Slow is about setting achievable goals

Slow is about setting achievable goals and setting up short term steps to obtain these goals. Establishing a clear goal keeps us on track and give us purpose, but there must also be accompanied by a daily plan of how to put these into action.

People exercise for different reasons at different times of their lives. To get the most from your exercise, it helps to know what you want to achieve and how you are going to achieve it. Setting specific and measurable short-term and long-term targets provide the incentive to drive you to action.

Start with an assessment

Before starting a successful exercise program, it is also useful to undergo some assessment of your current level of fitness, including specific tests of strength, endurance, flexibility, balance and posture. Many of these tests can be conducted by an accredited exercise physiologist, physiotherapist, or qualified personal trainer. These practitioners can also help to make sure these objectives are realistic or we can set ourselves up for failure. Setting behavioral goals each day such as walking 10,000 steps or completing our strength program every second day, rather than specific weight loss targets, are more sensible and readily within our control.

Allocate time to ensure success

Achieving our goals in small increments each week, will ultimately produce the results we desire. It is important to allocate time for exercise in your diary and set weekly and monthly objectives. Start slowly with small, easily achievable amounts of exercise that you can build upon gradually. If you want to lose 20kgs (which may take 6-12 months) you need to set more short-term weekly targets, to maintain steady and consistent progress. Slow progress will be more sustainable in the long term!

Accent the positive of exercise, avoid the negative

Exercise must be an enjoyable positive experience and something you look forward to each day. An exercise session can also become an enjoyable social occasion with friends and family. Also if you choose an activity you enjoy, chances are you will do it more often. Choose an activity you have enjoyed in the past and have the skills and knowledge required to ensure regular participation. Involve a reliable exercise partner, friend or if required, a trainer to share the experience and to assist with motivation and compliance.

If one exercise doesn’t work for you, then find an alternative. Find way to make working out a joy. Maybe put on enjoyable music to support the activity you are doing, listen to interesting books or podcasts. When you start to get positive reinforcement by people around you, it will become easier and even more enjoyable.

If you find you are fatigued or your muscles are sore after your first session, then understand these feelings will be short lived. This is precisely what it takes to make our muscles adapt and get stronger. If you find your muscles are sore for more than 48 hours after your exercise session, you may need to reduce the amount, or the intensity of your program, and reduce your expectations, until your body is more able to cope with the program.

Last Reviewed 01/Mar/2014

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Merlin Thomas is a physician and a scientist. His research laboratory is at the JDRF/ Danielle Alberti Memorial Centre for the study of Diabetes Complications at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne.