Goals. We've all had them at some point or other. When you are little and learning to ride a bike you have a goal to be able to do it without stabilisers. When you learn to swim, your goal is typically to learn to swim a width and then maybe a length and then take it from there and see where it gets you.
When it comes to health and fitness goals, well you open up a whole plethora (I like that word) of goals and areas in which to set a goal. It is so often the case that there are so many to choose from, it becomes quite difficult to know where to start.
There are a lot of clichés surrounding 'goals' and 'goal-setting', but to succeed at something you have to have something you are aiming to achieve. If you don't have a goal when do you celebrate success in getting there? Where is your drive to go out and get it? If it isn't a goal you're working towards, then it's just a dream.
In September this year it will be 4 years since I said that I wanted to lose weight. At that time my goal was to get down to what I weighed when I got married in 2011 (which I only achieved in 2011 by starving myself in a very unhealthy, unsustainable way). That meant needing to lose 5st. My goal in 2015 was to lose 5st and with a lot of hard work, commitment, I got there.
When I did my Fitness Instruction and Personal Training courses last year I loved learning in detail about all of the things that I had learned to love by exercising myself. What is funny that I never considered qualifying as a Fitness Instructor or Personal Trainer a goal...I don't know why! Anyway...the courses are full of technical information, of exercises, of how the body works, the theoretical side, anatomy and physiology...it's huge and it is fascinating and vital to what I now do for a living. The one bit that I really struggled with? The goal-setting.
In the course...and you'll find it out there on the internet too...the focus on goals was for them to be "SMART" - Specific - Measurable - Achievable - Realistic - Timebound. It makes sense. A structure around setting goals, breaking them down into what you really want to achieve helps you to set the right goal. Then you get to plan exactly how you are going to achieve that; it may mean breaking the goal down into smaller components and having lots of little goals before achieving the initial one, but you come up with a plan that will get you where you want to be. It is then down to you to make the changes to succeed, with help where it is needed.
So what sort of goals are goals? This is where I had many a discussion/argument with tutors!
I don't know whether it was because I was older or whether it was because of my own fitness experiences - having gone from 16st down to 11st, but when it came to setting goals I realised that whilst you can have goals to lose weight, to lose inches, to get stronger at something, to run faster, to do more repetitions with weights, to do more squats, to improve cardiovascular health it doesn't mean other goals aren't important, if not more important, except it is often the case that those goals aren't things that can be measured.
Weighing scales measure whether you have lost or gained weight.
Consistency and repetition of an exercise can increase strength.
Cardio training will improve fitness levels. Your 3km walk will get quicker. Your parkrun will get faster.
Bodyweight exercises will make your muscles stronger if you do them often enough.
A tape measure will show whether inches have been lost or not.
These are all ways to measure typical fitness goals, but for me I think it is equally important to get down to what people really want from training and it is often a lot more than measurable goals. It is wanting to feel good about yourself. It is wanting to feel happy to exercise. It is wanting to have some motivation. It is wanting to feel healthier and more active. It is wanting to feel happier. It is wanting to not hate yourself.
When I did my training and suggested goals like these I was shot down straight away and told that you can't measure them, they aren't realistic. I was told they weren't valid! But they are. Yes, that's right, they are very very valid. I know what it's like to look in a mirror and be disgusted by what looks back at me. I know what it's like to want to spend 4hrs in front of the telly after a busy day. I know what it's like to binge on chocolate and biscuits late at night because I already hate myself and the chocolate tastes nice and just makes me feel a bit better for a few minutes. I know that it is hard to get up and do something you haven't done before and makes you feel a little bit anxious. I know, I have been there.
For me I understand entirely when a client says they just want to feel better. I understand when they say they want to feel happier, less stressed, more motivated. As part of the process in Personal Training these feelings and goals do get guided into SMART goals - we take measurements, we do the right training to help with toning up, strengthening the body, improving fitness levels...having something in mind to get to...having a target.
What I love about my job is seeing the changes happen...it's amazing the reaction when the tape measure comes out after a few weeks and inches have disappeared, when a few pounds become half a stone or a stone, when 30 seconds of mountain climbers becomes 45 seconds of them without complaining! When the 6kg is replaced with a 10kg. But what I really love? Seeing someone standing taller, holding themselves up, feeling confident, smiling more, choosing to make healthier choices than they would have in the past, pushing past comfort zones because they want to. Just feeling better. That's priceless.
I play a little part in that and I'm proud of myself when it happens, but not as proud as I am of the person who had their Day 1 and decided to make the change. Of the person who kept going when it was hard. Of the person who said they couldn't do something, but tried anyway and discovered they could.
Personal Training should be just that. Personal. If someone tells you your goal is stupid, then tell them they are. Shock the heck out of the cynics and prove yourself right, just make sure you have the right tools, the support and the time to get there. It is most definitely worth it in the end...I can vouch for that!
If you want help getting started, if you have a dream or a goal and you don't know how to get there, drop me a message firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll help you find a way of getting there and I'll be the first to pat you on the back when you get there. x