Striving to succeed in September

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photoSherri McMillan, owner of Northwest Personal Training.

September is a very busy time in the fitness industry, second only to New Year's resolutions. If you've set some aggressive fitness goals, it's probably a good idea to set up some realistic expectations so you stay on track. Here's some advice for some of the common goals.

Weight loss: Summer barbecues and treats can tend to pack on a few extra pounds, encouraging many to feel ready to get back into or start a new fitness program in the fall. Regardless of whether your goal is to lose 10 or 150 pounds, you can approach this aspiration in a more positive fashion.

When a client consults with us and weight loss is their primary goal, we immediately encourage them to set goals that are more action-oriented instead of outcome-oriented. Weight loss is the end result, and unfortunately, it is often an outcome that is out of our direct control. For example, perhaps your goal is to lose 10 pounds, but if you gained four pounds of muscle and lost six pounds of fat, you would feel like a failure even though you would have experienced very positive changes. Or what if your body is responding a little more slowly to your exercise sessions, so you get discouraged by the slow weight loss and give up on your program.

It is far better to focus your goals on something you have immediate control over. For example, instead of suggesting that you'll lose one pound this week, instead, decide that you'll work out five times or drink eight glasses of water. Or you may want to consider setting an external goal such as completing a 5K fun run, half marathon or challenging hike. This approach is much more positive and takes the focus away from a negative body image.

Exercise: Be sure not to overcommit to an exercise program. If you've had a difficult time working out in the past, it's in your best interest to be conservative. For example, if you decide you're going to start exercising five days per week, you may achieve this goal in the first few weeks. But as life catches up, you may find yourself skipping workouts. And at the end of a week, you may have completed only three or four workouts. But three or four workouts is fabulous and a heck of a lot better than you were doing before. But you may still feel like a failure because you didn't hit five.

Be realistic. Set a goal that you know you can achieve, and this will give you the momentum to continue forward. Remember, consistency is the key.

Nutrition: It's easy after you've overindulged to decide you're never going to eat a hamburger or ice cream again. But how long do you think that's going to last?

Soon the memories of over-eating fade and cravings for favorite goodies will return. Most nutritionists and personal trainers eat chocolate and other treats. So how do you expect to forever remove them from your diet? In order to succeed, you've really got to eliminate the all-or-nothing approach. Decide you'll only drink a glass of wine with dinner three nights a week instead of seven. Or decide you'll have two free days each week to allow yourself some of your favorites. Set yourself up for success.

With any goal, remember that if you believe you can achieve something, you will. The power to aspire to great things happens first in the mind. Be prepared to regularly assess goals and modify actions if needed.

Expect struggles and obstacles and decide beforehand how you'll overcome them. If you do get off track, the key to success is learning from the experience and getting right back en route as quickly as possible. Good luck and stay tuned next week, when I give you some more tips.

Sherri McMillan, M.Sc. is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver. She can be reached at www.nwPersonalTraining.com or www.ShapeupwithSherri.com.