How to Take Your Fitness Goals to the Next Level

Okay so I want to climb more. But what does that mean?

While I was climbing this week, I realized that I needed to make my goal of climbing more even more specific in order to make that goal attainable. I realized, once I specified my goal, that I needed a little planning in order to make it happen.

Chapter One

Here is how to meet your 2018 fitness goals:

  1. Get specific!
    “I want to get more into running,” leaves a lot of room to… not actually get into running. Try making your goal measurable, like “I want to run 3 times a week,” or “I want to run a marathon in August,” instead. My climbing goal: I want to learn to lead climb (and then do it outside with my sister!)
  2. Break it down.
    I can’t learn to lead climb until I am can climb harder levels. In order to learn to lead, I need to climb 5.10s without needing to rest every 2 seconds. If you want to run a marathon, maybe you need smaller time goals. “By March I will run a 5k,” or “I will run 3 hours a week.”
  3. Set Goals
    Setting small goals along the way allows you to feed off of the positive energy that comes from reaching a new milestone. This is also a crucial step in maintaining and continuing your practice. If you want to continue your exercise longterm, set yourself small forward-reaching goals every few months. My current climbing goals include completing a set of full pull-ups (I met my goal of doing one whole pull-up!!!) and climbing my first V3.
  4. Get Creative
    It is easy to stagnate in any practice. In order to develop alternative muscles and keep it interesting, alternate your training. If you are doing something that is primarily cardio, add strength training. If you are doing something strength based, through in running days, or a dance cardio class to keep it interesting!
  5. Gear Up
    Sometimes you can’t take it to the next level until you get proper equipment. These leggings and this pair of shoes changed the game and took my training to the next level by increasing my flexibility and stability. Not having to adjust my clothing all the time allows me to focus on my workout without interruption or excuse.
  6. Commit time
    I feel like one of the most important steps for me to accomplish my fitness goals is for me to block out every day of the week that I need to exercise, and what I need to do on those days. It is equally important to find a rhythm that works for you. If you need consistency above all in order to meet your goal, then go all out and don’t make compromises. If you are worried about burnout, plan for 3 days a week with a fun alternative workout thrown in there. Commit that time and don’t cancel plans with yourself.
  7. Plan out every second!
    Once you have committed to the days you will workout, plan out every tiny detail of those sessions. Have an overarching plan, and a step-by-step or goal-based process for the actual sessions. Recently, I had a session planned that started with a strength based warm-up and was followed by a strict endurance builder. If something didn’t work right one day, sit down and adjust your plan for next time. Thoughtful planning and reflection will keep you committed to your goals, and help keep your goals attainable.
  8. Leave room for fun
    Enjoy your workouts! Invite friends on your run or to your class, add party music one day, and have some fun day instead of zero days- go to the gym anyway, but try new things. All of these little celebrations will prevent burnout.
  9. Be accountable
    SET THE DATE. Your running a marathon? Finally doing 10 pull-ups! You are going to try competitive figure skating??! Invite your friends! “Hello everybody. On August 22nd, I will complete 10 pull-ups at the gym. You are all invited to view the pull-ups and celebrate with drinks after!” Make it into a silly/fun/cool event. A group of women I climb with recently got together to make posters and cheer on a friend running the marathon. What a cool way to support each other and spend time together.
  10. Keep setting goals
    After you meet your BIG goal, it is hard to keep going. As you approach your big goal, plan your next moves. The week before the marathon, maybe you know you need a full 2 weeks of rest. Fine, plan that, but plan your first day back. What will you do to get back into it and continue to enjoy it? Be ready to keep the momentum! And plan your NEXT goal. If the marathon felt like a lot, scale it back and do a fun run somewhere. If you’re hooked, try to best your time and qualify for a different city. Maybe you like the variety of a triathlon! Keep pushing yourself to get out and get moving.
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What Purchase Will Help You Achieve Your Resolution?

Last year I had a tiny resolution of cutting back plastic waste- specifically, get really good at not using plastic bags. Conveniently, Chicago implemented a 7 cent bag tax as soon as a chose this resolution, so I could really justify my investment in Baggus. I bought 3 small bags, gifted one, and bought a large bag. If I forgot my bag, I bought a new one and planted it in my car or by the door. And we probably used plastic bags a hundred times less than we did in 2016.

