For people with chronic illness the thought of setting fitness goals and working out can seem like a daunting task. Of course we all have the same struggles as everyone else when it comes to fitness goals, but these are compounded with hurdles from exhaustion, weakness, and mobility constraints. The very reasons that we need have fitness goals are the things that can often keep us from creating a workable plan.
Why Should You Be Setting Fitness Goals?
Exercise intolerance is a common symptom of fibromyalgia. But that doesn’t mean that people with chronic illness shouldn’t strive to be as fit as they can. While you can use SMART planning for big fitness goals, like running a marathon, you can also use it as a way to accomplish small things that will improve your everyday life. As a fibromyalgia fighter, just having the endurance to get through the grocery store or clean my house can seem as daunting as running a marathon. Making a plan to reach my goals (and more importantly sticking to that plan) helps to ensure I don’t push myself too hard, to soon, and trigger a flare.
I am a firm believer that healthy, ambulatory people should be able to walk a 5K (3.1 miles). There have been times in my life that I could do this, and many times that I couldn’t. Every time I have come out of a bad period with my health where I couldn’t exert myself for one reason or another, walking a 5K becomes my first fitness goal. I’m not very fast, way way at the back of the pack, but eventually I get there.
What Is A SMART Goal?
SMART is a mnemonic acronym, that gives names to the criteria necessary to create actionable goals. It’s a method to help people understand what their goals are, and most of all to realize when they have been completed, by breaking it down into smaller concepts. SMART has been used in the business community since the early 1980s, and the words used in the acronym have changed depending on who was writing them. You can use SMART to set any type of life goal, fitness being just one.
So what does SMART Stand for? Read on…
Rather than simply saying, “I’m going to exercise more,” or “I’m going to lose weight,” a SMART plan is one that sets a very specific goal.
My SMART Plan: Since I haven’t done anything physical fitness related since February, my current goal is to walk a 5K, in under and hour, before July.
Fitness goals tend to be easy to measure, but you should remember that you don’t have to use the same measurement every day. Somedays you might go father, others you might be faster, or maybe suddenly you recover more easily from what used to be a hard workout; all these things are measurable signifiers that you are moving forward towards your goal. Be sure to keep a record of each workout so that you can see how much you improve.
My SMART Plan: My first step in measuring my success in reaching my goal will be to create a training plan. I like to keep both my plan, and the log of how I did in each workout in the same spreadsheet so I can easily see my improvements. I’ve already started back to the gym, so I need to get working on a new training plan ASAP.
Set reasonable goals. Start your journey by researching what is safe and healthy for you. Before I began a half marathon training plan, I made a trip to see my care team so they could clear me medically. It is especially important for people with chronic illness, like me, to set small goals more often, so that we don’t get discouraged when we have days that our bodies don’t cooperate.
My SMART Plan: My “big goal” right now is to lose weight, but that’s a big nebulous thing for me. Starting small, such as focusing on the basics of fitness, and being able to walk a 5K is an attainable way for me to achieve success. Success with the mini goals keeps me motivated, and excited about moving on to greater goals later.
Fibro patients know better than anyone that you need to make everything you do during the day count. Energy is precious and we just can’t waist time with setting goals for things that don’t really matter. Make sure that the goals you set are relevant to your life, and how you want to live it.
My SMART Plan: My 5K goal is relevant to me because I need to lose some weight if I want to get a mobility service dog. Being able to exercise without over stressing my body is going to set me up for success in a weight loss plan.
Every goal needs a target date for the finish line. However when it comes to setting fitness goals it’s also a good idea to include a weekly check-in with yourself to be sure you are making progress. It’s easier to commit to a goal and reach it, if you do it for a set amount of time.
My SMART Plan: I want to take it pretty easy working up to my 5K goal, and I think 8 weeks should be fairly good for me. This will let me ramp up a half a mile every two weeks which I know is a reasonable pace I have had success with before. I’ll be keeping a log of each work out and doing a weekly wrap-up post to stay accountable.
Do SMART Goals Work?
Well, I think they do. I spent 2017 training for the 10th Anniversary runDisney Princess Half Marathon. Managing my chronic illness throughout the process was challenging, and threw me curve balls at every turn, but having a SMART plan really did help me overall. The most important to me was having many small measurable goals to reach on my way to the main goal. My best advice when trying to accomplish a fitness goal is to celebrate all the milestones along the way. Head on over to Walt Disney World for Grown-ups to read my runDisney story.
Now that you know how to do it, it’s time to get planning! What goals do you think you can use the SMART method with? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.