Exercise Goals – Simple, Measurable, Achievable

Goals can get way out of hand. I see this a lot in the running community in Google+. One would think everyone is an olympic athlete the way complexities and details are passed around and analyzed. This is a bit much, for two good reasons.

UP Turns 100

Goals Need to Be Achievable

Goals need to be achievable, or one gets in the mental habit of not achieving ones goals. They should not be easy, per se, but should be generally achievable and therefore achieved.

Goals Need to be Simple and Measurable

By simple I mean it is easy to determine if achieved, and also not so technical an achievement. Simple things that can be easily communicated, such as

  • Did you run today?
  • Did you bicycle today?
  • Did you do Pilates today?
  • Did you get a massage today?

These can be aggregated into weekly and monthly reports for feedback on not only achievement but the measurable goal itself.

Exercise Metrics are Fine, but they are Not Goals

Other kinds of exercise metrics (such as time, distance, speed, body weight) are good to keep track of, but should not be goals per se, but milestones. These should be recorded (and milestones celebrated), but these can't be seen as simple, measurable, achievable goals.

Goals get you from day to day and keep you on track. Who cares if you were slower today, felt crappy, or didn't go the distance you wanted during the run, ride, or swim? Who cares if your weight hasn't moved as fast as you want it to? Did you run today? Did you bicycle today? Did you do your Pilates today? Did you get a massage today? If so, you are on track. The cyclical nature of training and body conditioning will work itself out. Put in your time, enjoy the ride, the run, the swim, the workout, and the massage.

Proliferation of Data Has a Downside

There is an enormous proliferation of the availability of data. This data can appear to have value, but in some, many, or most cases the data is relatively meaningless. Not only is the data epiphenomenal, but planning around the data presumes one knows that the data is aligned directly with the planning of a workout. This is not necessarily the case.

I used to run with a heart rate monitor (it died) and an iPod touch with distance data (it died). Now I only run with my watch and the only number I care about is the time at which the run is supposed to end. For the bike ride, the bike computer only tells me time elapsed. Nothing else is important.