NOTE: This is part two, click here for part one!
Now & Later
Goals exist in two forms. These are short-term goals, and long term goals. Both short and long term goals are important for your personal success and longevity.
Short Term Goals
These may not get you going, but they will definitely keep you going. Short-term goals should not only be reachable but they must be very specific. Just saying, "I want to get in shape", is not being specific enough. In addition, you should try to work these goals into a reasonable time limit. For example, a good short-term goal may be to work out 5 of the next seven days. Or perhaps you could set a goal to lose 1 pound a week over the next month.
Short-term goals can be a little more complex than these mentioned, but generally a short-term goal should take you no longer than three months to complete. Any longer and they can become difficult to adhere to. Always remember the purpose of the short-term goal as well - Motivation. As we mentioned earlier, the best way to gain motivation is to set reachable and realistic goals. Give yourself something to get excited about at first.
Long Term Goals
These goals can be more general in nature but should once again be realistic and reachable. Long-term goals are typically the things that get people exercising in the first place. For example, after a recent class reunion you may be disappointed by how much you have changed physically, and how little your classmates have. The promises you make to yourself in this situation are typically of the long-term variety.
Unlike their short term counterparts, long term goals don't really need a time table, but most people find it easier to place limits on them in some way. Goals like losing 50 pounds in the next year or decreasing your body fat by 5% in the next five months are good long-term goals. As you can see these are still fairly specific in nature and I feel they should be. Specific goals not only provide your mind with the pinpoint accuracy it needs to reach a goal, but they also furnish a template for effective measurement. One more thing to remember - Most, if not all, of the benefits of exercise come in the long term. So if you're having a hard time setting a long-term goal for yourself, here's a great one to embrace - CONSISTENCY!
Write It Down - Cross It Out
Many people find it beneficial to make a semi-permanent record of their goals and fitness plans. Writing your ambitions down in a journal can serve as both a great motivator and an effective critic as well. For one thing, it's harder to forget your goals if they are actually down on paper. You may find that you are a better at procrastinating than you are at achieving your goals. Both scenarios provide you with positive feedback that can help you to make the necessary adjustments. Make it a point to cross out goals as you achieve them. Some people even enjoy writing the word "ACHIEVED" over a recently accomplished task.
Either of these methods not only provides you with an enormous amount of personal satisfaction, but they give you an accurate, visual record of successful accomplishment.
There's only one way to know if your exercise program is effective in helping you meet your specific goals. I can sum it up in two words. HEALTH ASSESSMENT. Fitness and health statistics such as: body weight, blood pressure, resting heart rate, body fat and cholesterol levels, are just a few of the measurements that can provide useful data for you, as well as your doctor. For example, you may find that after 6 weeks of exercise your bodyweight has decreased but your body fat percentage has not.
This, as you may imagine, is a negative characteristic of exercise, but through careful manipulation of your training intensity, can easily be alleviated. By regularly checking your progress, or lack thereof, adjustments can easily be made to put you back on the right track.
If you only remember one thing from this article remember this - Life is short! No one should feel like they have to exercise every single day, nor should they dine only on tofu burgers and rice cakes. Give yourself a break now and then. If you've been consistent with your fitness and/or nutritional program, treat yourself to something you really enjoy. For some that may mean a few chocolate chips cookies or a scoop of Rocky Road ice cream.
For others, it may be a couple of days away from the gym or an afternoon at the movies. The bottom line is that you have to reward yourself for being good. That reward should be special to you, and you should enjoy it to the fullest. Not only do rewards serve as a good break from a regimented schedule, but the desire to accomplish something that deserves rewarding can serve as sufficient drive to stick to your program when your dedication begins to wane.