how to apply the S.M.A.R.T. principles to your own goals whether fitness or non-fitness related. And if come March and April there are still lines outside when the gym opens, I’ll remind myself that it’s an indication of the small steps toward success each of us take on the path toward our personal goals.

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