Having fitness goals is a great idea, but be smart about it

Smart fitness goals: woman running across a bridge. Image credit: SoPosted.com

Setting fitness goals is a great idea, but you want to be smart about it

For many of us, deciding to start on our health and wellness journey begins with a goal. We may find ourselves winded after climbing the stairs with groceries or receive an invitation to a 25th reunion. Something sparks inside us and says: “it’s time to get healthy” or “it’s time to lose weight.” This will be the motivation we need to take that first step. The idea has been planted in our heads and  it’s time to make positive changes.

But how do you know if you’re setting a realistic goal for yourself? What’s the difference between declaring “I want to get healthy” and “I want do 45 minutes of cardio, three times of week”?  And which approach will be more successful?

No matter if you’re setting a goal for business or fitness, success is most often achieved when goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Reasonable, and Timely. What does this actually mean?

Specific: “I want to get healthy” is not a specific goal. What does “healthy” mean to you? Is it reducing your bad cholesterol numbers? Maybe it means snacking less on unhealthy foods and bringing your lunch from home. Think about the one thing that you want to achieve and make it very specific and personal.

Measurable: How do you measure “healthy?” By having a number as a target, you can achieve your intentions. Quantifying your goals makes your achievement clear. Did you go to the gym four times this week? Did you perform six pull-ups? Were you able to climb three flights of stairs? Either you did it or you didn’t. There’s nothing in between.

Action-Oriented: If you want to “get healthy,” there’s no concrete set of action steps to adopt. How will you get healthy? Whether it’s writing down everything you eat in a journal or not bailing on your interval training class when you would rather crash, your actions have consequences. What actions will you take?

Reasonable: If you said your goal was to run a marathon by October and you had never participated in a 5 KM run before — I would say that your goal would be unreasonable. However, if you wanted to run a marathon in October, 2019, and you were prepared to commit to training five days a week for the next year, I would applaud your dedication and we would work on a plan. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming and imagining ourselves achieving (and even surpassing) our goals. But we all need a shot of reality.

Timely: By setting a time-frame to achieve your goal, you will be more motivated to stay on track. It gives us something to work towards and an actual framework to work within. This isn’t the mindset of “special occasion” weight loss (which we’ve previously discussed), but a logical, measurable length of time.

One of the joys of setting SMART goals is that you can fall in love with the process. It’s not about the quick fix but the longer journey. Instead of focusing on the “when,” it’s a concrete plan for “how.” By breaking down your goal into very specific parts, you can track your success.

Take a look at your goal — and then take it apart. Tweak and adjust it until it’s SMART and you can evaluate your progress every week in a clear way. Did you achieve everything you set out to do? If not, what needs to change? Minor adjustments will keep you focused and increase the probability of attaining what you are setting out to achieve.

The Choose Your Own Adventure Cardio Workout

Cardio workout: guys playing basketball. Image credit: Tim Mossholder / Pexels

The Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Cardio Workout

When you commit to strength training, you are building muscular endurance and strength while keeping your bones and joints healthy and strong. Fat loss is a side effect.

To balance out the good work of strength training, I recommend that my clients participate in some kind of cardio exercise. And cardio is not an exact science. Thereu2019s no X times of week + Y speed = Results. Cardio does burn calories but it also helps you keep your heart healthy and prevents disease.

Should I do cardio in the morning or in the evening?

Studies say that you should exercise first thing in the morning. They also say you should exercise in the evening. I say you should exercise when itu2019s most convenient for you. If this means going for a quick run on your lunch break or waking up at 5 AM u2014 the most important part in finding a place for exercise in your day. Make it part of your schedule and find a time that works for you. You know whenu2019s not a good time to exercise? Never.

What kind of cardio should I do?

The kind of cardio you should do is the kind that you like. Forget about keeping an eye on the calories burned square on the machine. Those numbers are estimates and often exaggerations. This means thereu2019s no point looking for the machine that burns the most calories u2014 instead find something that you enjoy. Some people love spending the focused 30 minutes on an elliptical, catching up or rewatching their favourite TV show. Others would describe this as one of the circles of hell. For others, hiking on the weekend or taking a dance class contribute to their cardio.

Like my advice when it comes to finding exercise time in your schedule, the same goes for cardio equipment and type of cardio. The most important thing about cardio is that you do it.

How Long Should I Spend on Cardio?

