As a mom in my mid 30s, I have often struggled with fitness goals. When your schedule is full of preschool car lines, grocery shopping, play dates and trying to work from home, sometimes taking care of yourself has to take a back seat. Typically, this hectic pace leads to that moment of realization where we decide “I am starting today!” and we launch ourselves into high intensity, fad programs that we can not possibly maintain long term. We do these things because these programs promise pie in the sky results, and when your time is at such a premium, you want maximum payoff for the minutes you carve out for fitness. This typically doesn’t go well for anyone. When you crash into a rigorous exercise plan, you have essentially taken yourself from zero to sixty in less than one second. The following day, you’re sore, you’re starving and motivation is already way down.
Want to know how I began incorporating more activity into my life? I was sitting out back with my kids (feeling winded from trying to keep up with them), when I noticed one of their playground balls sitting next to our shed. I thought to myself “Let’s see if I can bounce that off the roof 100 times.” That’s it. That’s how I started. I would throw the ball up, and when it bounced down, I would scramble to catch it (I was not always successful, by the way). It was challenging enough, while also acting as a goal I could feel accomplished about. Believe me, I was still sore the next day, but not so sore that I felt injured. I knew I could do it again, and even add challenges. Fitness is a process, not a quick fix. Fitness goals for women can be slow, steady and long term. Remember, you have your whole life ahead of you. There are plenty of ways you can enjoy the benefits of fitness for years to come…
Like I said, women often feel pressured to launch themselves fully into a fitness routine all at once. When this becomes too much for you to maintain, you feel terrible about yourself, as though you “failed”. You did not fail, you merely have to approach these goals from the standpoint of forming good habits. When you have made fitness a habit, it fits into your life more naturally, and long term. While that may not have the drastic results those infomercials promise, it will have results.
Let’s say you have a goal of “Go to the gym three times a week”. That’s a good goal, but how can you translate that into a habit? Try this: just go to the gym three times a week. By that I mean, physically go there, regardless of whether or not you exercise. Want to hang out at the juice bar? Want to use the free WiFi to catch up on work email? Hot tub? Go for it, but just do it at the gym. After a few weeks, you will realize it feels more natural to drive there, and to walk in. What you’ve just done is make a habit of it. Now you can start working out while you’re there, maybe 10 minutes at a time. This is a marathon, not a sprint. If you associate going to the gym with positive feelings, you will want to go. If you associate the gym with obligations and resentment, you won’t.
Choose a Fun Exercise
For a few years, I had convinced myself of something: because I hate running, that must be what my body needs the most. Even though I found no joy in it, and didn’t have any innate running skill, I saw this as the ultimate turnaround opportunity. If I could make myself love running, I would “win”. Can you guess how this turned out? It never worked. I never had that magical moment where it all turned around, and I never got any better at it.
Women are often presented with fitness goals as though they ought to be able to accomplish them, regardless of whether or not they want to. So it’s time to change the way you think about exercise. What do you already like to do? Do you find yourself dancing around the house with your earbuds in? Dance is exercise! Use that to your advantage! Have you been dying for a chance to take your new bike out on the trail? Do it! Use a smartphone app to log your miles, and try to beat your own records. When you approach exercise as something you actually want to do, it becomes a larger part of your life. It does not always have to be part of a structured class or program in order for it to make you healthier.
Allow Yourself to Feel Accomplished
For some reason, we tend to set goals for ourselves that are either way off, or nigh on unreachable. In reality, it is not only okay, but also encouraged to think smaller. Setting small, frequent goals for yourself means you are more likely to accomplish them. While it’s true that your ultimate fitness goal might be “Run a 5k race”, why not allow yourself to celebrate the milestones along the way? The first time you run a mile without stopping, the first time you run for 30 minutes without stopping – these are huge accomplishments! They should not be diminished just because they’re not your final goal.
Learning how to set goals appropriately, can lead to a lot more positivity in your life. Every time you reach a goal or objective, you will feel better about yourself. These better feelings lead to more motivation, more self worth, and ultimately, more frequent exercise. Fitness is not punishment, so try to stop thinking about it that way. Every little accomplishment is worth shouting about, so go ahead and brag. You’ve earned it!
Beware the False Obstacles
All those quotes above are avoidance tactics, and it is easy to understand why. This is not the first time you have tried to get fit. Maybe you are embarrassed about what you perceive to be a “failure” the last time you tried. Maybe you are intimidated by people who appear to be more fit than you, and you want to avoid standing next to them at the gym and feeling inadequate. Just like you should be kind to yourself when setting goals, you also need to be forgiving of yourself when it comes to past efforts. Don’t create road blocks where there are none.
Try to look at your workout history as a learning experience. So, you learned that you hate spin class – that’s okay! Maybe you learned that you can’t really get a good workout in if it’s too early – that’s okay too! Turn these negative experiences into positive changes. Spin class wasn’t for you, so let’s try yoga! Early workouts didn’t fly, but hey, the gym is open until 11 pm!
Working out does not have to be work. Spice up your routine by trying something new and exciting. Let five-time world record holder Betty Hoops show you how to hula hoop your way to fitness! Feeling spicier yet? Try a pole dancing fitness class!