GREAT EXPECTATIONS: Setting Goals that Get Results

by Cary Raffle

We start the New Year with resolutions, plans and great expectations. How many of us will stick to our plans and succeed? Research has shown that we are most effective in achieving our goals when they are clearly defined, measurable, achievable, and are realistic but at the same time represent a little bit of a challenge. It also helps to break your goals up into smaller goals so that can have little successes along the way. How do you know what is realistic and achievable? Read on....

Exercise to Maintain Body Composition and Health - the minimum amount of exercise required to maintain your body composition and health is 150 minutes per week, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. This is usually expressed as 20-30 minutes of exercise at least 5 days per week and preferably every day. To avoid risk of injury, ACSM recommends moderate intensity exercise for those not training for athletic competition.

Be careful not to overdo it. Working the same muscles day after day is counterproductive, especially in strength training. You actually damage muscle fibers when you exercise, and they need at least 48 hours to repair and recover. Muscles grow during this rest period, not when you are working them. So give each muscle group time to recover in between workouts.

Losing Weight - For safe and lasting weight loss, plan on losing between 1-2 pounds per week, according to ACSM and the American Dietary Association. Faster weight loss may be unhealthy and you run the risk of yo-yoing, experiencing rapid drops and quickly gaining. Instead of fad diets, focus on making long-term lifestyle changes.

Maintain a calorie deficit - calories taken in minus calories burned - of about 500 - 1000 per day, you can eat less or workout more or do both. Remember that as you lose weight, your calorie needs also drops. See me to estimate your calorie needs, or visit www.mypyramid.gov for more comprehensive tools. However, if you are beginning an exercise program, make sure that you don't reduce the calorie intake so much that you don't have energy to work out.

Goal Setting - Weight loss is probably the most frequent goal, but it isn't necessarily the most effective measure of results or the one that is right for you. Body measurements, clothes size and subjective assessments of how you look and feel and move are often a better indication. Many people who begin a new fitness program will see the shape of their body change and their clothes size decrease without a corresponding weight loss. This can happen because muscle weighs more than fat. So when you increase your lean body mass (muscle) and decrease your fat, you weight may not go down as much as you expect. Over a longer period of time, you should see the weight loss results. One of my clients was highly deconditioned and cited his greatest accomplishment as being able to reach down and tie his shoes without having to sit down and rest.

Getting Your Workout In - Whether you're joining a gym, running in the park, or walking at the mall, nothing is going to happen if you don't actually get your workouts in. Most successful people start by scheduling their workout appointments, just like any other important meeting. Put it right into your calendar! It may help to attend regularly scheduled classes, meet a reliable friend, or have an appointment with a trainer. I've had many clients who wouldn't make it at all without their training appointment, or who would cancel because they weren't in the mood if not for the 24-hour cancellation fee.

Muscle Growth (Hypertrophy or 'Getting Big") - It takes more than 16 exercise sessions over the course of several weeks to see an increase in muscle size, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association. However, increasing the size of the muscle does not necessarily increase the strength or lifting capacity of the muscle. Increased strength and increased size are two distinct and different muscle adaptations, and you need to train differently for each.

Plateauing - Expect your strength training to plateau after about 4-6 weeks. At this point, you experience diminished return from your program as you continue doing similar exercises and a similar range of sets, repetitions, time under tension and stability. We call this the SAID principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand). Progression requires changing one of more of the variables in your program on a regular, pre-planned basis. It is not only about increasing the weight. Progression can also apply to your cardio training and diet, in some circumstances. I wrote about progression last year. You can sample a few general programs from past newsletters by clicking the links below, or meet with me to develop a program specific to your current fitness level and goals.

Program 1 - XpressLine
Program 2 - Introductory Strength Training
Program 3 - Unstable Exercises (incorporates Core Training)
Program 4 - Advanced Unstable Exercises (unilateral workout) Running the Marathon in 2009 - Start now and many of you can do it! If you've been running at least 2-3 hours a week for more than a year, you've got a pretty good base to start from. Let's set a realistic goal first - for most of you, that would be completing the training and the first marathon without an injury. You can find several alternate programs for marathon training at the ING NYC Marathon website (click here). You'll be increasing to about 50 miles of running a week at the peak of your training. It is a good idea to get assessed for any muscle imbalances and postural distortions, so that you can incorporate corrective exercises and stretching into your program. Exercises to strengthen your core and complement the running program will also help. Risk Factors - According to the International Health and Racquet Sports Association, about half of all new gym members experience an injury during their first 6 months of membership. This often leads them to abandon their memberships, fitness programs and goals. The National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends that all fitness programs begin with an assessment, identification of risk factors, and a corrective phase of training to reduce the chance of injury. Post Rehabilitation - If you've had an injury that required physical therapy, you may have some additional risk factors. The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends that you continue to incorporate the rehab exercises into your training program.

Fitness Articles for You