“You can want success all you want, but to get it, you can’t falter. You can’t slip. You can’t sleep. One eye open, for real, and forever.”
It's getting to be that time of year again...New Years resolution season. New Years resolutions get a bad rep but I actually love them. There is nothing wrong with taking the time to think about where you are now and where you'd like to be a year from now. Where people go wrong is they don't take themselves seriously, don't write down their goals, and most importantly don't take the time to plan how they are going to accomplish those goals. One of my favorite parts of Jay Z's book decoded was when he talked about how he started his own record label.
"We made short and long-term projections, we kept it realistic, but the key thing is that we wrote it down, which is as important as visualization in realizing success.”
The act of writing down your goals helps establish accountability for yourself and forces you to at least think about how you are going to get there. So in honor of New Years I'd like to share some tips for setting fitness and weight loss goals.
1. Don't be afraid to be ambitious.
Although it is often preached that weight loss goals should be small and easily attainable, a recent publication in the New England Journal of Medicine (1) found that ambitious weight loss goals were oftentimes associated with better weight loss goals. The same paper also cited several studies that showed rapid weight loss in the beginning was not indicative of weight regain. Everyone is different and it is not clear why some people lose more weight initially, the important thing is to make sure you have your plan.
2. Be SMART
As a trainer a great deal of my job involves helping clients to develop their goals and make a plan to reach them. We use the acronym SMART:
You can be SMART and ambitious at the same time. Your goal may be to lose 100 pounds- that's specific and measurable, now you can use the acronym to make your plan. 1-2 pound weight loss per week is healthy and realistic. Typically the more weight you have to lose the more drastic your initial weight loss will be. Therefore in the beginning months you can expect to lose about 8-10 pounds a month- use this to set your timeline and check yourself for progress. If you're not seeing weight loss after a couple months of training it may be time to go back over your fitness and meal plan and make some changes.
Similarly of you're training for an event be SMART. If you currently can't run a mile don't make your goal to run a marathon in January. But there's no shame in signing up for a marathon later in the year and signing up for a few shorter distance races or joining a running group to help keep yourself motivated.
3. There are 4 wheels of fitness- cardio training, strength training, nutrition, rest/recovery- if you're missing just one you're missing 25% of the program
Make sure you address all 4 of these aspects when making your plan to reach your fitness and weight loss goals. Many women are afraid of "bulking up," however strength training oftentimes provides the most weight loss initially because of the metabolic demand muscle imposes on the body (and rarely are women lifting enough weight to bulk up). Keep it simple by targeting the major muscle groups using common exercises such as squats, lunges, push-ups, and chest presses. Again, look at where you are now and where you want to be. If you can't do a full push up start with a wall push up and steadily progress yourself down to the ground. If you're already an expert start working towards harder push ups such as single leg or medicine ball push ups.
For weight loss, more and more research is supporting the use of intervals in cardio training. Intervals force you to work toward your max effort for a brief period of time. The shorter the rest interval the harder the workout. If you're new to interval training try starting with a 3:1 interval- max 30 seconds and then recover for 90 seconds. So if you usually walk on the treadmill at 3.5 mph for 20 minutes try going at 4.0 mph for 30 seconds and then returning to 3.5 for 90 seconds for a total of 10 times. Once you feel comfortable with this you can shorten the intervals to 2:1 and 1:1 recovery ratios. When its no longer challenging to recover you know you can go harder in the max intervals.
4. Stay positive.
Not every workout is going to be good. You're not going to smile everytime your alarm goes off for a 5:30 am workout. But keep an eye on your goal, keep track of your plan and your progress, use your friends for support, and even if you don't feel like it-remember smiling is the best!
My Training Plan:
For my half marathon I will be using a modified version of the FIRST training plan (2). The FIRST half marathon training plan is 18 weeks, but I'm modifying it to a 12 week plan because well, 18 weeks already passed and I've kept up with my running. The FIRST plan includes 3 runs each week- a long run, a speed workout, and the tempo run. In addition there are two days of cross training each week, which can be cycling or strength training. Since I'm trying to keep up with my strength training I'm modifying this plan to include 2 spinning workouts and 2 strength workouts each week. I'd also like to get in at least 1 yoga workout a week because I just don't stretch enough. My official date for the start of training is December 22nd (2 days after my birthday)! I will keep you posted on my progress. I'm also hoping to have a meal plan for myself during training nailed down by then!
My 1/2 marathon goals- I told you goals were important!
1. Finish injury free
2. Finish with a pace of 8:45 per mile or a sub 1:55 half marathon (6 minutes faster than my first half)
3. Fundraiser $2,000 for Team Livestrong. My goal is to be at $500 by December 31st- I'm already half way there thanks to your amazing support. Please keep it coming!!
Question for the comments: what are your goals for fitness and nutrition in the new year? What information could help you in achieving them (hint: they may show up in a future blog post)