This is not going to be the world’s most scientific blog. I don’t feel that regurgitating scientific facts will be most useful to you. Certainly, if you wanted that kind of information, there are thousands of other websites and blogs, newspapers, journals, and magazines you could read. I can point you to some in another post. You are here (I hope) because you are interested in my anecdotal experience, as well as my professional (research-based) opinions. It is my goal to educate, motivate, and engage you (mind & body) through this web space, from my desk (wherever in the world that may be!) to you. That being said, I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions!
First, I want to make sure we’re all on the same page. That means laying some groundwork. Let’s find out what blogs, bogs (um, what’s a bog?), tree logs, and goal-setting have in common, in my mind.
I’m a dreamer. I’m an idealist. At any given moment, I have a million things I want to achieve (this blog being one of them). And I can do them. I know I can. But a path has to be laid out, one stone at a time. Or, more appropriately, one log at a time, like the precariously soggy path I hiked through this weekend in Boston with my friend Whitney.
As we were hiking through the bog on those delicately placed logs, Whitney and I thought about the first person who decided it would be a good idea to forge that path. What a beautiful ecosystem! It certainly wasn’t hard to see why someone would want to create the trail, but it must have been a lot of work laying down all those logs. Like a short term goal, each log must be set before moving on to the next. Try to leap too far ahead, and you may find yourself on your butt in the mud (sorry, Whitney).
Everything has to start somewhere. I could write an entire book in my first blog post. I have so many topics that I want to talk about. However, I know that 1) it would never get published because it would take too long, and I would get overwhelmed; 2) no one would take the time to read it, and the words and my purpose for writing the blog would be lost. I can’t leap ahead. So, I’m starting with the basics.
Log by log, post by post I’m making a path through this bog, err I mean blog.
The same goes for you and your goals. This can be generalized to apply to your life goals, but let’s talk fitness and health.
Take. It. Slow.
Set short, medium, and long term goals.
We’ve all heard about SMART goals. I don’t need to drag you to another professional development seminar, do I? Ugh, I promise I’ll be succinct. I’m going to be a nerd and admit that I do think about this acronym whenever I set goals for myself. It helps. Your goals should be:
I think this is pretty self-explanatory. If you don’t get it, feel free to Google it, where you’ll happen upon someone else’s awesome blog where they took the time to explain SMART goals to their heart’s content. No need for me to reinvent the wheel.
What I do want to emphasize here is the short, medium, and long-term goals. And the A. Attainable. These are the things I, personally, struggle with the most. And, I think, so do you.
Attainable. Let’s take a look at this using a specific goal. Say, you want to lose 10 lbs. Or 20. Or shed body fat overall. The first mistake people make is putting that 10 or 20-pound goal in the short-term category. “I want to lose 20 pounds by August 1st.” Or September 1st. Or December 1st. It doesn’t matter what time-stamp you put on it. If it’s the first step in your long list of goals, it’s a short-term goal. And this goal is not attainable, not where you’ve placed it. But, hey, it’s specific, it’s measurable, it’s relevant, it’s temporal. SMRT. Yeah, real smrt. You just put a log 20 feet in front of you and said, now I have to jump there, or fall in the bog water. How the hell do I do that? Even I can’t help you. As a personal trainer, I can train you all I want to gain speed and strength and power and attempt to long jump 20 feet to that metaphorical log… but I won’t do it. I can’t do it. Our time together would be better spent laying down smaller logs so you can safely walk to that place. This means setting more short-term goals in between.
Now, to some extent, these short-term goals go unspoken and unnoticed. I think we should start to acknowledge these unsung heroes.
Long-term goal: Lose 20 pounds by September 1st.
Medium-term goal: Reduce net calories by 300 each day through additional physical activity, reducing alcohol consumption, and making healthy food choices starting May 1st.
Medium-term goal: Increase cardiovascular activity from 2 to 4 times per week. Run 2 times a week and bike 2 times a week starting May 1st.
Short-term goal: Measure and track food each day. Take note of alcohol consumption each day or week starting next week.
Short-term goal: Be consistent with strength training. Start with personal trainer 3 times per week starting this week.
Short-term goal: Take the stairs instead of the elevator at least once a day starting this week.
Short-term goal: Take a stretch break instead of a snack break each day at work starting this week.
This is just an example. This is where a lot of my clients start: they start with the commitment to personal training. It’s a bit harder to make that step to diet and behavior change. (And I have to say that I don’t believe that calorie counting is always necessary. But for our SMART goals example… it makes it easier). Notice that there are 4 short-term goals listed and only 1 long term goal (or outcome). This allows for you to test multiple routes out before you set your path. Maybe you find that calorie counting is next to impossible for you. Or taking the stairs is more of a pain than anything (in your high heels). It also allows for you to give yourself a pat on the back multiple times a day. Good job, you took that stretch break and didn’t eat that bag of chips! Good job, you woke up at 6:00 a.m. and worked out with Chelsea (I had fun, did you?)! Good job, you turned down that last glass of wine at dinner!
I welcome that positivity. There is no need to be so hard on yourself every single moment. Even if you feel like you messed up. You may find yourself taking a risky leap onto a slippery log to make up for those mistakes. Or maybe you just wanted to take a short cut and keep from getting your feet wet in the first place. It’s hard work to reach your goals, and there are no short cuts. Keep your focus on those short term goals, and acknowledge that you’ve made healthy choices multiple times before your slip-up. Take a deep breath, and realize that you can and will continue to make healthy choices in the future.
“Like some Spartan holed up in a mountain fortress.”
-Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart
(I love Haruki Murakami. As you may find, I love to quote him. He always has great metaphors. After re-reading Sputnik Sweetheart, I’m now reading a book of his short stories called Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman.)
You can’t live like that. Like a Spartan holed up in a mountain fortress. Like a programmed robot. We live in an open community filled with junk foods, social gatherings, birthday cakes, vacations, husbands and friends who want to order that bottle of wine, stressful standardized tests, you name it… whatever is conspiring to throw you off track, it exists in this world, and you will have to confront it eventually.
Set your sights on your long term goals. That beautiful, boggy path. That health and fitness blog. Those elusive 20 pounds. Then, draft some short-term goals that will get you started. As you encounter obstacles that threaten to keep you from reaching your goals, identify additional short-term goals that will help you overcome those obstacles. And don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back every so often. You deserve it.