Exceed Your Limits!

One Step and One Day at a Time!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Your Goal - A Means or a Limit?

So, I will let you in on a little secret. Before launching this blog, I spent months developing a topic list I thought I could cover here effectively based on my experience and perhaps some additional follow up research to give authoritative references. On that list in my scrawled handwriting sits “Goals.” What is it about goals that make them so hard to discuss and give advice on? Well, for one, everyone’s goals are so personal, so individual, how can I pretend to understand everyone’s struggles with goals. Furthermore, the individuality of goals makes me apprehensive to try to suggest what others’ goals should be. Well, frankly, one FANTASTIC reader gave me some insight, and here I am, discussing goals. See this reader’s comment to my question “what are YOUR Limits?”

Here are the ultimate questions: Do your goals act as a means to exceed the Motivation Limit and Confidence Limit, or, do your goals BECOME your Limit? Drilling down further, how can you prevent your goals from becoming your Limit? This seemed to be the reader’s dilemma. I can only offer what I have learned from my own experience.

My goal, this year, is to finish a sprint triathlon. I have to admit, this was my goal in 1997, when I was single, childless, and had nothing to do but go to graduate school and train. I was training with two goals in mind really, do the sprint triathlon and ride the STP (Seattle to Portland bike ride) in one day. Two great goals, right? Well, sort of. They were such huge goals, even with three hours a day of training and a ridiculously low body fat percentage, it fizzled. The goals were MONTHS away, and there was nothing to sustain my motivation. So, my goal this year is to do a sprint triathlon. I bet you are asking yourself, what is different (besides dropping the STP goal)? Well, my January goal was to run a 5K three times a week consistently, do a core workout four times a week, upper body strength training three times a week, and an extended stretch workout five times a week. I was moderately successful at reaching my goals. Candidly, I wasn’t 100% successful, but I came close, which is about 400% more than what I was doing in November and December to reach my ultimate goals.

My goals for February? Run a 5K three times a week consistently (can you guess which goal I let slip in January?), shave three minutes off my 5K time (I am REALLY slow so that isn’t all that aggressive), get on my bike at least five times for a 10 mi ride at whatever pace I can muster, and continue the stretching, upper body, and core workouts. My goals that perhaps slip, I carry over. I may not be as fit as I was in 1997, but mentally I am many moons closer to reaching my triathlon goals! And, even if some goals carry over, I am excited about my March goal to begin my swim technique training offered by my FAVORITE triathlon team! Looking ahead to the next month helps keep me motivated.

Now, for my reader’s goal, which she calls her Limit. Pounds, pounds, pounds. First, for me a pounds goal is tough because, frankly, my “pounds number” will always be high. I am big – both in structure and muscle. So even when I shaved my body fat percentage down to under 10% (and, by the way, the jury is out for me on whether that was healthy for me or not!) I weighed over 150lbs. It is a mental struggle for me. Not to mention, you can work really hard, improve your physical fitness level, and reach a better health status, and lose very little in pounds, particularly if you haven’t done a lot of exercise in your past or even the recent past. Let’s face it, most of us know muscle weighs more than fat, and, when you train, you will build muscle. As an example, since early November I have lost about 12 lbs. I went, however, from a size 14 to a size 10 (and, really, almost an 8 except I am too lazy and financially challenged to go buy new pants!). Honestly, I don’t think 12 lbs reflects that. I am tremendously more flexible, I sleep better, I walk taller, I am overall 100% happier, and my confidence (even for me) soars more and more with every workout! Those are things that just cannot, in my mind, be measured by a scale.

In addition to pounds in general being a tough goal, when you have a lot to lose, when they don’t drop as fast as you see contestants on the “Biggest Loser” drop them (really, it is ok to admit you watch it, it is inspiring, isn’t it?) sometimes it can’t help but be discouraging. First, those contestants, while admirable, are so concentrated on training, their food, health, and lifestyle, of course they can lose massive amounts of weight in a week. They aren’t running the kids to school, practice, doing laundry for four people, cleaning their house, working their job, just trying to get by in today’s hectic world. And, for them, that is great, and I am sincerely jealous. But we are dealing with all those things and, usually, more!

So, what can we do about goals then, if not pounds? Well, first and foremost, how about break it up into small amounts. I like the 10 lb increment if you have more than 25 lbs to lose. Or, if you really could stand to lose more than 10% of your current weight (generally if you fall into the obese category), then the 10% mark is a good one too. Losing 10% of your current weight significantly lowers your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other obesity related diseases. What better goal is that?

Or, how about some athletic goal? I neglected to mention, one of my first “mini” goals is to run our St. Patrick’s Day Dash, which is a 5K. Of course, I haven’t registered for it yet, but I need to! I have NEVER run a 5K race (I have run 5K but never an official race). I would be so happy to finish! Maybe you aren’t ready to do a 5K (I have NO doubt I couldn’t have done it in August of last year!), but how about a 1 mile fun run? Or how about even a charity walk? As spring approaches, there are many such events, just Google them for your city! (or email me, I will find you one if you need me to!) Or, maybe running/walking isn’t your thing – I only do it to bike and swim, in all honesty! How about a charity bike ride? I have to say, my all time favorite ride is Ride for the Children in Phoenix!

Other goals could just be to walk for a half hour or an hour three times a week. Honestly, if that is more than what you are doing now, it is a FANTASTIC goal. Any additional movement is a goal worth making. And, reward yourself when you reach your goal – no matter how small!

If your goal is your Limit rather than a means to exceed the Motivation and Confidence Limit, then it is time to change, or at least segment, the goal!

Please share your ideas for either changing your goal from a Limit to a means, or, keeping your means from becoming your Limit! Or if you are struggling, share your goal, and maybe why it is a Limit, and perhaps a fresh perspective can be given by another reader or myself! Sometimes it just takes someone else to look at the goal and they can help turn it into a means rather than let it linger as a Limit!

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