The Importance of Setting Goals for Fitness

Published by Jason Narog on

Fitness goals

I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned, forgotten, relearned, and adjusted over the last few years on my path to getting back into fitness. I started out knowing I needed to stretch out the upper parts of my legs (hips, IT band, etc) to prevent any sort of nagging pain or injury to my knees and ankles. So I did it for awhile, then switched to foam rolling, then yoga, then back to foam rolling, then nothing, and now I’m back to incorporating in the same stretches I learned years ago as my chiropractor at Elemental Medicine and massage therapist of J James Therapy pointed out certain points in my upper leg can’t be hit by my fancy new vibrating foam rollers and are mostly targeted through stretching.

So that led me to start thinking about what I’m really doing. And it led me to think up these questions –

What are my long term fitness goals?

What are my short term fitness goals?

Why am I removing elements of my training as I learn more?

I’ll answer these questions the way I see them and try to provide insight into how you can answer them for yourself.

What are my long term fitness goals?

I want to be able to move well, feel good, and train when I’m in my 50’s. Train like I can today. The irony to this goal is that it gets in the way (or feels as though it gets in the way) of my current fitness goals. I’ll find myself on side missions like pursuing the SFG-1 that completely overtakes my existing routines and goals in an effort to better position myself in the short term so I can be active in the long term. It’s a double edged sword, where trying to chase after something further away can cloud judgement in the short term.

But being flexible about the execution of the plan is important as well. The SFG-1 was a great experience for me and I learned a lot. The training up to the weekend was beneficial for me as I learned both what to do and what not to do in the future. It also made me think about short term and long term goals, which is what I’m writing about now.

Being healthy in the long run is a very good goal. And positioning myself to know more about fitness is also a good goal. But doing something that distracts or takes away from what you’re already doing may or may not be the best course of action. I need to keep up with the stretching I learned years ago. These stretches align with my long term goal of being able to move well in the future. These stretches also align with any short term goal I may have as it allows me to move properly in the short term.

Having a long term fitness goal will also make you think about your diet choices. Keto, paleo, vegetarian, low carb, high carb, it doesn’t really matter to me which “diet” you’ve chosen for yourself as long as you’ve talked with someone (a trained professional) about the pros and cons of said choice. Having a long term health goal helps you make better choices as to what you’re going to eat (or not eat) at every meal. Maybe you eat one less cookie at the holiday party, and avoid cookies altogether during a regular week. Or you eat less chips, cake, etc. Wanting to be healthy long term will get you thinking about what goes into your body, making you healthier in both the short and long term.

What are my short term fitness goals?

In the 2019 calendar year I’m going to run five separate obstacle course races (mud runs), one per month in May, June, August, October, and ???. I signed up for four of them already, and am currently looking for a  time and location that works with my schedule for the fifth.

Signing up for something like this that far in the future (my first one is six months away) it forces me to at least maintain a baseline level of fitness. I need to be able to at least jog 3 miles, and climb, jump, push, and potentially pull some stuff. I’m not planning on running them in any sort of crazy time, and won’t be pushing myself to the point I’m sick. It’s a fun outing for the day where I don’t plan on being exhausted afterwards. And to do that I need to be in at least decent shape.

Fun runs, marathons, half marathons, obstacle course runs, triathalons, relays, etc are all excellent events for you to sign up for that take place in the near future and force you to stay active (or get active after a break if your goal is something like a couch to 5K). If you’re typically not a runner doing a fun right might break up your routine a bit as well, which could get you rethinking your current routine.

My primary short term goal is to set up a schedule that I don’t falter from. Stretching, foam rolling, strength training, meditation, and sports training are all part of my short term goal. The foam rolling and stretching are key to everything else. The strength training I take part in is designed to improve my body so I’m more resilient to injury in the future. And the sport training is for fun both mentally and physically.

Letting something fall off the schedule is easy. Keeping everything going consistently is hard. But that’s my goal. I currently stretch in the morning for 6 minutes (everyone should have 6 minutes they can dedicate to mobility and flexibility), meditate a few times a week on my bus ride to work, and foam roll before I feel stiff. That’s another key, if you roll when you’re already stiff you’re on a losing battle. Do it routinely so the stiffness isn’t anywhere near as bad as it could be.

Why am I removing elements of my training as I learn more?

Sometimes you learn something is more effective than something else. Sometimes you learn the type of training you’re doing isn’t beneficial for what you’re trying to do. And sometimes you just get bored.

I now use vibrating foam rollers instead of a standard foam roller (I’m testing a few right now and will have some recommendations ready in January) because they make me feel much looser in a very short amount of time. I literally feel better in 10 minutes, whereas a standard roller could / would take a week to get the same results.

I don’t do 10 swings every 30 seconds for a total of 5 minutes anymore. I may do 10 swings in 10 minutes. And I vary up the load / routine. Lighter double bell swings with cleans tossed in a few rounds here and there, or a heavier single arm swing with snatches tossed in for a few rounds is my current new jam. It breaks up the routine and isn’t as hard on the body. It also isn’t as mentally repetitive or exhausting. I’m also not trying to do 100 snatches in 5 minutes any time in the near future so I don’t need to be in that kind of condition. The lighter load also allows me to think more about my form as I’m not exhausted early on in the routine.

With the stretches I was doing, then not doing, then doing again, then not, and now am doing again this is typically an issue with “time.” Or time management. The same can be true with the follow along yoga videos. I’m working on time management. Outside of pack your fitness bag(s) during your off day so you can just grab it and go I don’t really know what to officially tell anyone about time management.

Maybe watch less TV? In the case of 6 minutes of stretching that could be as easy as waking up 7 minutes earlier or going to bed 6 minutes later. But if we’re talking about someone wanting to get an extra 5 mile run per day in, well that would take a bit more creative planning. The longer the amount of time you’re trying to add in, the more planning you’re going to have to do.

Takeaways

Sign up for things that you think are fun. Adult sports leagues are great for getting you out of the house and moving. If you’re not in shape now, signing up for a league that’s 3-6 months out will give you a short term goal of getting into shape before the season starts so you can enjoy yourself while you’re out there. [Replace the word league with run if you’d rather do a fun/mud run.]

Getting into shape for said activity will help you develop additional habits in nutrition / fitness and will lead you to move further down the rabbit hole of identifying new short term / long term goals. If something temporarily gets in the way of your short term goal but aligns with your long term goal then go with it. But don’t let the long term goal always be in the way of your short term goal. If your long term goal is constantly conflicting with your short term goal, maybe revisit your short term goal.

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