I have been taking group physical training lately, and feeling stronger with every week. I was having trouble holding my feet still while holding planks, and I was finally sick of slipping and struggling. If my feet slip every 10 seconds, how can I hold a two minute plank? Enter: Adidas Crazy Trainers. I am so stable and can feel my strength. I was worried that once my excuse of slippery feet went away, I would discover that I couldn’t hold these poses, but was surprised to discover that I feel stronger and feel like I could hold these moves all day.

What purchases help you accomplish your goals? Is it a new cookbook? Leggings that don’t pull or tear during your workout? A nice laptop case or new backpack to make it easier to get to the coffee shop and work?

Reflections and Intentions

Reflections
-I forgot my keys. It’s definitely Monday.
-I went rock climbing outside  !!!!!!
-I am rectified in CPR.

Intentions
-meet my blog goals. Sorry for the inconsistency, guys!

-My Climb Like a Girl program is almost over. I need to set a new personal challenge.

Intended
-Climb a V2 at the rock wall
-I’m climbing outside and camping this weekend!
-Get more sleep. (Tuesday night maybe?)
-Do more things that aren’t Netflix. Bike. Play piano. Play a long game of chess.

Reflections and Intentions

Reflections
-I’m really tired.
-Spent precious time with my family.
-Spent a lovely Sunday afternoon watching my boyfriend play with the Elgin Symphony.
-Trained hard at the rock wall and had healthy meals planned in advance (food diary coming soon!) and watched the number on the scale go down.

Intentions
-Climb a V2 at the rock wall
-I’m climbing outside and camping this weekend!
-Get more sleep. (Tuesday night maybe?)
-Do more things that aren’t Netflix. Bike. Play piano. Play a long game of chess.

Intended
-Get my car fixed for significantly less than the car is worth (goodbye, Midas. It’s over.)
-Adjust work/life balance. The first week of school had me there two hours early and two hours late most days. I am paid for a 40 hour week, not 60. Figure out how to get it all done efficiently. Lists. Lots of lists.
-Visit my family.
-Keep working on that side hustle. Finally hang advertisement for private lessons.
-Do all of my food prep at the beginning of the week!
-Don’t purchase anything except groceries and maybe one more pair of leggings for my climbing training
-Get consistent with the blog!

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Game Changing Workout Gear

In the spirit of resiliency, I am trying many new hobbies and trying to stay extremely active. Here are some workout accessories for an active lifestyle.

Biking

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Wall Mount
Easy access, wall art, and home security for your bicycle.

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Phone Bracket
From here you can operate maps and track your speed and distance.

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Stationary Adaptor
So that you can bike and watch tv at the same time!!! Very good for winter exercise.

Running/ Walking/ Hiking

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I love my Allbirds and I love their versatility. They make me feel lighter and bouncier!

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The Gokey is a really convenient way to hold your key while running. I have lost my keys out of my shorts key pocket or off my shoelace before. This would have been very handy!
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Everest Fanny Pack
Affordable and in like 20 different colors! I am sold on the classic Everest fanny pack, and I order one in a new color whenever the need arises. (I actually wear one while I teach, to keep my emergency radio and student rewards accessible!)

 

Accessories

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Foam Roller
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Resistance Band Rainbow Set
Life Hack!!!! If you can’t do a full pull-up, you can attach a resistance band to the bar, place one foot inside of the resistance band, and go! It is amazing. I am using this trick to try and achieve one pull-up by the end of my four week rock climbing training session!

Workout Leggings

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Stirrup Leggings
Perfect for protecting ankles from the cold while biking, running, or keeping pants in place during yoga.

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Oxblood Mesh Leggings
Now that I am doing all sorts of new exercises like biking and rock climbing, I feel I need some variety in my workout clothes. I also feel like quality and durability is increasingly important, as these activities involve more friction.

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Hunter Leggings
A perfect shade of green. I could live in these on a camping/ hiking trip, for sure.

