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Unrealistic goals and time frames – be SMART

Following any plan, the best way to ensure you succeed is by being consistent.

I competed in triathlon through the majority of my twenties. I worked with my coach to devise training plans and each swim, cycle or run had purpose. I had races to aim for throughout the season – some short ones and also some longer ones that were more important on my priority list. The more important ones were towards the end of the season and the shorter ones would be used as a guide leading up to the serious competitions. These short races were the short term goals that would show my progress and ensure I was on track for my longer term goals.

Now, I no longer compete in triathlon, yet I actually understand the importance of goal setting more. For the last 6 months I haven't been committed and because of that I feel like I am not being consistent in my training or my eating and it has made me realise that I need a goal set to be able to produce results that will improve my fitness and nutrition.

Now I am motivated to change my habits and the only way I am going to do this and see progress is if I set my goals and make sure they are SMART.

Looking back at my triathlon career I realise I need to set small goals and tick them off one by one to succeed.

I will always remember someone once encouraged me to focus on a race that I was struggling to see myself complete due to the distance, I had the typical “I cant, it’s too big of a challenge” attitude.

He said “if someone told you you had to eat a whole elephant you would straight away say you couldn't. But if you chopped it up into pieces and ate it bit by bit you would manage to eat it.” Now, I’m no fan of elephant cruelty, but this has always made me look at challenges that seem impossible in a different light. If I break it down into small chunks I will succeed and it will never be as bad as my mind thinks it will be.

Setting small goals that are achievable will lead to success.

So what does SMART goals mean?

Specific What do you plan to do? Eat two portions of fruit for breakfast Mon-Fri.

Walk 20 minutes in your lunch hour. Swim twice a week. Go to yoga once a week.

Measurable Goals need to be measurable. Mark in your diary the days you have fruit for breakfast. Use a pedometer and record the number of steps you take during your lunch walk. Count the lengths you can do in the time you swim.

Attainable The goals need to be reachable. Make them small steps and build on it, if you don't like fruit for breakfast because you don't have time in the morning then make a smoothie or juice that you can have on the go, you will still get those portions in. If you want to lose weight and set your goal as losing 20 pounds then this may discourage you when it doesn't happen quickly, if you set a goal of losing 1-2 pounds per week you can measure the progress and will eventually come off. When you see the progress of losing 1-2 pounds per week it will encourage you as you will see results happening each and every day.

Realistic Goals need to be achievable – this will make them realistic. If you want to give up drinking carbonated drinks but you drink two large bottles per day then it is unrealistic to go cold turkey and stop straight away. Same goes for coffee or any other caffeine. Cutting down your cups per day is more realistic.

Another one I have encountered is giving up cake completely. Why do it? Instead of completely cutting it out (by making it unavailable will make you want it more!) save it for the weekend. I like to have a home baked cake on a Sunday but I don't eat them during the week.

Time Having a deadline will help implement the goal. If there is no deadline, what are you aiming for? Your summer holiday? A wedding? A race or event? This gives you an end in sight.

Here are some of my current goals:

  • Drink 1 litre bottle of water before lunch and another by the end of the day.

  • Yoga twice per week – a class or at home

  • Cake on a Sunday!