You’ve made a big goal to get fit and be in the best shape of your life. It’s the beginning of a new year, or you’re 2 months out from your beach trip, or perhaps it’s one year out from an important wedding. Personally, I make a plan to get fit multiple times a year, and I’m not always successful.
I have a time-honored tradition of quickly abandoning my goals and coming up with excuses such as: work is too busy, the gym is too far away, or social events take precedence. What’s really at work here is my rational mind desiring a higher level of fitness, and my emotional mind completely squashing my hopes and dreams with excuses. From New Year’s resolutions to beach bod goals, only a small percentage of people actually keep their self-made commitments. In the book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, the author details the internal conflict of your emotional and rational selves and explains why change is hard.
The good news is that successful change follows a pattern that can be applied to almost any type of change.
Define the goal
Let’s face it, there is no real way to know if you’ve achieved your goal if your goal is a lofty and unmeasurable one like “getting fit.” Every time I hit a new fitness threshold, I’m looking towards the next milestone, without ever truly defining it. . Unless being Sisyphus sounds like your dream, set a fitness goal that is achievable and trackable.
Start with an objective, such as being leaner or fitter, but the main goal is to define a destination that you will clearly recognize when you arrive. For example: complete 90 days of p90x, ten thousand steps a day for a week, being able to do 10 pull ups, running a 5k, or finishing a triathlon.
I love rock climbing so my goal is to be able to climb 5.12- from my current abilities at 5.10d by April 31st.
Shape the path for easy progress
All roads lead to Rome but you have to pick one of them! A singular focused path de-complicates your overall goal and gives you focus. Start by picking one space to focus on: Ex: exercise or diet.
Once you’ve focused the path to arrive at your fitness objective, lets say you picked exercise, now define how you’ll arrive at your destination. For my goal of climbing 5.12- I know that I need core strength, endurance, and technique. For my core strength, I will do core and body weight training two times a week, and the other two days per week I will climb gym routes that independently challenge my endurance, strength and technical abilities. My path involves exercising four times a week. I can definitely do that.
If your goal is to complete a 5k, your objective would be to follow a couch to 5k plan. Let me google that for you.
Motivate by tapping into emotion
Think of your emotional mind as a 8-ton elephant that you must coax and lead down a precarious path full of cliff lines and obstacles that are booby trapped and ready to cripple or even kill your goal. Taking the first steps, continuing the journey, and heading back down the path after delays is difficult. You must create an emotional appeal that has as many rational benefits as emotional ones.
An emotional motivations or rewards that motivate me are travel and vacation. For my climbing goal, I will reward my hard work with a visit to sport climbing mecca at El Potrero Chico, Mexico. One week of vacation, two weekends, thousands of vertical feet of bolted routes, and an opportunity to work as a team to overcome physical and emotional challenges with my friends and wife. If you take this approach and your goal involves a 5k, find an awesome 5k in a destination city.
You also need motivation and reward throughout the process, so try to create some system of pavlovian reward for each time you successfully take a step forward. Drink a healthy protein shake after every workout, post every run on Strava, watch an episode of your favorite show, record your progress, or simply tell yourself out loud how freaking awesome you are becoming.
Tech to help
There are a lot of apps that will help you with your fitness but it’s important to pick a solution that will help you choose and complete your goals. In my search for apps that apply a solid formula for successful change I found a few worthy of mention. Check out Coach.me and Record by Under Armor to find apps with powerful features and integrations that will help you make, track, and keep you accountable to your goals.
Record by Under Armor
The Elephant, The Rider and the Path
A video published by Rare that highlights the behavior change process for achieving real change using the analogy of an elephant, a rider, and a path.
Party on Wayne
This journey should be fun and enjoyable. Achieving your goals will involve sweat and tears, but the feeling you’ll have at your destination will be a flood of positive experiences with a sense of high achievement. I believe in myself, and I believe in your ability conquer your personal goals. Remember you have to move an eight ton elephant, do your due diligence, chart your path to success, and celebrate your achievements with a mega reward at the destination.