Learning to Ride a Bike

I learned how to bike when I was really young. Somewhere between the ages of 5 and 7 if I had to guess. It is curious, actually, that my parents made a point of buying each of us bikes and teaching us to ride. We lived on a busy, narrow road, the kind with ditches on the side and blindman curves throughout. There were certainly no sidewalks or bike paths in that entire side of town. There still aren’t.

The process of learning went like this. I would pedal all over the front yard and pace across the fifteen feet of uneven patio-style sidewalk and zoom and skid down the steep gravel driveway with my training wheels on. At some point, the training wheels were removed and my dad would walk me back and forth on the tiny sidewalk, letting go every once and a while. I have no memory of the actual transition from needing help to riding independently: one minute he was holding on, and then suddenly I could do it on my own.

I do think that is how we remember skills that we learn when we are young. There is no process or technique; we have known how to do this for so long that it is innate. Some people are this way with swimming or playing an instrument. Learning those skills as an adult, though, and practicing at them alongside people who have those skills internalized is intimidating and humbling. I have been thinking about this as we bike along the lakeshore path  in Chicago. Several times a week, we pass a woman in her thirties or forties who wears a bright blue helmet, has a broad and sturdy bike, and moves glacially slow. Her legs push the pedals in a controlled cyclic motion and her hands are firmly planted on the handlebars in the bicycling equivalent of hands on two and ten. We pass her immediately each encounter, but she is never surprised, she just moves methodically ahead, eyes focused on the path ahead of her.

I am sure she just learned how to ride.

Obviously, having not asked her directly, I have no way to truly know her history of biking. Maybe she just keeps her bike on a low low gear? The way she moves, though, with a steady pace and careful balance, I am sure that she is a student driver, if you will.

I have been biking my whole life, and was  still very intimidated to bike on the road to get to lakeshore path, and then equally intimidated to ride along and be passed by speedy “real bikers.” The kind that have those ugly sporty sunglasses on, those alien-shaped helmets and those tight, padded pants. Those guys. I cannot imagine mustering up the same courage if I was new and unsure and all alone but guess what? This woman does that. All the time! She practices with regularity and determination. Color me impressed.

I guess in a way I do that with other things. Practicing my instrument even though I started five years later than the masters and always feel a little behind. Enrolling in a rock climbing training course with real climbers even though I can’t make it up the wall right now. Having conversations about child behavior with parents who are older than me. There is definitely a fake it till you make it confidence requirement for learning and growing in different skill sets.

I think that watching this woman’s focus and determination has given me a fresh inspiration to try new things and to commit to hard things. It is really tempting to withdraw from uncomfortable challenge, but the struggle makes us stronger.

I’ll be sure to wear a helmet.

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Reflections and Intentions

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Image and listpiration from Shutterbean

Reflections
-Survived the first week of school!
-Not only survived, but arrived hours early each day, was consistent with my students, and supported them at their football game over the weekend
-Went climbing… twice!… as pre-training for my training for my upcoming outdoor climb
-Walked and biked and ate kale every day and lost weight

Intentions
-Get my car fixed for significantly less than the car is worth (goodbye, Midas. It’s over.)
-Adjust work/life balance. The first week of school had me there two hours early and two hours late most days. I am paid for a 40 hour week, not 60. Figure out how to get it all done efficiently. Lists. Lots of lists.
-Visit my family.
-Keep working on that side hustle. Finally hang advertisement for private lessons.
-Do all of my food prep at the beginning of the week!
-Don’t purchase anything except groceries and maybe one more pair of leggings for my climbing training
-Get consistent with the blog!

Intended
-Join Brooklyn Boulder’s “Climb Like a Girl” program and enroll in REI’s outdoor climb!
-Figure out my morning exercise. Yoga? Long walks? Biking?
-pick up some side work like coaching, teaching lessons, leading choir… thins I enjoy (peel Lyft stickers off car and switch to cheaper insurance 🙂  )
-stay busy and happy and engaged every day

Strategies for Resilience

I have said before that I think we should make resolutions throughout the year. As I am readjusting to a work schedule, I am quickly reminded of how difficult it is to stay happy and healthy while working full time. Here are some of my strategies for staying active and alert this year, but also in just the coming weeks.

