Be SMART with Fitness Resolutions

By Rachel Ruth Tunney
Distinguished Young Woman of South Carolina for 2013
There is something epically enchanting about a holiday break. It never fails; each year, we find ourselves striving to lend a helping hand to those less fortunate, to strengthen the relationships we share with our families and loved ones, and to deepen our inner spirituality. There is one other element we find more time to focus on during the mere couple of weeks: ourselves. You know what I’m talking about- cue the music, start the fireworks, stifle the groans – New Year’s Resolutions. Regardless of the individual or the year, it appears that some of our resolutions always revolve around a reoccurring theme, one of which is physical fitness.
Reoccurring… why reoccurring? Because sometimes it’s harder than an 8 AM Calculus 3 class to keep up with our expectations of fitness resolutions. We start off REALLY GOOD- we hit the gym, we turn down the chocolate cake for a salad and we feel like we’re conquering Mount Everest. Then, we miss one day, then two days of the gym; we choose the chocolate over the lettuce and suddenly, we snowball back down that mountain faster than we have time to stop ourselves.
This year is going to be different! It’s all about the way we set our goals. Get your snowshoes ready, because we’re gonna tackle the mountain the SMART way.
S: specific. Remember the ‘who/what/when/where/why/how’ exercises you dreaded in history class? Well, we’re applying them to fitness! Your goal should be as specific as possible. Instead of saying “I will try to go to the gym more often”, try “I will go to the gym three days a week, at 3:30 pm, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.”
M: measurable. Your fitness goal should include some standard of measuring intensity. One way to monitor your intensity involves heart rate. Simply take the formula (Math involved in fitness? Yeah, this one caught me by surprise too.) 208-(.7 x your age) to find your ‘estimated maximum heart rate’. From there, determine your target heart range by multiplying the value by 55% and 90%. This is an appropriate working range for aerobic activity according to ACSM. For example, someone who is 20 would take the formula 208-(.7 x 20)=194. This is their estimated maximum heart rate (in beats per minute). We multiply 194 x .55 and 194 x .9 to find a target heart rate range of 107-175. This is an appropriate range of heartbeats per minute that someone who is 20 years of age should strive to reach while exercising.
A goal that states, “I will walk three miles on a treadmill at 125 beats per minute” allows an individual to determine the success of meeting their goal based on whether or not they were able to walk three miles at this intensity.
How do you find your heart rate during exercise? Nowadays, technology has helped. Most stationary machines (treadmills, bikes, steppers) have monitors on them that will calculate your heart rate just from the touch of your hand. Another way is to find your pulse and count the number of beats in 10 seconds. Then multiply this value by 6.  
A: attainable. Let’s face it. Sometimes being ‘realistic’ in goal setting can be our greatest challenge. I see this problem in both guys and girls in college ALL. THE. TIME. We wake up one-day super pumped and motivated to get fit. We say, “I’m going to go workout EVERY DAY for the next three weeks” and then, what happens? Inevitably, we miss one day because of a crazy test or a sickness, and then just stop going all together.  
When we feel as though we have ‘failed’ to follow our fitness goals, we give up. Instead of trying a workout a couple of days later, I see people forget their new plan entirely. Make sure your goal makes sense for YOU. Always remember, baby steps can go a long way. Start small and you WILL build your way to the top. Instead of “I will do 50 pushups today”, try, “I will perform 49 pushups this week by doing 7 each day.” And keep in mind we’re human! Life happens. If you miss a few days, that’s all right! Missing a few is always better than giving up all together.
R: relevant. Each goal created should be relevant to both your life and YOU. Find dancing and choreography boring? Try cycling and skip the Zumba! Always wanted to be able to touch your toes? Take a yoga class! If you’re doing something enjoyable that corresponds with your personal interests you are more likely to stick with it. 
T: time bound. Give yourself a time limit, and it will help ensure you stay on track. Instead of “I will lose 10 pounds so I look better” try “I will increase my physical activity before March 8th so that I can feel good kicking butt at beach volleyball during spring break.”
New Years Resolutions can help bring out the best in all of us, especially the best of our health when they involve fitness goals. Being SMART about setting these goals can increase your chances of staying on track, completing them, and waving with a smile from the peak of Mount Everest.
Rachel Tunney
Distinguished Young Woman of South Carolina for 2013
I have recently been nationally certified as an ACE (American Council of Exercise) Group Fitness instructor. Setting SMART fitness goals is a concept covered both in the ACE Group Fitness Instructor Manual as well as in my kinesiology classes at Auburn University. I thank these sources whole-heartedly for their contribution to this blog post.
 
Bryant, C. X., Green, D., & Merrill, S. (2011). Ace group fitness instructor manual: A guide for fitness professionals. (3rd ed., pp. 132-133). San Diego: American Council on Exercise.
 
Rachel Ruth Tunney is a college freshman at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama majoring in Fitness, Conditioning and Performance with a minor in Business. Originally from Charleston, South Carolina, Rachel was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of South Carolina for 2013. Learn more about Rachel here!

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