I (Kara) have had fitness goals on the brain lately: how best to set them, how often, how many, etc. I think they’re an integral part of a fit lifestyle, even if you’re motivated to workout without them. Goals are important because:
1) A goal keeps you striving, growing, improving.
2) A goal can be a workout partner; good company as you pursue new territory.
3) A goal can provide structure or a point B to your point A.
Earlier this spring I happened to be at a Cross Fit class where everyone was required to write a goal on the whiteboard. I still feel like every Cross Fit class is an accomplishment (just getting there with four kids can be the victory). I’m almost always doing something there I never have before, so it didn’t occur to me that I needed a goal. But I was swayed by the group dynamic (peer pressure!) and posted my goal:
5 Pull Ups by September 30.
I chose pull ups because I wasn’t very good at them. In fact, if I could avoid them, I would. At the time I could do one. Now I can do three. I’m also drawn to the pull up bar to see what I can do. Being able to get to five in another six weeks will be a challenge for me, but I like that goal dangling out front. It’s measurable and attainable, as goals are supposed to be.
For busy moms who are typically pleased to get any kind of workout in, setting goals might actually add a whole new layer of frustration. When time is of the essence, goals not only need to be measurable and attainable, they need to be relevant and meaningful.
I discovered that this summer when I set out to finish three triathlons. I was in a groove with getting workouts in most days of the week. I had all kinds of options and could implement plan Bs as necessary, i.e., if my husband was traveling and I couldn’t get out for an early morning run, I’d do a workout in the yard with the kids. It didn’t matter what I did, as long as I did something.
But this goal required specific training. I couldn’t just get any workout in and be working toward my goal. I needed to run, bike or swim.
One near meltdown early in the summer had me questioning my goal. It was measurable. It was attainable. But was it worth it?
In Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom, the first secret focuses on the mental training necessary to make room for fitness and family. It’s important to spend our time in ways that line up with our priorities and set priorities according to our values. I’d say this section also applies to goal setting, too. If our goals don’t relate back to priorities and our underlying values, then those goals might not be meaningful enough to see them through.
I met my goal. I finished those triathlons and did well in them. I carried on pursuing my goal because I needed to involve myself in activity that I closely identified with for so long before children. Some women just want to get their “pre-baby body” back. I wanted my “pre-baby identity” back.
In addition, triathlon training was a family goal this summer. My husband had a big race and my twin daughters finished their first triathlon. We were all involved. How would that look if mom said: “I just don’t have time to do this. You go on ahead without me.” No way.
And ultimately, the point was to challenge myself. I’m at a place with my fitness where I know I can get a good workout in 4-6 days a week. What else could I do with that fitness base? I needed to stretch myself and I was at a good place in my life to do it: Kids were sleeping through the night (mostly) and we didn’t have any other big stressors (like a move). The time was right.
Now, of course, I’m thinking: what next?
I just did some metabolic testing at Life Time Fitness to learn more about how my body performs; where I’m at with my resting metabolic rate, my anaerobic threshold and VO2 max. I’ve been barraged by a bunch of numbers and now I’m trying to make sense of them to use as a tool for goal setting or see if a goal arises from the analysis. I’ve never been one to care much about these numbers, but I’m wondering if now is the time for a more scientific approach to fitness.
In addition to thinking through how I want to go about formulating new goals, I also know what I don’t want to do:
- Set if/then goals, “If I can do ____, then I will do ____.” (Similar to the person who will start going to the gym only after losing a certain amount of weight first.)
- Set goals that are too big, for the sake of being big.
- Set too many goals in too short a time period.
As I go about this goal-setting process, do you have any advice for me or others looking to set a goal? Do you always have a goal to keep your fitness progressing or use them sparingly?