 

Sign up for fitness opportunities that are outside of your comfort zone!
Rock climbing, rowing, paddle boarding, kayaking, biking… whatever! Whatever is new and different and scares you just a little bit. Trust me. It is so good for you to be out of your comfort zone.

Do something alone.
Take a trip. Go downtown just because. Take yourself to dinner and a movie.

What do you love the most? Do that a lot.
For me, that is camping. I vow to camp at least once a month until it is way too cold.

Reconnect with your passions.
I became a music teacher because I love music, but I only play when I have an event coming up. Solutions: schedule an event, join a group, go to jam sessions, etc..

Have a job just for fun.
My boyfriend and I are hanging up posters for giving music lessons, because we get to work one on one with students and make a little extra money in the evenings. In addition to having a pleasant working experience, we are also building a small financial cushion to help during those unpaid summer months or career transitions.

Make new friends. (And keep the old!)
I made exactly one friend in my first year living in Chicago! I also made friendly coworkers, but that’s different. It is amazing how happy and relaxing it is to spend time with another person, and to get out of the house to do something with them. This year I want to continue making friends, and will work harder to visit my friends in Chicago and beyond.

Don’t disconnect.
There are a lot of ways to distance yourself from difficult work. Last year, I became closed off at times. I would avoid calling my family because I didn’t want to share the details of my day or week, and would be quiet and angry when I would get home. I would just sit on the couch fuming for hours! I realize now that I need to take some time to myself, like a 30 minute walk, or listening to upbeat music on the drive home, and then I need to reach out to the people who love me and share my day and listen to theirs! Connect with the people you love.

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Resiliency

Wow, the last day of August. I know officially we have 22 days of summer left, but unofficially today feels like the last day. It is time to go back to school and back to work. It is time to think about money and how much money you can justify spending on warm sweaters and apple cider and how much money you should just put in your retirement account. Maybe I’m the only one who stopped thinking about money by July? Anyway. It is time to get life back in order.

We have had loose themes the last few months, including Nature Week and our Professionals Series. For the month of September, we will feature 1-2 pieces each week about resiliency (I promise, we’ll lighten up in October). This comes as I readjust to my workdays and suck it up and do something I am not at all excited to be doing. Additionally, in my last week of freedom summer break, I was exercising for over an hour every day. Since my first day of full time meetings, I have not exercised on purpose one single time. I am so busy!!! I am going to correct this. Maintaining personal health and happiness requires determination and resiliency.

If you are interested in writing a piece for September, I am accepting pitches on the topic of resiliency. Email your ideas to ofthewonder@gmail.com

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Armed to Exercise

I hate that this is a conversation that has to be had, but women: How do you defend yourselves? A few of my close friends, strong friends who exercise and have taken self-defense and martial arts courses, have shared their personal self-defense tools and tactics with me, and I thought that it was worth passing along. I would also like to hear what makes you feel safe and comfortable, for examples, do you feel safer with a gun around, or less safe? Would you actually be comfortable using a pocket knife as a weapon? I have carried mace in the past, but doubt that I ever would have had it accessible enough to use it in an emergency. That is the magic of these tools.

This kitty keychain can be bought at Walmart, and is simple to use. Running at night? Walking home from the train alone? You already have your keys in your hand, now loop your fingers through the eyes of this cat to strengthen and sharpen your punch.

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Another friend swears by this simple tactical pen shaped  device, which you hold tight in your hand. The metal inside your fist strengthens your punch, but the tip can be used to jab or *gulp* stab the aggressor. She made the point that, while we can’t imagine ourselves gouging out a persons eye, that if that adrenaline kicks in and we are in a life-threatening situation, it is nice to know that you have the option? 31CO6IfmrwL._SL250_.jpg

This seems totally crazy reading these words about getting captured or having to stab someone… but every woman has felt uneasy walking home alone, and knows that queasy feeling, a sense that you might not be safe. These small tools are enough to bring confidence that if needed, you can get away and seek security and safety.

The only way that any of these devices work is if you have them in your hand at the moment you need them. The same goes for pepper spray. So be sure that if you rely on any of these, you keep them on your keys or just in your hand whenever you may possibly need to use them.

 

Related: Beginner to Badass

Unrelated:  How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep