BlogHer, Fitness

Does Having Unrealistic Expectations Keep You From Achieving Your Goals?

(This is cross-posted at BlogHer.)

If you’ve ever made fitness goals and looked for advice on how to keep them, you’ve undoubtedly seen the phrase “Set realistic expectations.” The problem is, doesn’t it sort of cause your eyes to glaze over? That’s what happens to me when I read it. When we hear the same advice over and over, and we already know it’s true, and we take it for granted, there’s no way it can continue to have the same impact it once did.

When it comes to making changes in our fitness routine — whether the goal is to lose weight, get stronger, lose inches, or all of the above — unless we’ve undertaken some kind of hard-core training regimen, there’s no way we’re going to see drastic results simply because we’ve been eating a little less and moving a little more. This is why, just a little over a month into the new year, people are already starting to loosen up a bit on those original fitness goals.

The thing is, for most people in most everyday situations, there’s no such thing as quick results. A recent New York Times article spoke to that fact:

“To make a change in how you look, you are talking about a significant period of training,” [kinesiology professor] Dr. Kraemer said. “In our studies it takes six months to a year.” And, he added, that is with regular strength-training workouts, using the appropriate weights and with a carefully designed individualized program. “That is what the reality is,” he said.

If you give up too soon, you’re doing yourself a disservice. After all, if results were so easy to accomplish, wouldn’t everyone be doing it? We’d all walk around looking like the models on the covers of fitness magazines — six-pack abs, taut thighs, and perfectly toned arms. But where’s the glory in easy achievement? At least the people who successfully reach their fitness goals can look back on the long hours spent in a gym, or running on a sidewalk, or doing whatever activity they choose, and know they earned their results.

In addition to unrealistic expectations, there’s also the opposite problem: being overly realistic. This tends to be my problem. What I mean is, since I’m pretty happy with how things are right now, it’s easier to talk myself out of making the extra effort required to reach a higher fitness level. A good example is #11 on my 101 Things list: Do at least 1 unassisted pull-up.

Because I look at things so realistically, my mind rationalizes this goal might not be a possibility — and it doesn’t help when I read stuff online about how females have less upper-body strength than men, and most of us will never be able to pull up our body weight (or will have to work a lot harder at it). I’ve even had former military-men tell me that while males have to perform a certain number of pull-ups to meet physical requirements, females are judged on how long they’re able to maintain a flexed-arm hang.

In my case, what I need to do is stop being so realistic (otherwise known as “talking myself out of something that seems difficult to accomplish”). Because you see, when I’ve just about reached the point where I can tell myself I don’t really need to perform a pull-up, someone comes along and tells me to get over myself already. Of course I can. Stop making excuses.

I’ve learned if you want to see results, you have to do it yourself. No matter what you use as your motivation, you’re the one who has to do the work, and you have to do it for yourself — not anyone else.

How are you guys doing? Are you achieving the goals you set in January? What are your stumbling blocks?

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