So you had your “Hallelujah” moment—you want to lose weight/eat healthier/get into better shape than you are now. Great! What now? Where do you begin? Resolving to do something is Step One; Step Two is actually formulating a plan, which is usually harder than deciding to do something. It’s easy to buy new workout gear, sign up for a gym or purchase a new blender to make all those “healthy” smoothies that will replace the Panda Express orange chicken. It’s harder when your friend invites you out to happy hour the same time as your aerobics class, or your mom cooks your favorite meal after you just bought more kale for your smoothie that doesn’t taste as good as it did the first time. What do you do??
Fall back on and remember your goals—what you’re trying to accomplish—and let them dictate your behavior. “Goals” will be a major theme of this blog, and this post in particular is about how to take a grand mission and break it down into digestible pieces.
When you resolve to “get into better shape,” you need to create specific objectives and a strategy to actually gauge whether you’re successful or not. Now, these goals don’t need to be what your doctor, dad or dog say (though your doctor’s opinion should probably matter more than your dog’s, at least health-wise). But they should be tangible milestones that YOU define as success. Consider some common examples:
“I want to get into better shape.” = a great goal, but you need to buttress it with details. What does “better shape” really even mean? It’s a relative and personal statement. Do you want to fit into your favorite dress? Play a whole afternoon of basketball without tiring? Six pack abs? This definition can evolve too. For me, “better shape” used to be running a mile without keeling over. Now, I can run a 5K comfortably, yet I still want to get into “better shape.”
“I want to lose 10 lbs.” = An OK, but not great, goal. Points for specific metrics—you can easily gauge “success,” and there are proven, reliable ways to reach this (i.e. take in less calories, exercise more). But at the end of the day, is losing 10 lbs really what you want? You want to keep off the 10 lbs, I assume. Or perhaps after you lose the weight, you want to lose more and it becomes a moving target—and that can be dangerous.
“I want to be OK with how I look.” = Certainly a respectable and admirable approach—at the end of the day, I think we all just want to love ourselves, and it should be something we all strive for, for sure. That said, this is more of a mindset—one that you can reach by making certain goals.
For me, my “goals approach” combined a slew of specific targets under one umbrella: I wanted to lose weight and keep it off. My most important requirement: It had to be sustainable. I wasn’t trying to drop 20 lbs and then have them creep back into my life like an ex-girlfriend—those 20 lbs were never welcome back. And ultimately, this meant making some serious lifestyle changes that I wanted to incorporate gradually—I was in no rush to lose the weight, as long as I actually lost it.
Here was the “physical activity” part of my plan when I decided to make some changes back in June 2013:
Run the SF Giants 5K in August (Not walk. Run. At my pace. But stopping wasn’t allowed)
Do 1 pull-up without any assistance by the end of the year
Do 10 pushups consecutively by the end of the year
Coupled with improving my diet—less fast food, more sandwiches from home—these are super modest objectives, right? An active 12-year old could probably do those things without much thought. But they were personal to me, I couldn’t do them at the time and I wanted to give myself a long time so I could go at my pace. Like I said, I wasn’t in any particular rush to hit certain arbitrary deadlines, and I felt like the whole “getting into better shape” thing would result in hitting these goals.
I still remember when I did my first pull-up. It was late December 2013. I was feeling good after my main lifting exercises and decided to go for it—I dropped the support thingy where you put your knees, grabbed the bars, and hoisted myself up, popping my chin over the bar. And it was easier than I thought it would have been. I dropped down and punched my fist in the air triumphantly, like a closer who catches the cleanup hitter looking. Thankfully, nobody was really at the gym at the time (I like to go during quiet hours so I can get in and out), but it was an awesome feeling.
Today, my objectives are different. If you’re my Facebook friend or follow me on Instagram, you know I’ve done a bunch of runs throughout late 2014. But though the weight loss goal has been mostly reached, the umbrella—sustainable healthy living—remains open. And that’s fine. In reality, it should always be open. The difference between then and now: I’m finally OK with that.
Keep pushing the pile, friends!