How to Reach Your Fitness Goals


We all intend to go to the gym, walk a mile every morning, or otherwise do the work to stay in shape. But fitness goals are easier to articulate than they are to achieve. When I wrote a book about midlife makeovers, I was impressed by the story of Donna, who shed 90 pounds after turning 40. Let’s look at her story and see what we can learn from her.

A chubby teen, Donna had always been overweight. Over the years, she tried various diets, but nothing ever stuck. Her aha! moment came when she was shopping at a lifetime high weight of 230. “I’d worn size 1X for a long time. Now I had to buy 2X clothes.” She cut down her food portions and devised an exercise plan. She resolved to go to the gym four times a week, working up from 20 minutes on the elliptical trainer by increasing her time in five-minute intervals. Over nine months, she dropped 75 pounds. She hired a personal trainer to teach her how to use the weight room.

But it was hard to keep going to the gym. She was losing her motivation. She needed a new reason to work out. A friend suggested training for a marathon. “It seemed ricidulous,” Donna says. “I couldn’t run one mile, so how could I run 26?” Then she began reading about triathlons online. She’d swum and biked as a kid and the idea of training three different ways appealed. The year she was 43, she competed in 10 triathlons and lost more weight, down to her current weight of 140.

Why was Donna’s regime a success? Because she made fitness an integral part of her life. She made new friends who were also competing in races, and going to the gym became a natural part of her day. In one study, people who exercised in a group were exercising four times as much at the end of three months.

When she felt her motivation getting shaky, she created a new challenge for herself. The weight room at the gym was intimidating – all those mysterious machines – so she hired a guide. The personal trainer gave her the confidence that she was using the equipment correctly and challenged her to continue to achieve.

A number of other simple steps can help you meet your fitness goals:

  • Wear a pedometer. In a 2007 study, people who did increased their number of steps per day by nearly 3,000.
  • Listen to music. A 2008 study found that people who listened to music on a treadmill increased their workout time by 15 percent.
  • Get a dog. No fooling. A number of studies have found that people with dogs get more exercise. Research in Australia saw a 400% increase in exercise by new dog owners.

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