Setting realistic exercise goals
Happy New Year!
New Year’s Resolutions are sooooo 2010! Now we set “realistic goals”!
All jokes aside, the new year is often a time of reflection and planning, so whether you’re wanting to lose the dreaded 2020 COVID lockdown excess kgs or run a marathon in 2021, it is important to set small goals to help you remain focused on the long term bigger picture and avoid injuries.
Saying “I want to get fit” isn’t specific enough, instead set a goal such as “I want to walk / run 10,000 steps a day to improve my cardiovascular fitness and reduce my blood pressure to 120/80”. SMART goal setting is a great approach to getting back into exercise if it has been a while.
Specific: set small, specific mini-goals along the way and ask yourself “what do I want to accomplish?, why is this goal important? who else do I need to involve? where can I achieve these goals?”
Measurable: goals should be meaningful and motivate you towards the ultimate outcome. You might find recording results in an activity log helps you see your progress over time.
Achievable: set realistic, attainable goals, and be adaptable to changing circumstances (such as closure of gyms or only being allowed outside to exercise for an hour during a global pandemic!)
Relevant: ensure your mini goals are reasonable and results based, and reward yourself along the way (maybe buy yourself a new pair of runners or exercise gear as you lose weight and achieve exercise goals).
Time-bound: ensure you are realistic with how much time you have to commit to these goals, and factor that into your weekly schedule to ensure it is prioritised and you build a routine. When setting time-bound goals ask “When will I do the exercise? What can I do today, What can I do in 6 weeks, and What can I aim to do in 6 months?”
It is very common for Physio’s to see overload injuries present in January and February, as people go from nothing to everything with their New Year’s resolutions. It is important to gradually increase your activity load, while ensuring you balance this with stretching / mobility exercises, good diet for fuel and appropriate footwear (the old runner’s at the back of the cupboard that you’ve had for 4 years probably need replacing) to minimise the risk of injury and help keep you on a steady pathway towards your goals.
For example, if you’ve been working from home for the last 9 months, barely doing 2500 steps/day and only going for a 20-30min walk once a week, don’t try run 5km 3-4 x week in January! Start with walking for 45min a day, which with other incidental exercise should get you towards 10,000 steps. Then in a couple of weeks introduce a jog:walk program 2-3 x week, which initially may be 30sec jog:30sec walk, for a total of 20min. Over coming weeks you can build this up to 1min jog:30sec walk, 2min jog:30sec walk, 5min jog:30sec walk and eventually a 20-25min jog. There are some great apps out there, such as “Couch to 5km”, that can guide you with increasing your running gradually, or ask your Physio to help write you a more specific and personalised plan.
If you have any questions or would like to speak to me about goal setting and cross training to minimise the risk of injury please don’t hesitate to get in contact.
Wishing you a safe and happy new year, and all the best with your 2021 resolutions / goals!!
Written by Physiotherapist, Fiona Samuel