I tend to get a little carried away when it comes to New Year’s resolutions.
Calling me goal-oriented would be a polite description, but it’s probably more accurate to call me a goal-setting geek.
I have spreadsheets, color-coded lists and automated reminders ready to go for 2014. And I’d probably have pie charts and bar graphs hanging in the living room, but I don’t want to give my wife another reason to wonder why she sticks around.
But for all the effort I put into reaching goals, I’m probably about as successful as everybody else. I reach some goals. Sometimes I get derailed by unforeseen circumstances. And I abandon some goals before February.
Most often the difference between success and failure is planning.
For 2014, I’ve set a goal of learning how to swim well enough to finish a Half Ironman. This is the third time I’ve set this goal, but this is the first time I’ve been serious enough to draft a plan. In the past, I’ve just splashed around in the pool long enough to realize swimming is hard and then jumped ship (figuratively, of course, because I can’t swim) when adult swim classes were canceled due to lack of interest.
But this time I have a plan. I enlisted a friend to take lessons with me. I didn’t wait around for the first of the year to get started. I’ve consulted several experienced swimmers for advice. And I’m keeping local lifeguards on their toes with regular trips to the pool to work on specific techniques.
So far, I’m still remarkably terrible. But the good news is, I’m already less terrible than I was last month.
While my training partner, Thad Richardson, is picking up the sport considerably faster than I am, our instructor assures me that if we stick to the plan, we’ll be successful.
How do you draft a good plan to achieve your 2014 fitness resolution? Here are few things to keep in mind.
AIM HIGH: Don’t be afraid to set challenging goals. Most personal trainers I talk to about goal-setting stress the importance of staying realistic. That doesn’t mean the goal should be easy. Better yet, set a series of small goals that will lead you down the path to the big goal you want to accomplish.
GO SLOW: One of the biggest reasons so many people ditch their fitness resolutions just a few weeks into the new year is because of injuries. Doing too much too soon is a pretty typical mistake. A good plan gives you time to build slowly toward your goal and allows you to back off a bit along the way when needed.
STAY INSPIRED: Few things help you fight through motivational obstacles like a little inspiration. And it’s all around you – whether it’s hiring a trainer to help get you to the next level or just hearing somebody else’s success story.
Each Tuesday night at 6 between now and Jan. 28, Puyallup’s Vision Quest Sports and Fitness will host free meetings in which participants in its Biggest Loser weight-loss competitions will share testimonials about their journey to lose 100 pounds or more.
“We’ve done this for about five years and it’s been a big success,” said Ben Wolbert, who lost more than 80 pounds and now works as a trainer. “It’s a good way to motivate people and I think it helps save lives.”
CHOOSE WISELY: If you’ve turned on a TV after 11 p.m. anytime in the last decade, you’ve heard of P90X, Insanity and any number of other pre-packaged workout programs. And you’ve probably met people who swear Zumba, CrossFit or other popular exercise routines are the greatest things since two-ply toilet paper.
But are they right for you, your abilities and what you hope to accomplish? If you’re doing one of these routines because that’s what your friends are doing, you probably haven’t put enough thought into it. Take an honest look at what you want and find an exercise program that fits.
STUDY GOOD FORM: Good form is important to avoid derailing your fitness plan. A good personal trainer can help teach you good form that will help you avoid injuries. If you are participating in group exercise classes, don’t be afraid to ask the instructor for tips or alternative exercises, should a particular maneuver be painful or too difficult. And if you’re unsure about an exercise, it’s always OK to sit it out.
FIND A PARTNER: A good workout buddy is good for more than just a little motivation on days when you don’t want to work out. Your partner can also help catch and correct glitches in your form, help you overcome anxiety about trying something new, and help brainstorm creative ways to train. Plus it can be nice to have somebody to carpool with to the gym.
Can’t find a partner? Most gyms have group exercise classes, which are good places to meet new friends.
DON’T FEAR FAILURE: Finishing a particularly tough workout in the pool earlier this month, something dawned on me. Even if I fall short of my goal of being able to swim 1.2 miles by August, I’m at least going to be better at a sport that’s always baffled me.
That’s a pretty decent consolation prize. All I have to do is keep working and following the plan. No quitting because of a bad day or a bad week.
I mentioned this to Thad, who was standing in his lane waiting for me to finish.
“Even if we can’t finish the race, we’re going to get way better at this. That’s the worse-case scenario, right?”
“Yeah,” he said. “Unless we drown.”Craig Hill: 253-597-8497 Craig.firstname.lastname@example.org Thenewstribune.com/fitness Theolympian.com/fitness @AdventureGuys