SMART TRAINING – Part One ‘Secret to Success’
I’m very happy to say that in September I completed my first ever Half Ironman. This involved a 1 mile lake swim, 60 mile bike ride and a 13 mile run, all on the same day and one after the other, with no rest or sleepy time in-between, ouch!!
Admittedly I like a challenge, but this was a big step up from what I’d ever done before. Obviously afterwards I felt quite proud, both for finishing, and the money I raised for my chosen charity. So I thought I’d share with you how I did it, it’s nothing untoward or under the counter, but can be simply explained in two words..……’PROGRESSIVE GOAL’. At the start of the year, I set myself a number of targets and entered a series of events to focus and build my training towards, culminating with this.
Setting yourself a goal, can go a long way to achieving something you will be really proud of. Everyone, whether Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis or Usain Bolt will have days / weeks that they just don’t want to train. What keeps them going is a goal / target that they previously set themselves. Now I’m not saying that you have to set yourself a goal to win an Olympic gold medal, but a goal will help you get you to where you want to go, and it has to be personal to you. Sometimes just reaching the start line is a worthy achievement.
In life, we’re told to dream big, reach for the stars, go for the gold. While I think everyone would agree that having big aspirations is admirable not to mention inspiring, you should take a more calculated approach when setting fitness goals. It may seem counter-intuitive to start small, but remember that you want to set yourself up for success, not burnout or injury.
Think about it. How many times have you or someone you known set a huge goal to lose a couple of stone, or exercise for one hour five days a week, only to fall off the wagon a few weeks (or days) later? The truth is that even when people have the best of intentions and the willpower to set out and do something grand, without a plan and a smart goal, they stumble—and are more likely to fail.
When you first set a goal, you’re full of energy and completely motivated, but over time those feelings can wane and your overzealousness can push you to do too much too soon. The fix is to define a progressive set of fitness goals that build on one another to help propel you toward that big dream or aspiration. Breaking a big goal into smaller, realistic goals can help you both mentally and physically. This method can also help you improve your fitness level gradually and safely, which helps to build confidence.
The first step to setting realistic goals is to really think about your goal and write it down.
Then, ask yourself these three questions:
1. How big is the goal? Is your goal only attainable in three months or more? If so, make further smaller targets to get you to that long-term goal. Ideally, you should be able to reach the smaller goals within 6-8 weeks.
2. What does it take to achieve the goal? This question addresses your goal’s frequency. Be realistic about what time you have to devote to the goal and be honest about your fitness level. Building your fitness base takes time, and being smart about increasing it will help you stay injury-free. As a general rule, never increase your weight lifted or your minutes exercised by more than 10% in any given week. Slow and steady really does win the race!
3. Can you see yourself reaching the goal? You want a program that you can stick with for the long haul, not just this week. Be completely honest with yourself and ask if you can realistically see yourself doing what it takes to achieve the goal at hand. If you can and it meets the above criteria, then you probably have a goal!!
Take a look at these common situations (and fixes) that I’ve encountered as a personal trainer:
- Unrealistic Goal: (a Non-Competitive Exerciser) I want to complete an endurance event in four weeks. Competitive events are an excellent way to stay motivated and a great goal, but many triathlons and running races put a lot of wear and tear on the body, and if you do too much too soon (or without proper form, preparation or footwear), you can get injured, which really puts a damper on your dreams and is just plain painful!
- Realistic Goal: I will complete a shorter distance endurance event like a 5K or sprint triathlon in three to six months. If you want to begin participating in endurance events, it’s important to start building your fitness base slowly and really listen to your body. If you can walk comfortably for at least 20 minutes and can commit to working out four times a week for 20 to 40 minutes, then a 5k training program is a great place to start. A run/walk program is flexible and lets you see results over the course of just a few weeks, which is both exciting and motivational. Plus, if you get into it and find that you really despise running or it makes your knees hurt, you can walk and still reach your goal instead of giving up after the first week.
- Unrealistic Goal: (a Sedentary Person) I want to go to the gym every day. There are two main issues with this goal. First, it’s not specific—what activities do you want to do and for how long? After all, just showing up at the gym doesn’t accomplish anything unless you get your body moving. Second, it’s not realistic. I love to work out and even I don’t want to go to the gym every day. Plus, taking a day off here and there helps give your muscles time to repair and rest, and it gives you a break mentally.
- Realistic Goal: I will be active for at least 20 minutes each day. While this goal isn’t specific when it comes to the activity, it is specific and realistic with the time constraint. While going to an hour long Spinning class every day would be impossible, not to mention not very healthy for you (cross-training is important so that no specific groups of muscles get overused), doing something active for 20 minutes a day, whether it’s going for a swim, a workout DVD, cycle to work or a full gym session is very doable. Also, note the addition of “at least” in this goal, which helps to emphasize that 20 minutes is just a minimum. Over time, this goal could progress to have a minimum of 30+ minutes.
Also, don’t be afraid to tweak a goal as time goes by. Life happens! Remember, the key to setting yourself up for success is to be realistic. Now, start setting those goals!
Your fitness goals should be out of reach…..but never out of sight!!