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Tips to keep your exercise goals on track – don’t lose your resolve!

sticking to an exercise plan imageArticle by Anne Elliott.

How is your New Years resolution going? Good and strong I hope. Unfortunately, although January might be the biggest uptake of adults joining gyms, it’s the second half of February that sees the biggest number stopping. Why do they stop? Perhaps it was harder than they thought, perhaps it was a bit too intimidating, perhaps it wasn’t as much fun as they’d hoped. So if you’re still exercising at the end of February, you are already ahead of the game.

I know it’s not easy to keep going though, especially when the first flush of newness has evaporated and you see how slow and how hard and how long it’s going to take to get fit and look gorgeous. This is the point to add an extra something; a new dimension that will allow you to keep your resolve strong.

One very effective method is to add the appliance of science. Rather than hoping to feel good on gym day, and finding any excuse not to go if you don’t, why not have a plan. If you have a longer-term strategy in place it can help you see past the difficult times.

There is a saying in sport science, ‘what can be measured can be improved’ and its true. Putting things on paper takes it away from individual perspective or mood and into an objective reality. Improvements or setbacks are set out in front of you and must be accepted. The good thing however, is that looking at your ongoing results allows you to consider what you have been doing in the recent past and deciding if its effective or not and therefore modifying your training regime if its not working.

Setting realistic exercise goals

So set yourself incremental goals. An example:

I take up running, I have a final goal to run a marathon next year. I couldn’t do it now as I haven’t done any running for 10 years and if I tried such a difficult things I would probably hurt myself doing it. So what I do is break the end goal up into milestones, 5 miles, 10 miles, 15 miles etc which I dot around my year calendar – so I want to hit 5 miles in 2 months, 10 miles in 4 etc. Next I break up the milestones into smaller manageable goals, also with time constraints so now my training diary might look like;

End     week 1  0.5m

Week 2   1m

Week 3   1.5m


Week 8  5m

By doing this I can compare what I can actually do in the real world to my strategic goals. I can see if I’m on track, I can think about if I’ve been too optimistic, I can think about if I need to modify my training etc. I have a measureable training programme to check against. This can be applied to a waist line, how much weight you can lift, how long you can swim for…in fact anything you are trying to achieve.

There are a set of rules to follow when devising a goal setting programme that you can use to make sure your strategy will be do-able. Ask yourself for each goal – is it:

Specific          be exact

Measurable   measure regularly

Achieveable  Is it do-able

Realistic         Are you kidding yourself

Time based   Give it a time constraint

Evaluated      Can you decide if its working

Recorded       Can you write it down regularly


‘SMARTER’ goals will help you get through those tough times and keep you on track.

Give this a try, even if you aren’t wavering in your resolve. It can make your training programme that much more effective.



ANNE ELLIOTT is 52. She has a Personal Training Practice that specialises in working with middle-aged clients and their associated health problems. She lectures in Sports Science at Middlesex University, is an ABAE boxing referee, is registered with REPS at Level 4 and is undertaking a Doctorate in exercise in middle age. Anne appears regularly in the media talking about her specialisation - exercise in middle age.

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