A dream with no plan is but a fantasy


A good starting point in relation to exercise is to set yourself a realistic goal, writes GILES WARRINGTON.

FOR MANY of us the desire to blow off the Christmas cobwebs and start that January health and fitness regime is made with the best of intentions. However, without a clear structure or focus such resolutions are easily broken. To make a noticeable lifestyle change you need more than a desire – you need a plan. After all, a dream without a plan is only a fantasy!

To turn that fitness resolution into a habit requires time and commitment. A good starting point is setting a goal for yourself. Goal setting is a useful exercise that can help motivate you to engage in physical activity and exercise so that ultimately you can achieve the results you want.

When you set goals for yourself you should work to the ‘SMARTER’ principle.

Specific:the goal identified should be as specific as possible. For example, rather than setting the goal of “I want to lose weight” state “I want to lose 6lbs”. The more specific the goal you set, the more likely you are to succeed.

Measurable:Unless you can measure your progress over time, you will not be able to assess whether you have been successful in attaining the goal set.

Agreed:You must personally accept and agree the goal. This usually means you have some say in setting the goal and it must be under your control. If it is something that is imposed on you or is outside your control, you are less likely to achieve the desired outcome.

Realistic:Set goals where you see a realistic likelihood you can achieve them. Unrealistic goal are demoralising and doomed to failure. Despite this it is important that the goal set is challenging enough to take you outside your comfort zone.

Time bound:The achievement of a long-term goal requires the creation of a timeline and small steps (short-term goals) to achieving that target.

Set deadlines and tick them off as you attain them and reward yourself when you achieve key landmarks. If you do not set target dates, there is a danger that all your good intentions will be postponed or not achieved at all.

Exciting:If a goal is too easy, it offers you no challenge, little motivation and consequently no satisfaction on accomplishment. It has been shown that successful people in all walks of life set challenging goals for themselves.

Recorded:It is essential to write down your goals as it increases your commitment to them and serves as a form of contract with yourself. Post your goals in a place where you will see them every day, for example, above your desk or by the bed.

This provides a reminder of what you are trying to achieve as it serves as a point of focus. Recording goals is also a useful way of monitoring progress and provides a useful source of motivation.

Success in implementing a new exercise regime is dependent on setting pragmatic goals and developing a clear plan of action to achieve the desired outcomes. Implement the first step and review your progress. If you are finding the going tough, it may be that the goal you have set is too challenging.

Don’t be afraid to revise your goal if required. Setting small goals and knowing that you can make the necessary lifestyle changes can provide the confidence and motivation to strive for bigger goals which may be life-changing.

  • Dr Giles Warrington is a sport and exercise physiologist and lecturer in the School of Health and Human Performance at Dublin City University (DCU)