Measuring our progress and planning ahead - as seen in Membership Matters, June 2015 edition (Diabetes Australia Victoria) author Nicole French
Wow, who can believe that it is June already? What a great opportunity to stop and reflect on the first half of the year and to start setting some physical activity goals for the next six months.
A big part of setting future goals is to take a moment, look in our own rear view mirror and reflect on our progress to date. In this month’s blog, we are going focus on some user friendly ways to measure your progress towards your goals and revisit the idea of SMART goal setting to help you keep on track. Let’s start off with measuring your progress.
Measuring Progress – Where to Begin
There are some great ways to measure progress towards goals, some will be using a measuring tool like a stop watch or tape measure and others will be thinking about the exertion or how you feel whilst you are exercising. Below are some suggestions for how you can measure fitness, muscular strength and endurance, balance and weight loss:
- Counting the number of laps you can swim without having to take a break.
- Taking note of the amount of rest breaks you used to take during exercise and compare them to what you need now - maybe you don't need a rest break at all.
- Monitor the time it takes you to complete your usual walk - can you reach your destination in a quicker time or is it about the same.
- Measuring your heart rate whilst you are exercising by using a heart rate monitor or taking it manually at your neck or wrist. If your heart isn't beating as quickly as it once did and you are not breathing as hard, this is a good indication that your fitness has improved.
- Thinking about how many hills, steps and higher intensity bouts of walking or jogging you might now be integrating into your cardiovascular training routine that you weren't before.
For muscular strength and endurance, try:
- Counting the number of times you can sit and stand from a chair in 30 seconds.
- Monitoring the resistance of the weights you are using.
- Noting the number of repetitions and sets of exercises that you can do now compared to before.
- Taking note of the colour of the Theraband you are using (this will indicate the resistance/strength of the band). Did you change the band recently because the exercise started to feel too easy?
For balance, try:
- Timing how long you can stand with your feet together, then try this again standing on a pillow or piece of foam.
- Counting the number of times you can tap each foot on a step in 15 seconds.
- Timing how long you can stand on one leg.
For weight loss, try:
- Thinking about how your clothes fit you now. Are your jeans looser than before and are your shirt buttons easier to do up?
- Measuring you waist with a measuring tape. Having a number value can be great because you can write it down and objectively track change. To improve accuracy of the measure, take note of a landmark (e.g. belly button) so that you can measure in the same place each time.
- Using a set of scales. Having a value that you are familiar with (kg's or lbs') may assist you to keep on track. Do be mindful that you will experience daily fluctuations with weight and that most scales are not able to take into consideration levels of hydration or differentiate between muscle and fat. Also try to use the same scales each time for consistency of the measure.
It is also important to think about what other benefits your exercise is providing you with. These may not have been a part of your initial goal setting, but may help you set future goals. Ask yourself:
- Has my quality of sleep improved?
- Do I have more energy throughout the day?
- Am I feeling more positive?
SMART Goal Setting – How and Why
Once you have looked at measuring your progress, you will be ready to look at setting some goals. The best way to set a goal is to look at the principle of SMART goal setting. We initially looked at this concept in the November 2014 blog. SMART goals are goals that are:
- Specific This is the who, what, when, where, and how of your goal.
- Measurable How will you measure you goal? If there is not a clear measure in place, how will you know if you've reached it?
- Achievable If you really want to set yourself up for success, the goals should be something you can practically attain.
- Realistic Something that you are willing and able to work towards. This doesn't mean you can't set the bar high.
- Timely Your goal(s) should have a specific time-line; a date by which you want to achieve them. This will motivate you to get started.
This may be a simple concept, but simple doesn’t always mean easy. To practice your goal setting skills, why not try to workshop how you could improve the following Non SMART goal – ‘I want to get healthy’. After you have tried this, start planning your own. Another little tip, share your goals with others to increase your accountability.
Being able to measure your success and set SMART goals is a great way of setting yourself up to improve your health and wellbeing and the best part is, you are in the driver’s seat. It is important to remember that any progress towards your goals is something positive, you may not achieve all that you want the first time around, but like any good marathon (or tortoise and hare race) it is those that plan, pace and focus that will achieve their goal in the end. And if you feel like sometimes you are taking two steps forward and then one step back, keep in mind that you are still one step in front.