In my monthly report for March I acknowledged my failure during February to adequately exercise, or at least to follow my own intentions to exercise six days a week.
At the same time I noted that when we fail at anything it is almost always due to a lack of proper goal setting. For this post I decided to share the basics of my plan for improving my exercise regimen by adopting proper goal setting methods.
The First Step in Goal Setting: Statement
The first and most important step in goal setting is to clearly define the goal. Losing some weight is not an effective goal. Losing 80 pounds is better. Getting my weight down to 175 pounds by Christmas, 2015, is a better one. It is specific (can be measured) and it has a time of completion.
Applying this principle to my exercise program is relatively simple because I do not want to set a long term exercise goal for specific levels or types of exercise at this time. Instead, I want to set only a basic goal for consistently exercising, general types (aerobic and strength), and time devoted to it.
Because I do not want to draw too much of my focus away from my weight loss effort and some other aspects of my health planning which are priorities now, I want my current goal to relate only to establishing an exercise base line with the idea of adding to it later.
That said, my new, current exercise goal is this: Beginning now I will exercise for twenty minutes six days every week (omitting Sunday), doing strength exercises on MWF and aerobic exercise on TThSat.
This statement contains the essential elements for a beginning exercise goal and clearly sets out what I want to achieve at this time. Personally I expect to do a few stretching exercises and may add other steps which I will incorporate into a formal goal later but I do not want to focus on them now.
Second Step in Goal Setting: Planning
This section outlines of my personal plan of action for achieving this goal. First, here is a list of my planning steps:
- Put my goal and plan in writing (done and stated above)
- Identify issues: insufficient sleep/lack of focus-motivation-prioritization
- Support Motivation: write affirmations, set up reminders, begin exercise log
- Evaluate: review progress monthly in conjunction with my weight loss report
- Revise and commit to a new upgraded exercise goal in six months (September 1st)
Exercise has always been enjoyable for me but only after I am involved! Getting going has always been hard. Years ago when I ran regularly I always felt great once on the road but I always had a hard time getting started.
For this reason, scheduling and motivational techniques are important parts of what I am incorporating into my plan.
- I have set up a written log in which to detail my daily exercise.
- I have six affirmations to carry in my pocket and review every day for at least a month.
- I have set an alarm on my clock at 3:30 p.m. (with the plan to exercise daily by 3:00 p.m.).
Associated goal: get adequate sleep
Sleep is an often overlooked component in many health issues. For more information about the importance of adequate sleep and the effects of inadequate sleep see my article under the health tab titled The Four Keys to Health.
Early on in my weight loss program I worked on my sleep habits—I have had a lifelong practice of working late at night, often until 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. But because I now have little opportunity to sleep late, I recognized that a lack of sleep was taking its toll. I had developed some obvious symptoms of sleep deprivation.
One of the most detrimental results of sleep deprivation is emotional or motivational. It depletes our energy level and makes it harder and harder to act on goals of any kind, but especially for something like exercise.
While I had done well on this front for some months, lately I have been starting to drift back toward my old habits in this area. I think it has had a good bit to do with my inability to consistently get out of my chair and into the exercise room. For that reason I am reviving my action plan for getting to bed before midnight until I have it firmly re-established again.
Third Step in Goal Setting: Motivation
One of the most important parts of reaching any goal is finding the motivation to see it through. The consistent practice of many to set and fail to achieve New Year’s resolutions is an obvious example of our propensity for letting well intended goals fall by the wayside.
There is much to learn about motivation that we will not try to cover here. What I will do is to focus on the three key techniques that I will use in this particular case.
1. Over the years I have learned that the informed use of personal affirmations is one of the strongest tools for developing motivation for any task. This will easily be a helpful tool for my purpose here.
The way I do it is to write my affirmations on 3X5 cards and carry a stack of them in my shirt pocket where they are handy for daily review. Here is my primary affirmation for this goal. It is simple but direct which is usually best.
Repeating this affirmation, best done out loud, as long as it is done with a complete intention to make it happen, and a belief that you will, helps embed it as the reality of your life in the subconscious mind, a key to action. I will review my six exercise related affirmations every day for at least a month and weekly thereafter for at least six months.
2. My alarm, set on my phone, is intended to be either a congratulations-you-did-it or a late call. I did not want it to be a reminder to start because I wanted to do that on my own initiative, working my exercise into my schedule as early each day as convenient.
3. Recording my workout routine in a log is one way of holding myself accountable which is another form of motivation. In addition, it will help me follow my progress and help with planning for future improvements in my routine.
Taken together, this motivational program should be more than adequate, possibly an overkill since I am already doing a fair job of exercise, just not doing so as consistently as I want.
Final Steps of Goal Setting
While the final steps in goal setting are important, I will not go into detail about them in this post but will later—most likely related to other weight loss or healthy eating goals. It is worth mentioning here, however, that additional steps such as keeping adequate records and evaluation/course correction are also essential for effective goal setting.
Since these goal setting skills are important for achievement in other areas it should not be surprising that we need to practice them with our weight loss and healthy eating goals if we want to succeed. Very likely the failure of most people to approach weight loss with effective goal setting and planning is one reason so many fail. But we can do better. And we will.