If you’ve ever tried to set a fitness goal, you know it can be challenging, especially if it’s a new goal.
Set the bar too low and you may find you’re lacking motivation. Aim too high—think putting on 5 lbs of muscle in 3 weeks or losing 10 lbs in 5 days–and you’re bound for disappointment.
So how do you set your sights on something attainable? One way to go is to record your baseline numbers for things like your weight, blood pressure (if it’s one of your goals to improve), how many push-ups you can do in a minute, how fast you can run that 2 miles…whatever you choose to use. These benchmarks, and others like them, can help you figure out what to shoot for and measure your progress along the way.
Setting condition goals or measuring your progress allows you to see if on paper. It sticks with you better and gives you a more solid foundation to work with. So many people struggle to find an hour to work out, it only makes sense that they should want to maximize their results.
If you have a history of being lazy or taking for granted that you’ll always be in “decent” shape, before you get caught up in the specific numbers, track your fitness level simply by seeing how long it takes you to break a sweat and make note of what kind of exercise you’re doing. If it’s just walking around the block, set your goals accordingly.
The American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine’s latest physical activity guidelines recommend that all healthy adults ages 18 to 65 perform moderately intense cardio 30 minutes a day, five days a week, or vigorously intense cardio 20 minutes a day, three days a week. Moderate intensity is simply getting out of your comfort zone so you start sweating.
Once you meet those minimums you can measure your chosen exercises and use them as personal benchmarks or starting points for an exercise program. Improve your results by using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, making them specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
Don’t worry about what anybody else is doing, just concentrate on your goals, even if you work out with a buddy.
You can also aim for ‘average’ fitness levels, if you’re WAY out of shape. For push-ups, the average 30- to 39-year-old man can perform 17 to 21, while women can do 13 to 19, according to data from the American Council on Exercise.
Want to test your balance? It declines exponentially as we pass 40. Time how long you can balance on one leg while slightly elevating their other leg. If there is more than a 10% discrepancy between legs, you need to address the weaker side. Work on balancing on your weaker leg while washing dishes or while you’re waiting in line at the grocery store, or practice single toe touches while balancing on the weaker leg.
Once you’ve determined a personal benchmark and set a goal, don’t go too long without measuring your progress. A weekly checkup will help you focus, keep you on track and give you lots of chances to modify your routine or behavior.
And remember that you’re much more likely to achieve fitness goals if it has meaning for you. If it helps you play a better game of golf or allows you to hit a tennis ball better without any noticeable extra effort, you’ll appreciate the results more and have more motivation to continue raise the bar on your goal.
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