Slow and Steady: Taking Our Fitness Goals One Step At a Time

baby steps.

baby steps.

Let’s face it: sometimes, it’s hard to lead a healthy lifestyle. If you’re like most people, you start the day motivated, with the best and purest of intentions. Today’s the day I’m going to go on that three-mile run or I’m going to drink an entire liter of water. Then, somewhere between setting your goal and bringing it to fruition, life throws in one of its inevitable monkey-wrenches: work runs late, your best pal calls with off-the-cuff dinner plans, or the kids need help with a project that you will spend all night having to finish yourself. Today’s goal becomes tomorrow’s plan problem. What it doesn’t become, much to our chagrin and disappointment, is reality.

Maybe the problem lies in the way we’re dealing with these goals in the first place. We like to envision the end-result while conveniently glossing over the many steps that it will  probably require to make it happen. While zero-to-sixty in five seconds might not be any sweat for your car, it’s just not feasible for the human body (or the plans it makes)… especially since your car doesn’t have to work eight hours a day or more to pay for itself.

Clever Allyson has already written an article on tips for keeping New Year’s resolutions, and her advice to micromanage – breaking up your large goal into smaller, more manageable ones within a set time frame – works especially well in this context.

For example, maybe you’re going to take every doctor in the world’s advice and start incorporating more water into your daily fluid intake. The human body is made up of seventy percent water, so if you want to keep yours running like the well-oiled (watered?) machine it is, you need to keep your tank constantly filled. If you don’t, you run the risk of subjecting yourself to migraines, causing your joints and bones to ache, losing elasticity in your skin, and lowering the overall energy output from your brain (the brain itself is composed of eighty-five percent water, after all). To this end, experts recommend that non-active people drink half an ounce of water for every pound of body weight: for a person weighing one-hundred thirty pounds, this would translate to sixty-five ounces of water, or roughly eight eight-ounce glasses of water. Active people need to hike that up to two-thirds an ounce of water per pound of body weight. For the average non-active person, all this can total up to more than two liters of water per day! That’s a daunting amount, especially if one isn’t used to consuming that much liquid on a regular basis! Now, before you go saying that those venti cups of tea and coffee you sip on all day contain water and thus are proper substitutes, think again: caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea are diuretics, causing the body to actually lose water instead of retaining it. While this goes against logic, you can’t argue with cold, hard science.

Back to the problem at hand: we desire the positive effects of increasing water in our daily liquid intakes, but we don’t particularly have the time nor the stomach to sit and drink an entire two liters or more, thus running the risk of not following through with this plan we make at all. How do we solve this problem? There are a number of different ways we can go about dealing with this situation, if we draw upon the principle of micromanagement. There’s a long-term approach, in which we make our goal (which will differ for everyone, based on individual needs) something to work up to. Perhaps you don’t think you can cut out all your sugary and caffeinated beverages tomorrow, which is perfectly fine and realistic for most people. What you can do is break up that larger goal into smaller ones, such as substituting, say, one of your morning cups of coffee or your afternoon soda for eight ounces of water for a week, increasing the number of drinks you substitute every week until you reach your target amount. This makes your goal much more manageable, and the sense of victory and well-being you’ll experience for making these small accomplishments will motivate you to continue forward. If you feel like taking the plunge (no pun intended) and hitting your daily H2O goal right away, you can still break up the overall amount into smaller increments to give yourself a better chance at succeeding. Invest in a large plastic water bottle with ounce-markings (BPA-free, preferably) and, with a permanent marker, draw lines with corresponding hour marks that will split your daunting intake goal into doable increments. Keep this bottle with you while you go to work and complete your daily routine, and take your allotted swig every hour. By making it a small, hourly task instead of a large daily one, you’ll have more opportunities in the day to succeed and you’ll be able to monitor just how well (or not) you’re keeping up with your goals, and change your tactics accordingly.

The steps outlined above can be applied to all of your fitness goals, not just ones pertaining to water intake. If the idea of long, grueling workouts terrifies you but you want to increase the amount of exercise you do, think about breaking up those workouts into smaller ones. Studies have shown that fifteen minutes of high-intensity exercise, like aerobics or weight-training, are just as effective when it comes to bestowing health benefits as hours-long sessions can be. The point is, by reconditioning ourselves to view large, abstract goals as a series of smaller, concrete ones, we give ourselves many more opportunities to succeed and, by comparison, the moments when we do fail to keep up with our goals (as will inevitably happen) become less devastating. We here at Lady Clever believe that success, no matter how small, should be celebrated for all its worth.

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