Thursday, February 21, 2013

Setting Reasonable Goals

A few months ago I started getting really enthusiastic about outdoor running.  It probably had something to do with the fact that I moved from one of the rainiest places on earth (Seattle), to one of the sunniest (San Diego).  I was running between 6-10 miles every other day.  Lately, I have watched that number slip down to about 4-6 miles two times per week.  I have now replaced the longer runs with other endurance exercises.  Even though I am exercising an equal amount, I still feel guilty for cutting down my running times.  I feel weak for only running 5 miles at a time, which I know is ridiculous because just a few years ago I could barely run a single mile.

Considering the current trends in fitness, it is easy for me to see why I have felt such pressure to push myself.  It seems like everyone is under the impression that you have to perform some military style exercise in order to lose weight and stay in shape.  When I started exercising, gyms were filling their schedules with aerobics, yoga and pilates classes.  Now, every gym has their own form of a “boot camp” or “cross fit” class.  I imagine the world was an easier place when everyone was “Sweatin to the Oldies” with Richard Simmons, instead of doing “Insanity” with Shaun T. or Tony Horton’s “P90X”.

I have no problem with “boot camp” style training, in fact, I practice this kind of training several times a week.  I do wonder, however, if the current fitness climate is creating too much pressure to be super fit and causing us to create unrealistic goals for ourselves.  When I first started running, I wasn’t training for anything.  I just wanted to make it to the end of the block.  Seriously.  Now, it seems like everyone thinks they need to be training for a marathon in order to be a “runner”.  The expectations we are setting for ourselves are getting alarmingly high. Despite what you may hear on TV, getting washboard abs in 60 days is just not a reasonable goal for the average person.  We cannot all drop weight like they do on the Biggest Loser.

Setting reasonable goals is a very important aspect of weight loss.  There is nothing more motivating than achieving a goal. On the other hand, failing to meet goals/expectations is one of the things most likely to cause us to give up.  That is why it is so important to create specific, small and realistic goals along the way.  The overall goal is to lose weight and be healthy, but it is the small goals along the way that will add up to get you there.

Here are some examples of specific, small and realistic goals:

  • I am going to cook at home at least 5 nights of the week.
  • I am going to run for 10 minutes without stopping within the next month
  • I am going to add an additional day of exercise per week
  • I am going to stop “pinning” recipes for cheesecake on

Here are some examples of goals that may be unrealistic:

  • I am going to lose 20 lbs before my vacation next month
  • I am going to go from couch to marathon by this spring
  • I am going to completely give up candy
  • I am going to switch immediately to a fat-free, carb-free, wheat-free,
The last thing we want to do is to set ourselves up for failure. A good goal can be very empowering, as long as it is truly reachable!


  1. Wow, well said! When I first started losing weight, I kept thinking, "This isn't happening as fast as it should be," likely because my head was filled with unrealistic numbers and goals. I kept at it, however, and sure enough, over the course of 4 months I lost 40 lbs! Small, realistic exercise and eating goals are definitely key! Thanks for the pep talk. :)

    1. Congratulations, Becky! That is an amazing accomplishment :). You are right, the beginning is the most frustrating part. In today's world we tend to expect instant results, and think that we are failing if we don't see them. Most people fall off the wagon when they don't see the quick results they were hoping for, good for you for hanging in there!

  2. You know Jocelyn, whenever I read your post there is this calm serenity to it. I absolutely love it. Its so nice to read a weight lose/ fitness blog and not have crazy regimented diet and workouts being thrown at you.

    Sometime its so hard to know what to do especially when one is being thrown three different approaches to get to one goal- being healthy and happy. But through your blog I learned small changes make a difference in the end. I

    I just started jogging/running but as of late I have been going to the gym sporadically. I'm having hard time with time management being undergrad in college. But when I do jog mainly 4.5 mph on the treadmill I noticed I get headaches an hour or so later. Do you have any idea why? Is it because I'm not doing it in a semi regular schedule or is it because I increased the speed from when I first started?

    1. Thank you so much for the nice complements! I try to make weight loss as stress-free as possible. If we try to fit into a strict fitness/diet mold we will never succeed.

      Yes, finding time to exercise can be difficult. Remember, simply staying active in your daily life (walking to class) is just as important as your time at the gym. I am not a personal trainer, or medical professional, but I could make a guess that your headaches are do to dehydration. Are you drinking extra water during and after your runs? It may be something that goes away over time. If not, I would ask a doctor on your college campus. They might have some more suggestions.

      I hope that you continue reading, and please feel free to ask questions whenever you like :).