Author: Louise Irvine

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Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008 at 11:41 pm
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Keep Fit Series

Beginner’s Guide To A Healthy Lifestyle. Part One: First Steps – Goal Setting

Over the next few months my beginner’s guide to a healthy lifestyle will take you on journey towards a healthier lifestyle. This guide will encourage you and give you the tools you need to take small steps towards your goals.

As everyone will have different goals there is no point in me prescribing specific exercises and diet plans, as they simply won’t work for every individual. Therefore the first step we are going to take together is goal setting. This will help you to select exercise and nutritional information that is right for you

A healthier lifestyle does not require a regimented exercise programme or a strict calorie counting diet, but it does need goals. Without goals you have nothing to aim for. Think about goal setting like planning a journey – you need a start point and an end point – and you need the directions in between.

To goal set you need to know what it is you want – no one else can help you with this – this requires some soul searching and honesty.

After deciding on your goals the first thing that we need to do is record our start point. As we are going to be making changes over the course of weeks these changes will be small and could go unnoticed. It is important that we can reward ourselves when we make the journey from start to finish. Start points can be recorded in many ways. Record how many minutes of activity you currently do per week. Take note of your current Body Mass Index (BMI) or your weight. Record a food diary over a week – remember to record everything! These are just guides and it’s up to you to select your own personal start point depending on your goals. Write down how you feel about your start point to allow you to reflect on how far you have come emotionally on your journey.

Goals should be realistic and have many short-term actions involved. It sounds like common sense but a big mistake that many people make is that they change their whole routine and leap into a gruelling exercise programme and crazy fad diet which they are disheartened by faster that you can say ‘make mine a large one’. This usually results in a feeling of failure. If this is sounding familiar then stop blaming yourself and take action by setting realistic goals right now!

Let me give you a personal example. I recently decided to go back to a sport that I took part in as a child – my vision, my ultimate goal, is to compete in the Olympics. This is the picture in my mind that drives me to each goal. But how do I achieve this?
I have to set realistic achievable short-term actions. These have included

  • Finding a group to train with.
  • Identifying a coach with the expertise to help me.
  • Training with the group three times a week to improve my fitness and skill levels.

I have now been training with the group for seven months continually adding more actions each week to ensure that I progress towards my goals.

These goals have impacted on other areas of my life – how do I find the time to train? Change my schedule? And this starts another process of goal setting and actions.

While your goals may not be quite as ambitious, or even competitive, the process is just the same. You may find that lifestyle goals will affect other areas of you life and that goals may start to include changing aspects of your career, social, physical, mental and spiritual life to accommodate your healthier lifestyle. Embrace these changes as steps towards your goal.

What To Do Now

The first thing you need to do is decide what you want and when you want it by – remember to be realistic in your time scale.

  • Record your start point. Do this every time you set a new goal.
  • Start small – even though you will have the big picture of what you want to achieve you need to think of small steps on how to get there.
  • Be positive – all goals should be something you want to do not something you need to do.
  • Don’t let fear get in your way – often the fear we feel is unfounded
  • Write it down. You will be planning so many small steps that you will need to write them down to make sure you don’t forget about any. Think, ‘what do I need to do to make that happen? What do I need to learn? Where can I get information? Who can help me?’
  • Start now – don’t sit around and wait for things to happen – make it happen!

Next time…
A Beginner’s Guide To A Healthy Lifestlye – Part Two: How To Increase Your Activity Levels.

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