Setting goals

Getting in shape is like potty-training your kids: don’t expect it to happen overnight.  Setting overly aggressive goals will likely result in accidents, frustration and failure.  Like potty-training, getting in shape takes patience, perseverance, and planning.

But if you are a dad like me, your schedule is probably pretty hectic: wake up early, feed the diapers, change the baby, drive kids to work, go to daycare, come home, etc. It seems like when the dust settles, it’s already time for sleep.

The solution is to set small and attainable fitness goals.  Break up your big goal.  Divide and conquer.  Just ask Conan:

If your goal is to lose 40 pounds by the end of the year, it’s much easier to manage if you aim for roughly 3 pounds each month. And that 3 pounds each month means 1 pound per week, with 1 week of not losing any weight at all!

You can achieve that goal with an hour-long workout three times a week.  Or 6 half-hour workouts.  The beauty is, when you divide and conquer, you can afford yourself more flexibility while still working towards your goal.

Imagine what happens when you have no monthly goals:

  • In January, you are super motivated to attain your 40-lb weight loss goal by the end of the year. You hit the gym, workout out really hard. Even lost more than your goal. Off to a good start!
  • February rolls around, you’re less motivated, but persevere. You force yourself to go to the gym, because, dammit, you paid for that membership.
  • April, March, May come and go. The scale may be moving in the right direction, but you have no frame of reference because you’re not keeping track.  Are you doing better this month than last? Or how about the one before that? Do you need to change your diet? More protein? Less carbs? The truth is, you don’t know.
  • July comes, and on July 4th you totally pig out at a friend’s BBQ: Beer, Ribs, Steak, Chicken, cake, ice cream, hot dogs, you name it. But it’s ok, you lost weight the last 6 months, so you can afford to eat as much as you want.  Hell, even if you don’t hit the gym, the last 6 months weren’t wasted, right?
  • August comes, and the scale didn’t move. You didn’t hit the gym much. Hey, something is better than nothing. At least the scale didn’t go the wrong way.
  • December rolls around, and you didn’t meet your goal, so why start now? There’s always the new year.

And on and on. You end up rationalizing yourself into not working out and into making poor eating choices because you made good progress in the beginning but have no clear path to your goal.

By comparison, if you take that same scenario and instead make a commitment to lose 3 pounds every month (3.3 for the pedants to make the math work), you would evaluate every month: “did I make my 3-pound goal?” and adjust next month to keep it going.

The beauty of this is two-fold: you can clearly see how you did compared to previous months making you much less likely to give up, and, more importantly, even by the end of the year if you don’t hit your goal, you are still better off than before.

Here is a theoretical comparison between these two mindsets:

At this point, it’s easy to say “this is just fiction, where is the proof?”  It’s true, I don’t have concrete weight data over a long period of time. The longest I have is four months before my daughter was born where I dropped from a total of 183.6 to 176.2.  The other recording period was the distance I trained for the marathon, not necessarily the weight.

With that said, I’m going to commit to taking my weight every day and updating my logs. Let’s see where this takes us.

Let’s do this!

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