If youu2019re getting started, you should spend 20-60 minutes on cardio, three to five days a week. If you are new to training, three days a week is a good start. If you are more experienced, I would aim closer to the five days a week to increase your heart rate. And this doesnu2019t mean that you need to run five days a week. You can mix it up with a combination of classes, activities, and cardio machines.

Cardio is one of the few things in life that really is all about you. So be selfish and find that me time. Itu2019s your adventure, so what will you choose? f

Take heart: hitting a plateau means you’re getting closer to your goal

woman holding scale and screaming because she's hit a plateau. Image credit: diyhcg.com

Take heart: hitting a plateau means you’re getting closer to your goal

We’ve all experienced this: you step on the scale after a week where you rejected the office “it’s Thursdays so let’s have cake” celebration and swapped after work socializing for a killer run…only to find the numbers remain the same. How is this possible, you ask yourself. Why didn’t I indulge? And the whys and the hows just keep on coming.

Plateaus are extremely frustrating when you’ve been focused on your goal and find yourself stuck. But here’s the thing… if you weren’t moving towards your goal, you wouldn’t be stuck. A plateau is not failure. It’s the indication that you are moving towards your healthier life and away from your starting point.

I encourage my clients to start with a measurable goal in mind — whether it’s a number, a size, a rep count, or a weight amount. We make a plan and emphasize small changes along the way. Every week is an opportunity to make small modifications to the journey. Whether it’s logging food in a journal or adding an extra weights session, one change a week is not overwhelming and provides a sense of accomplishment. The following week, we’ll add another small change.

All these little changes add up to eventual results. I always emphasize that slow progress is about changing the behaviours … and making a lasting impact. Like all changes, at first this can be uncomfortable. Shaking up the routine and taking yourself off automatic can be tough. Finding yourself saying “no thanks” and putting yourself first is difficult. But we have to remind ourselves that we are doing this so we can be better and take care of others.

A plateau is when you get comfortable. It’s a signal that your body is getting used to these positive changes. If you want to keep moving towards your goal, you need to feel uncomfortable again.

To get back on track, we need to assess what’s going on with your diet and exercise by ….

Switching up your exercise 

Try a new class, activity, or ask for heavier weights. You need to feel challenged again — even if that’s holding a yin yoga pose for five minutes and just breathing through it.

Checking your food diary

It’s time to take a critical look at your food journal. Are there any trends that you’re noticing? If you thought you would give that food diary a break, it’s time to get back into writing everything/recording everything.

Although it might feel like you’re starting all over again, go back to the one change a week philosophy. What will you do this week to challenge yourself? How will you get yourself out of the plateau rut? Instead of being frustrated, it’s time for a reset and a celebration. A plateau is just a rest that reminds you that you’re on the right track … and you can keep going.  


Laura’s question of the week

Have you ever hit a plateau? (Hint: the correct answer is always “yes.”) Was it weight loss? Strength? Flexibility? Aerobic endurance? How did you get past it? Let us know in the comments!

Plateau Point trail sign in the Grand Canyon. Image credit: artoftall.com

Running 101: how to overcome your fears and hit the road

Running 101: woman in track suit at the starting line. Image via Gratisography

Running 101: how to overcome your fears and hit the road

In the warmer months, many of my clients tell me that they want to start running. But, haunted by the ghosts of gym classes past, they are fearful. But running is for everyone — unless you have knee/joint mobility issues.

But how do you get started? Here are some tips to conquer your fear of running.

Get a Walk to Run app

There are so many programs designed to help wannabe runners progress incrementally. Most of these apps slowly increase your running time and you’ll see how easy it is to go from 30 seconds of running to five minutes to 10 minutes to 30 minutes. I recommend the Run 5K – Interval Training Program (https://www.felttip.com/run5k/) app or the C25K (Couch to 5K) http://www.c25kfree.com/ which both have simple interfaces and let you listen to your own music or podcasts while you train three times a week. They are designed for first time runners.

Make a playlist

And speaking of music, there’s nothing that can terminate a workout like a terrible song. It’s enough to make you give up. If you can craft a special running playlist, timed to your workout, you can give yourself the motivation you crave when you’re running up that hill.

Run somewhere

Sometimes it’s difficult to get motivated to run in a 5K loop around the neighbourhood. But what if you are running to something or somewhere? Why not run instead of waiting for the bus? Make sure you have plenty of time to incorporate your walks and runs — following your program. By running with intent, you need to maintain a pace or you’ll be late. This is an easy way to incorporate your run time into your weekly routine.

