Aim Low. It’s the opposite of what your college graduation speaker said to you. It’s the opposite of what most would assume a fitness instructor would say. But, this philosophy is the essence of my “ease into exercise” philosophy.
I tell all of my new-to-exercise clients to AIM LOW. Here’s why:
When you AIM LOW, first off you are aiming. You are goal-setting! Some folks swear they have an allergic reaction to goal-setting, but I have never actually seen anyone break out in hives. Goal-setting might be new to you, but new can be good, and–before you click away to different article—let me remind you that right after the “AIM” part is “LOW” that makes all of this very do-able, very non-threatening. “LOW” is the melted cheese on the “AIM” broccoli.
I have historically had a problem setting New Year’s resolution-type goals: I didn’t want to set a resolution, not be able to fulfill it, and then feel like a failure. No one wants to feel like a failure! I’ve failed at learning Mandarin, writing with my left hand…the list goes on. So my solution for many, many years was to not set goals. I was happy to give up setting goals to avoid failing. Then one day I woke up and realized that I wasn’t moving forward in life. My goals needed to be more manageable in order for me to even think about reaching them.
So, let’s take baby steps to achieve big things.
When a very busy new client (I’ll call him Joe) came to me and said “I haven’t been working out, but I want to start working out five days a week for an hour each day.” I said, “hold those horses.”
How realistic is it to go from nothing to five days a week? Not very. Yes, I know that the American Heart Association recommends “30 minutes, five days a week of moderate to vigorous activity.” But for some people that have had no experience with working out, that’s actually like climbing Mt. Everest. I talked to Joe about how easy it might be to carve time in his schedule for activity. How difficult is it for him to get to a gym? Can he work out at home?
Because of his busy schedule, I suggested he pare his goal way back and work his way into it. Start with getting off the subway a stop or two early and walking the extra distance to work one day a week, and I could slice the normal hour long training session in half and he could train with me twice during the week for a half an hour each time.
Try aiming low to start. Work on establishing first ONE or TWO days a week of 30 min of activity, OR two to three days a week of only 10-15 minutes of activity.
If you aim so low that doing that task is almost impossible to avoid, you are setting yourself up for success and taking the first step toward creating new, good habits (and, bonus, tuning into the positive reinforcement sensation that achieving something can do for you). When you achieve even a low goal, you’ve proven to yourself that you can at least achieve a goal. You can walk around with a gold medal of sorts that proves that you are a winner. You’ve put into motion a habit (being active!) that once solidly set in place, will allow you to later (this is KEY!) revisit that goal to adjust to a new level of what’s possible: being active more days a week, or for a longer duration.
I remind new clients, that while these “low goals” might seem insignificant, they are still several times more than what they were previously doing. Let the five days a week of 30 min (or the one hour workout) be something that you build up to.
Very busy Joe ended up deciding to start with two days of 30 minutes training with me. Once he found his rhythm with that, he added the partial walk to work (for drivers, you can park further away and walk in), and he built up from there. Four years later, he’s now active most every day, and has worked his way into it, injury free.
Remember, every goal can be VERY achievable, or it can be some daunting, looming, Everest that threatens to rip out your lungs and leave you sweating blood and clutching to life-support with the last bit of strength in your forefinger. Which sounds better?
Aim low to start, after a few minor victories you’ll be on the road to achieving bigger things.