Have you ever started off on a trip with no destination in mind? For some, it can be fun to get out on the road with no plan in mind and see where the wind takes them. But with exercise, heading out on the open road with no map can lead to a lot of detours and dead ends.
Still, it happens all the time! People decide “I am going to start exercising so that I can get healthier”, but they don’t define what healthier means, which makes it hard to know what steps to take to get healthy. You may have read my previous post about how I struggled with sticking to an exercise plan until I began training with my dad for a 5K run. With the 5K in mind, I was able to research how to reasonably train for this goal and develop a training program with daily plans.
After the 5K, I thought that I would magically become a person who exercises every day—no matter what. However, I ended up struggling to continue exercising. I finally realized that without a clear goal, I couldn’t decide what exercises to do, how long to do them, or whether to do them at all. I eventually realized that I needed a clear and defined plan.
Research supports that a clear plan is an important part of goal setting! In one study, people who set specific physical activity goals, rather than general weight loss goals, were more likely to use strategies to keep them accountable, like tracking their activity, inviting a friend to exercise, or rewarding themselves for their efforts. If you said, “I want to be healthier and more active”, it is hard to know exactly what you mean. But if you said, “I want to walk for 30 minutes without stopping”, now you have a specific goal and can start searching for an online plan or app, seeking advice from friends, or working with a physical trainer.
When I didn’t have a plan, exercise felt like something extra I had to do and it was easy to justify not exercising after a long day. With a plan that built exercise into my schedule, I knew exactly what I would be doing when I got home each day. So, I set out a new goal: I registered for a 10K with my family and started a new training plan. We successfully completed our 10K in November and jumped immediately into planning our next race—an obstacle course next July!
Wanting to exercise won’t necessarily help you figure out what you are going to do. Clear goals provide a road map to help you avoid too many detours! There may still be a pit stop or wrong turn, but with your map in hand you can get back on track.