Sign up for a race

Sure races bring out the super competitive professionals with legs longer than your entire body. But they also bring out families, first time runners, and people who really believe in a cause. There are a number of races dedicated to fundraising for specific charities and institutions. Find something that you really care about and raise some money to support their initiatives. It doesn’t matter how slow you run — knowing that you’re running for a cause is enough to keep you going.

It’s just you and the road

Runners love the meditative running high they get by taking on the road. Some days you fly down the street and hit your milestones with minutes to spare. Other days, there’s an elderly lady speed-walking and leaving you in the dust. But at the end of every day, you’ve accomplished something great. Every run is worth celebrating. Speed and distance don’t matter. The fact you did it … that’s the true accomplishment.

So… are you ready to lace up and hit the pavement? Good luck — and don’t forget to warm up and stretch to prevent injury.

Special occasion weight loss

Foot on scale with flowers for weight loss post

Foot on scale with flowers for weight loss post

Special occasion weight loss

Woman in bridal gown doing pull-upsI’ve had a lot of clients come to me with a specific goal or date in mind. It’s the wedding dates or the high-school reunions that have motivated them to take the first steps to weight loss. Whether powered by a desire to transform themselves or fit into a magical size, these are some of the most committed people that I’ve ever seen.

They meet with me multiple times a week.

They follow the diet rules. (BTW, I hate the word “diet.”)

They track their food and obsessively count calories.

And they count down to that special day.

And, not surprisingly, many of them achieve their goals. When you’re dedicated and have an end date in mind, your own laser focus can take you wherever you need to go. As a trainer, I work with my clients to target specific areas and celebrate weight-loss milestones. I love seeing my clients achieve their goals, but there’s always this little voice in my head that haunts every weigh-in.

“What about the day after?” it says.

Don’t backslide

Because I’ve seen it happen so many times. The day after the marathon is completed or the cake is cut. What happens next? What happens when real life sets in and there’s no focused end date for this fitness-first mentality?

Sadly, I’ve seen the most motivated people cancel workouts and slide back into unhealthy habits without a solid goal and a date. I’ve seen all the good work replaced with weight gain and frustration. Without the focused goal date, it’s difficult to get re-motivated until the next big event. We’ve talked about the challenge of maintaining commitment before. And the cycle continues.

That’s why I always recommend that my clients train for life — real life and not a cut-off date. By integrating healthy habits into the everyday, you can avoid the disappointment of special-occasion weight gain … that follows special-occasion weight loss. Focusing on overall wellbeing develops patterns and a healthy baseline.

So, train for today and not tomorrow.


Laura’s question of the week

Have you ever resolved to lose x amount of weight for a specific occasion? What was it for?

  • Wedding?
  • Christening?
  • Bar / Bat Mitzvah?

Were you able to maintain it? Let us know!

stock shot of tape measure around waist of woman in bridal gown

Making a commitment to fitness: Day One is today

Commitment: balance ball silhouette illustration

Commitment: balance ball silhouette illustration

Making a commitment to fitness: Day One is today


Commitment can be a pain.

You know you’ve done this at least once. We probably all have. It’s Day One. It’s the magic day when you will actually start working on yourself. Whether it’s tomorrow or Monday or the first of the month, we’ve all pushed off our start day to one that feels more “real.”

In the meantime, we give ourselves permission to indulge in the habits that we are trying to break: a last supper of all the foods that are going to be our no-goes in the future, another day of sleeping in instead of hitting the gym early, or another day of late night bingewatching instead of getting those eight hours of sleep. Whatever your goal, you’ve probably found your own little way of avoiding it. And it’s okay because tomorrow, or Monday, or June 1st … That’s when you’re going to get serious about your goals.

Things get real

And then the monumental day comes and you forget to set your alarm. Or it’s someone’s birthday at work and you just have to have a piece of cake. Or you start your first run and your running belt breaks, leaving your keys and cash all over the sidewalk. Well, so much for Day One. Now, you’re off track until next week. Or next month.

And it happens again. And again.

Break the pattern

So instead of building up Day One as the only time to get on track, why not forget about Day One altogether? Instead, look at the small things you can do today to help you work towards your goal.

Look to today and not tomorrow — and celebrate your small accomplishments instead of focusing on a bigger goal. What did you do today for yourself?


Visit our personal training page and meet our trainers!

Treadmill shot for commitment post

Laura’s challenge of the week

Find one thing that gets in the way of you keeping your commitment to yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything big; little things are often easier to find, and easier to change. That’s how good things start. 

Questions? Suggestions? Let me know!