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Know Where You are Really Starting from if You Want to Reach Your Goals

By Heather Moreno Published 08/15/2006 | Fitness , Health , Men , Women , Self Improvement

It is common when someone finds out that I am a fitness professional to give me a 20-second synopsis of their fitness habits and then to ask me, What should I be doing?   My response is always, I dont know.  This shocks a lot of people because they expect me to answer immediately with a detailed fitness regimen.  Why cant I do that?

            I cant give them any immediate advice because I dont know what their baseline is.  A baseline is a measurement of where you are starting from.  Common baselines include measurements such as body weight, body fat percentage, cholesterol, and blood pressure.  These are important measurements, but even more are needed.

            A baseline ideally measures behaviors as wells as statistics.  While data such as your body fat percentage is valuable, it is unrealistic to set goals based solely on this information.  You also need to asses your current activity levels, your perceived levels of exertion to exercise, your goals, your schedule, your stress levels, your health status, your likes and dislikes, your support system, and any number of other aspects that are specific to you.  That is your baseline measurement.

Measuring a baseline of your current exercise and eating habits and certain lifestyle factors (such as mindset and schedule conflicts) will help you put together a realistic, do-able plan to achieve physical wealth, a plan that you can stick to because its based on your physical condition and your lifestyle, your habits and your preferences.

Break It Down

            Comparing your baseline to your ideal state of physical wealth (your vision of the best shape of your life) can feel overwhelming.  Long-term goals are called such because they take a long time to achieve.  For instance, if your goal is to lose twenty pounds it can take a while maybe as long as six months or possibly longer before you have lost that weight and feel successful.  After all, to lose 20 pounds, you would need to create a deficit of 70,000 calories, and that takes time.  There are no quick-fix solutions to the enduring gains of real physical wealth.  It takes time and energy to get where you want to go.  To bridge the gap from here to there, break the journey down into measurable, achievable, short-term goals that allow you to feel successful every day. 

            Using your fitness journal, set as many three-month goals as you think you are able to achieve.  Then break those down into weekly goals, charting your fitness routines on a daily basis.  When setting your goals, keep in mind the measuring stick of challenging-yet-do-able: set goals that are challenging enough to produce results, yet do-able, or realistic, enough that you are likely to achieve them. 

                        To keep you additionally motivated, you can use motivational exercise tools to measure your progress, such as the pedometers, accelerometers, and heart rate monitors.  These monitors allow you to set specific goals and give you instant feedback about the effectiveness of your efforts. 

Sample Plan from Baseline to Goal

            The following sample plan will show you how to move from your baseline measurement to setting your three-month goals.  Below each area, write your own baseline and goals.

Sample Baseline

This is your measurement of where you are starting from:

  • I am exercising (walking) once per week for 25 minutes burning 175 calories per session.
  • I am burning an average of 300 calories per day (not including exercise) my job is somewhat sedentary so this is not difficult for me and I notice that on the days I am the least active, I am more tired.
  • My heart rate range is 115-125 beats per minute during my walk which feels easy/moderate.
  • I eat only one fruit/vegetable per day. 
  • I skip breakfast most weekdays, which makes me ravenous at lunch and I over-eat.
  • I eat cookies in the evening when Im stressed this tends to happen Monday through Thursday when my workdays are most hectic.

My Baseline:

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Sample Three-month Goals

This is a breakdown of your long-term goals into short-term goals:

  • I will exercise three times per week; burn 800 exercise calories per week.
  • I will increase daily activity by 15% (from 300 calories to 345 calories per day).  Based on my current level of inactivity and the options I have for becoming more active (parking far away, taking the stairs at the office) I think this goal is do-able.
  • I will eat breakfast at least three weekday mornings to prevent being ravenous at lunch.
  • I will increase my fruit and vegetable intake to three servings per day.
  • Instead of reaching for food when stressed at night, I will read a favorite novel, call a friend I want to catch up with, fix a cup of interesting herbal tea, or soak in the hot-tub.

My Three-month Goals:

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            Be sure to congratulate yourself for the progress you make along the way, and seriously consider giving yourself a reward.  People often find it motivating to hold out a prize for themselves when they achieve their short-term goals, ranging from a new outfit or book to a spa treatment or evening out.  Additional motivation never hurts!  Remember, you deserve at least a pat on the back from yourself youve set and achieved important goals.  Youre moving along the pathway to physical wealth!