Focus on Performance

Around this time of year, people start thinking about their New Year’s resolutions. It’s fair to guess that most people have weight loss somewhere in their resolutions, or at the very least some sort of fitness-related resolution. It’s easy to argue there should be some fitness-related resolution or goal in mind at all times, so it’s great to have that intent. Unfortunately, many individuals fall short of their resolutions, and it’s pretty easy to point to issues with motivation, planning, or any other number of things.

With resolutions or goals, it’s helpful to remember the SMART format, which makes them more concrete and attainable. Saying, “I want to lose weight” is not specific. Saying, “I want to lose 10 lbs by March 31st by exercising at least 4 times per week,” is more specific and gives you a good outline of what you’ll be doing.  It doesn’t really tell you how.

With any fitness goal, the one thing that will almost guarantee your success is to put your focus on performance. Performance in an exercise is generally pretty consistent if it’s something we do often. Sure, we have good and bad days, but the sways are rarely significant. If someone can do a 9-minute mile one week, they can probably do that next week.

Weight, on the other hand, varies significantly on a daily basis depending on how hydrated we are, how much we’ve eaten, when our last bowel movement was… lots of stuff. Using weight loss as a goal isn’t a good measure because of how variable our weight can be. This makes it easy to be discouraged by a perceived lack of progress, even though you may actually be losing fat and/or gaining muscle mass.

In short, using weight loss as a goal on its own isn’t helpful. Setting goals based on consistent improvement in exercises or activities is much more helpful because the results are just as tangible, and they’ll make you better at something (strength, flexibility, endurance, sports, etc.). Weight loss tends to occur as you improve your physical performance in a task, assuming your diet is in order of course. Even if you don’t lose weight, you’ll be healthier.

So how exactly does this look? For something like a resolution, which is typically a long-term goal, it’s best to have some idea of how quickly you should be improving in your exercise or tasks. Let’s use weightlifting as an example. If our barbell squat starts at 100 lbs but we want to get up to a 135 lbs squat, we should expect to increase our weight on a semi-regular basis. Let’s assume that we can add 5 lbs to our squat every 1-2 weeks. That means that we should be able to hit our goal of 135 lbs squats in 7 weeks at the shortest or 14 weeks at the longest. That’s roughly 2-4 months, but we could narrow that timeline down to a tighter window.

For distance sports like running or biking, we could focus on our pace, distance, or total time, and try to increase those on a weekly basis (here’s an article on running progression). For flexibility, you can use a ruler or use your own body landmarks to check your progress. Using touching your toes as an example, you could see how far your hands get down your legs as a way to track progress, while trying to get a ¼-½  inch or one centimeter closer every 1-2 weeks.

It should be clearly mentioned that while exercise is necessary to lose weight, your diet is also very important. The same can also be said for those trying to put on weight in the form of muscle (or fat if you’re looking to do that). You’ll find it nearly impossible to achieve your goal without the proper nutrition and caloric balance. Nutrition.gov has a weight management section that is a good place to start. Eatright.org also has a wealth of information that registered dieticians use/provide, so this is a great place for nutrition advice as well.

Whatever your resolutions are, any fitness goal you have should be performance oriented and written in a way that provides specific ways that you intend to achieve that goal (like the SMART goals format). This makes it so that no matter what happens with your weight, you’re improving some aspect of your physical health.

Got questions? Feel limited in what you’re able to do? The staff at Limitless Physical Therapy in Eugene, OR can show you how to be limitless.

***The above information, including text, images, and all other materials, is provided for educational purposes only, and not as a replacement or supplement to professional medical advice. Please contact a certified healthcare professional or your primary physician for any personal concerns.

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