It has been said that “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you will get what you’ve always gotten”. As with all things in life, if you want to get somewhere, you need a plan as to how to get there. Fitness is no different. No matter where you are in your level of fitness, if you want to improve, the only way that you are going actually improve is if you have a clear road map as to how to get there. You need to set realistic goals to help you get there. Unfortunately, many people do not achieve their fitness goals. In fact, a survey has shown that only 25% of people who workout achieve their desired results (IDEA, International Health and Fitness Journal). The question is, why is this so?
Reason No. 1: Inadequate analysis and evaluation of fitness goals
If you ask 10 people what their fitness goal is over the next four weeks is do you think you would get a clear and precise answer from each person. I think not! Even if you asked this same group what they’re training for and what they wanted to achieve most would probably say lose weight, tone up, general health and fitness, etc. But what does that really mean? The reality is that there is a big difference, for instance, between training for health and training for fitness. The specific goal has a distinct impact on the type of training that is suitable for achieving that goal.
Reason No. 2: SMART principles are not used in setting fitness goals
Nearly on a daily basis, people young and old confide in me with their fitness goals. Too many of these goals are extremely broad and lack focus. Many are too narrow in scope and require more elements to succeed. For example, broad goals are ‘getting healthy again’ or ‘losing weight’. These can require some to stop over-eating, smoking, drinking soft drinks, eating chocolate and other sweet snack treats, as well as start exercising. Anytime someone tries to do all of the above in the same week, they are statistically destined to not be successful.
Fitness goals should have the following SMART principles (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time specific) to ensure they are successfully accomplished:
Specific: What is it that you exactly want to achieve? Can you write your goal in one sentence? If you can’t write it in one sentence, can you summarise it? If you have several goals, list them in order of importance to you. For example, I want to lose 5kg of body fat – not I want to lose weight.
Measurable: How will you know when you have achieved your goal? You need to ensure that you have some clear measures of success. For example, I will know I have lost 5kg of body fat by weighing myself on the scales and skin fold measurements showing a reduction in my body fat for 35% to 30%.
Achievable: This is a critical component to your success. If you are too ambitious and make the goal unachievable, this will quickly act as a significant de-motivating factor for you achieving your goal. You are setting yourself up for failure. It is also important to recognise that it may be necessary to break your goal up into smaller components that are achievable over time or through a number of different steps. For instance, wining the 100m sprint in the track and field at the Olympics may be achievable, but you need to break that down into smaller components such as wining local track meets, state, national and international competitive events, etc. Sometimes you need to set the smaller short-term goals in order to get to your long-term goal.
Realistic: This is perhaps the most important step. This is where goals move from just a fantasy in your mind to reality. It is important to set yourself challenging goals. However, they also need to be goals that are not so unrealistic that you end up disillusioned and just give up. It is very easy to come up with excuses if you want to. Identifying realistic, but challenging, goals for yourself reduces the risk of you find an excuse to give up! For example, it would be unrealistic for someone to diet and exercise to try and lose 20kg of body fat in four weeks time when losing more than 1.4kg on body weight per week is considered to be unsustainable and unsafe for your health.
Time Specific: Again, it is very important to clearly identify the timeframe over which you are going to complete your goal. Is it going to be next week, next month, six months time, one year, five years, etc when you see yourself achieving this goal? Time specificity of your goal helps generate focus and commitment to achieve it. For example, I want to lose 5kg of body fat by 31 December 2008.
Reason No. 3: Lack of self-accountability
Generally, everyone is accountable to someone else at some stage in their life whether it be to their boss at work, partner at home, sporting commitments, etc. But how accountable are you to yourself? When it comes to achieving fitness goals it requires hard work and dedication. I find that the majority of people tend to give up after awhile and then maybe have another crack at it later down the track, give up again and so forth. Why does this happen? Most people are not committed enough to make them truly accountable for their goal. They start off with good intentions, but soon fall by the wayside because it got too hard or find a bunch of other excuses to justify giving up to themselves.
This happens because people feel that there are no real consequences for their inaction. If you don’t get a report done in time for your boss you know you might be sacked, so this makes you motivated to do a good job in a timely manner so that you can keep your job. If you don’t achieve your fitness goal you need to examine the consequences of this. Why didn’t you achieve it? What went wrong? How can I correct this so that I can still achieve my goal, albeit a different timeframe.
Commit yourself, make yourself accountable for your actions and inactions and be proud of your results once you achieve them.
Reason No. 4: Lack of adequate professional fitness advice
You can guarantee that if you pick up three different magazines that have a story about fitness or diets, they will all have completely different messages about what you can do to drop a dress size in 4 days, get rock hard abs, get fit in three weeks, and the list goes on. These same publications will probably have a whole range of different promises in the next edition. It becomes very confusing. Some people listen to the latest trends or want to know what the US stars are doing and try to replicate that for themselves. When they don’t see the results instantly they become disenchanted with the whole fitness process or just keep on doing what they’ve been doing before.
As I said before, only 25% of people who workout achieve their desired results. Nine out of 10 of those people used a personal trainer (IDEA, International Health and Fitness Journal). A personal trainer can de-mystify the many challenges that exist in working towards achieving your fitness goals. As gyms get busier, the fitness instructors are more concerned about the administration of the gym as opposed to working closely with their clients and helping them to remain focussed and motivated.
After initially joining a gym, the majority of people stop regular attendance after one month and stop all together after three months. This is mainly because they do not get the one-on-one attention required to ensure they will be able to improve their fitness. The expert one-on-one advice from a reputable personal trainer will do the following:
Carefully examine the client’s goals to ensure they embody the SMART principles,
- Ensure exercise technique is correct,
- Create appropriate tailored exercise routines to meet the client’s requirements,
- Educate and assist the client in modifying nutritional habits,
- Motivate and inspire the client to push themselves further,
- Assist the client in maintaining intensity levels,
- Provide expert advice on a whole range of fitness topics,
- Continually monitor client progress and providing valuable feedback,
- Conduct regular fitness tests and health assessments
- Keep the client focussed by scheduling regular appointments for their attendance. This sounds simple, but this last point is often the single biggest motivating factor for people to use a personal trainer.
Reason No. 5: Insufficient emphasis placed on nutrition
Most people don’t understand how to get the best out of their body. In order to get rid of the body fat, cellulite, unwanted bumps and improve your body toning you need to exercise and eat right. About 50% to 60% of the battle in improving your body is in the diet. You can exercise and achieve some gains but unless you get the correct fuel going into your body after those workouts, you will not reach your full potential. Therefore, it is important to get the right mix of protein, carbohydrates and fats into your daily eating. Remember that NO diets work in the long term. You need to have a healthy eating plan that becomes a fundamental part of your lifestyle! A good personal trainer will certainly be able to guide you on the right track with regards to sustainable healthy eating.
If you can understand the five reasons that people do not achieve their fitness goals, you can also understand what you need to do to make your own health and fitness dreams come true.
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