Friday, August 10, 2012

What's the Definition of Insanity? Part II: Road Trip To Fitness

Have you ever taken a road trip?  That’s a silly question, of course you have.  When you plan a road trip, what’s the first thing you do?  Chances are you choose your destination, right?  You think about how nice it would be to take a weekend trip to the beach or visit Aunt Sue or check-out  the World's Largest Ball of Twine (Cawker City, Kansas).  With your destination in mind, you’ll then need to determine when you’re going and how you’ll get there.  A good road trip requires a road map – you wouldn’t want to have your heart set on the Ball of Twine only to end up at the beach – imagine the disappointment! 

Fitness is like a road trip to the Largest Ball of Twine (or anywhere, but why would you want to go anywhere else?) – you need to identify a destination and create a road map.  I am always surprised when I meet with clients and they can’t tell me a single fitness goal.  Why would you get in your car for a road trip without knowing where you’re going? 

The first step in any fitness program is to establish a goal.  When establishing fitness goals I have my clients ask themselves the following questions:

1)      What do I want to accomplish with my fitness?  Is the pursuit of my goal something I will find enjoyable or will it feel like a chore?  (Hint: if it feels like a chore, you’re probably not going to enjoy it). 

2)      Is my goal attainable?  Be honest with yourself about your capabilities.  If your best 5K time is 45 minutes (not that there’s anything wrong with that) is competing in the 2016 Olympics in the marathon realistic? Setting unrealistic fitness goals is a sure fired way to become discouraged and quit.

3)      How much time is required to meet my goal?  Much like picking a weekend to visit the Ball of Twine, you also want to have an idea about when your goal will be accomplished.  Don’t choose “run a marathon” as your goal for next month if you can’t walk around the block.  Duh.

4)      Is my goal measurable? One of the mistakes I see people make over and over again is setting an ambiguous goal like, “get in better shape” (see: New Year’s Resolutions).  We want goals that are measurable so we know when we’ve reached them and if we’ve been successful. 

Now that you’ve established your fitness goal, you’ve got to figure out how to get there.  This is where programming comes in.  Programming is the road map to your fitness goal.  When it comes to designing a successful program you must consider:

1)      Your current level of fitness.  If your goal is to run a marathon and the longest distance you’ve run was last Thanksgiving’s 5K Turkey Trot, the first training run in your program should not be 10 miles.  A successful program starts where you are.

2)      How much time you have available to train.  Let’s stick with the marathon goal.  If your training plan requires 10 hours a week of running but you have a full time job, new baby, church commitments, a Ball of Twine project and are reading War and Peace, running 10 hours a week might not be reasonable.  Make sure the program meets your schedule. 

3)      Overload and progression.  Recall from our previous blog post the importance of overload and progression.  Failure to overload your body with appropriate stress will fail to create fitness improvements.  Failure to program overload over an appropriate amount of time (progression) will likely lead to injury or failing to reach your goal. For example, running a 5K 3 days per week for 6 weeks will not help you improve at the marathon distance.

One thing to note about designing a program, don’t be afraid to steal.   You may not know this, but there are people out there who design fitness programs for a living.  You could if you wished actually employ them to design your program.  We’ll call these people “coaches”.  But if paying a coach isn’t for you (and I would argue unless you are pretty well advanced in your fitness you don’t need a coach), then use the internet.  Hundreds (thousands?) of websites exist that have pre-designed programs for a variety of fitness goals: running, strength training, cycling, body building, ball of twine building – wait, how’d that get in here?  Just be sure though when you use someone else’s program that it meets the above criteria—don’t get trapped in a program that’s not right for you.

So now that we have identified our fitness goals and created (or stolen) an appropriate program for achievement, we’ll next tackle the hard part: doing the program.  Stay tuned!
Posted by Rachel L. May
School of Health Sciences


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