Getting what you want out of exercise, set some good goals

Have you decided to Get Up and Go and make exercise a part of your daily life? It’s helpful to have a goal. What is a goal, anyway? “A goal is, very simply, something you want,” says Elizabeth Verdick, author of Making Every Day Count and See You Later, Procrastinator. But there’s more, she adds. “A goal is something you have to be willing to work for. It may take you days, weeks, months, or years to achieve. Each person’s goal is very personal, very individual. The important thing is-your goals need to hold meaning for you.”

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HOW DO I SET A GOAL?

Verdick says thinking about SPAM can help with goal-setting. No, not the canned meat–she uses the term to stand for the words specific, positive, active, and manageable. Those are all qualities of good goals. You can reach any goal by working toward it step by step. Verdick suggests imagining a ladder, with rungs that you’ll climb to the top. “Draw a ladder where each rung is a step toward your goal,” she says. “Identify the first step you need to take, and put it on the bottom rung-then go upward from there. Keep climbing and don’t give up.”

HOW DO I REACH MY GOAL?

Write down your goal, and post it where you can see it. “Put it on your mirror, in your notebooks, on your calendar, on a family bulletin board, or any other place you’re likely to see it throughout the day,” Verdick says. Another way to make sure you stay on track is to share your goal with other people, and ask them to cheer you on. If you would rather not share, you can cheer yourself on!

CELEBRATION TIME!

Once you reach your goal, don’t forget to celebrate! “When you meet that goal, give yourself more than a pat on the back,” Verdick says. “Make a special family dinner, have a party, buy yourself something you’ve been saving up for … do anything that feels like a celebration to you.”

Try This …

Run a road race.

Interested in running a road race? You can do it! How you prepare will depend on how fit you are already and how good a runner you are, says Carol Goodrow, founding editor of KidsRunning.com, a Runner’s World magazine Web site. Goodrow says you (yes, you!) can work toward a 5-kilometer (3.2-mile) road race in 10 weeks.

“If you are a couch potato, start going on walks-when you can walk a half mile comfortably, start adding a little bit of jogging midway,” Goodrow explains. “Every week you can increase a little distance and do a little more running and a little less walking.” Right before the race, you should feel comfortable jogging and walking for 45 minutes straight.

Active already? Goodrow advises starting by jogging at your current level of comfort and increasing your distance a little each week (no more than 10 percent per week, she warns). Try running on hills, and mix in some short sprints. By the time race day arrives, you should feel comfortable running 3 miles at a time.

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