Why You Need Short Term and Long Term Fitness Goals

At the start, a new fitness program or a change in your diet is exciting. You’re convinced this is the change that will finally get you to your goals. It feels good to be actively taking charge of your health, so you decide to ramp it up!

The scenario

Currently, you’re running 3 days, and strength training 2 days a week. So, if that’s good, then running 5 days and strength training 4, must be better! What started as 30 minute strength training sessions, suddenly turns into 50 minutes sessions after adding a few exercises here and there. Plus, your runs have gone from a steady pace to intense intervals as you see how fast you can run a 5K. And, you enjoy this challenge…for a little while.

I love an intense training program, and enjoyed working hard toward a particular half-marathon goal. It was tough, but over in 12 weeks, and I crushed it!

This type of high-intensity training is completely appropriate when training for a specific and time sensitive goal. But, if your goal is to improve your health and stay generally fit, intense and lengthy workouts are not the ideal approach.

The Hare Approach

Just like the fable, the hare has two speeds; all or nothing. Generally, people can maintain this intense training for only so many years. “Years?” You’re thinking, “That’s so long, I’ll worry about it later!” If you enjoy your time-and-physically-intensive training, that’s great! But what do you envision happening in 10 years, in 5 years, next year, next month, when you can’t keep it up?

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Perhaps, it’s because you burn out mentally. You could feel burdened by your strict schedule, or maybe you see physical signs of overtraining. What about when there’s a major life change? Like, a new job, a baby, a move?

Your training has gotten you in great shape, and a solid routine. But, what good does that do you 10 years from now? How does this approach to fitness benefit you when you’re 70? What is the purpose of such a tough workout routine?

The Tortoise Approach

The hare tactic can work, but it’s short term. Think of an Olympic athlete. True, they are in top physical condition, but when you learn an athlete is 38 you probably think, “Wow, that’s old!” Fun fact: according to TeamUSA.org the average age of the 2014 USA Olympic team was 26.

The tortoise approach, however, can keep you healthy and in a routine for life.

A tortoise approach doesn’t mean slow, and doesn’t mean easy. A tortoise approach equals consistency. Training that comfortably fits into your lifestyle – as opposed to training that forces its way into every time slot and uses every ounce of willpower – is training that will be a sustainable habit. The tortoise isn’t daunting.

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If your current routine leaves you wondering how much longer you’ll need to keep it up, it’s too much. For a fit and healthy life, it’s much better to train 3 days a week into your 80s as opposed to 6 days a week for the next 5 years.

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Think Short Term, Think Long Term

What this looks like in action, is a meld of short term and long term fitness goals. Training intensely for something can be a powerful tool. Pushing yourself past perceived limits boosts your confidence in and out of the gym.

Setting short term fitness goals for intense training is a great way to use this tool, and not wear it out. Think of training for a marathon. You’re signing up for 12-16 weeks of intense cardiovascular endurance work, a great short term goal. Your goal isn’t to run this intensely the rest of your life, but to train hard, race and resume a more moderate training schedule.

Your short term fitness goals will change, depending on your interest at that time. Training to; run farther, faster, lift heavier, learn a different sport, etc., are all areas to chose a short term goal.

A short term goal could even be getting back into an exercise routine after having a baby. You spend a few weeks to couple months ramping up your exercise until you reach a comfortable training level. When I got back into running after a nearly year-long break, I was adamant to run 2-3 times a week to keep my momentum.

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Your long term fitness goal is your big picture goal. Where do you want your fitness to be when you’re 75, and how can your exercise routine get you there?

I realized my long term fitness goal years ago, and I keep it in mind everyday. Running on the lakefront in Chicago, I regularly crossed paths with a gentleman, had to be in his late 70s (but, he’s a runner so he could be 95!). He had large headphones on, and was plodding along. Instantly I thought,”I want that to be me.”

I don’t have to be fast, and I don’t have to go far. But, to have the desire and ability to lace up for a run in my 70s, 80s, and – God willing – beyond, is my long term fitness goal. I saw this man regularly, always around the Monroe curve for you Chicago runners, and always smiled and nodded in appreciation.

Your long term goal is something you keep in your back pocket. On days you don’t want to do certain exercises, when you feel in your gut you’re pushing to hard, when you think warming up and balance work are a waste of your youthful precious time. Get out your long term goal and ask yourself if your current path is leading you there.

If you want assistance in determining appropriate fitness goals, or would like help creating and sticking to a plan to get you there, I would love to work with you! Reach out at samantha@simplywellcaoching.com today for a FREE 20 minute Discovery Call to see if health coaching is right for you.

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