The Importance of a Goal at the Gym

A wise man once said, “There is no achievement without goals.”  While we all know that this is true in our professional lives, how many of us apply this simple principal to the gym?

The truth is, many of us don’t.  However, the research supports making goals when initiating a health behavior change (aka: when starting a new gym routine).  Studies show that individuals who have specific and measurable goals and keep track of their progress are more successful in maintaining a healthy weight.

Once you focus on a few goals, it will help to focus your individual exercise routine (instead of just copying what you see other people do at the gym!).  For example, if your goal is to run a marathon….you will have to build up your cardiovascular endurance to last for 26.2 miles.  If your goal is to lose five pounds, you will need to set up a calorie deficit with diet and exercise.  If your goal is to get ready for golf, you will want to work on improving your core strength and increasing your rotational power.

What makes a good goal at the gym?

  1. Goals must be specific. Think about something that you want to accomplish in the next year.  Do you want to get back to tennis, golf, skiing, swimming, running?  Do you want to lose weight?  Do you want to increase your endurance to have more energy in the day?  Do you want to be able to lift your granddaughter without low back pain?  Do you want to have more flexibility in your legs?  This will influence the types of exercises that you will choose.
  2. Goals must be measurable.  Pick a certain aspect of your goal which you can measure.  Do you want to be able to ski 2 days in a row without leg pain?  Do you want to be able to play 3 sets of tennis without being tired?  Do you want to be able to lift your 30 pound granddaughter?  Do you want to lose 15 pounds?  This will help you to see if you are being successful in accomplishing your goals, or if you need to alter your tactics.
  3. Goals must be set for a certain amount of time.  How soon do you want to accomplish your goal?  A goal that is for the end of this month is much more time sensitive than one that you are getting ready for in the next year.

Once you have these three aspects of your goal set, you are ready to attack your gym program with more focus and precision.  Now you can focus your activity at the gym on value added exercises.  You can be more effective with more time.

So think to yourself: what is the goal of your exercise at the gym?  What are you trying to achieve?  Is it specific, measurable, and in a certain time frame?  And are the exercises that you are performing at the gym helping you to achieve your goals?

Stay tuned to the next few posts where we will specifically address how you can achieve some of the most common goals at the gym!

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Diana grew up in a small suburb north of Boston. She received her clinical doctorate degree in Physical Therapy at Boston University in 2006. Diana started practicing as a physical therapist at Massachusetts General Hospital. While at MGH, she developed a specialty in the evaluation and treatment of complex lumbopelvic dysfunction. Diana is currently practicing at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston where she is the Orthopedic Clinical Supervisor of the Spine program. She is presently a Boston resident and her interests outside physical therapy include cooking, walking on the Esplanade, and international travel.

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