Lose the Goals, Take the ChallengePrint
Make 2014 the year you accomplish your biggest objectives by learning how to train.
For as long as I can remember, the word “goal” has always intimidated me. When prompted to write out my goals for the new year, I would always write down Goliath-like aspirations: quit smoking, lose 20 pounds, start a business, go back to college. Or worse, I would write out boundless, dreamy goals that had no real authenticity and no real plan for attaining any of it: travel the world, find “the one,” become rich and famous (OK, that last one was my goal when I was about 12).
By my mid-30s, I simply gave up on the whole New Year’s Resolution thing and just lived. It seemed a heck of a lot easier. But far less inspiring.
When I hit 40, however, a friend challenged me to do a sprint triathlon. I had never done anything like that, despite working out a few times a week by taking classes at the gym. But it sounded doable: a quarter-mile swim, a 10-mile bike race and a 5K run. What did I need to do to get ready?
You need to train.
I needed to train? And while training, in my mind, was something that only pro athletes do, I figured I’d better do it unless I planned not to cross the finish line.
Training included a set of cardio and muscle-building workouts that lead to better endurance and improved strength and performance. My weekly training looked something like this:
Sunday: 10-mile bike ride
Monday: weight training
Tuesday: light 1.5-mile run
Wednesday: rest day
Thursday: bike 5 miles
Friday 2.5-mile run
Saturday: swim laps
I did this routine for 12 weeks straight and, by race day, I was at my peak fitness and ready for the challenge. And while the race itself was difficult, I doubt that I would have been able to finish if I didn’t train. Did I come in first place? Heck, no. But I was thrilled to finish.
The point of this story has nothing to do with races or triathlons. It has to do with the fact that I accomplished about five of my typical new year’s goals with one challenge:
- I lost weight;
- I was able to buy new, better-fitting clothes;
- I improved my diet by eating better, healthier foods;
- I improved my mood and was better able to manage stress (shocking what a little exercise can do in that department!); and
- I did something new by finishing a triathlon, something that I had never done.
It also made me a firm believer in training for things and working a goal with set parameters. Rather than just putting “exercise more” on your weekly calendar, your chances of success at, say, weight loss are far better if you have something to lose weight for—a wedding, a vacation, a fitness challenge.
The training mindset also works for areas of your life other than fitness. You can train to quit smoking, find a better job, manage debt, take a trip or go back to school. By signing up for something—a weekend retreat (a place where smoking is prohibited), a college course (which might propel you to take even more courses), a chance to win a free vacation (who knows!)—you can train your brain to start preparing for these challenges or opportunities.
Also, whatever event you train for, there needs to be a payoff. Finishing a race is a huge payoff. You might be more willing to workout and get to the gym every day if race day is looming. A spiritual or health retreat is also a huge payoff if it means relaxing peacefully for a long weekend. Although quitting smoking might seem overwhelming, you may be more inclined to quit if it means that you can participate in this future event.
Bottom line? Quit writing out that typical long list of goals and, instead, create one challenge for yourself for which you can train and sign up. By preparing yourself for the challenge, chances are that you will accomplish a lot more than what you set out to do.
Tracy Shields is co-owner of N3 Oceanic, Inc., maker of Res-Q products, a midsize vitamin supplement corporation whose all-natural, heart-focused health products are featured on radio shows across the country, and endorsed by celebrities such as Frankie Avalon and Dr. Oz Garcia. She graduated magna cum laude from Rutgers University-Camden with a degree in English literature and journalism, is a Phi Beta Kappa and published writer, and has recently received her certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and Cornell University. She has been featured in SJ Magazine and County Women Magazine (Burlington), is the immediate past president of the National Association of Women Business Owners, South Jersey, was nominated for SJ Biz’s 20 under 40, and is the recipient of the 2014 National Association of Women Business Owners’ Chapter Champion award. Tracy is also a proud mother of two beautiful sons, Daniel and Julien.