The secret to achieving your fitness goals – by a top PT

PT Ashleigh Feltham. Photo: Shaun Anthony
Fitness First personal trainer and group fitness instructor Ashleigh Feltham points to the strategies that will make any beginner succeed in the gym or running track.

As both a personal trainer and group fitness instructor with 15 years’ experience in the industry, I’ve seen that gym goers tend to make one common mistake: they try and achieve everything at once.

On the surface, this is commendable because wanting to change your life is a huge achievement for people stuck in a sedentary 9-5pm routine who then heads home to watch TV from the couch. But, if you want to achieve your goals and maintain the changes you want, here are a few key strategies you need to follow:

1. Start small to achieve greatness

If you are determined to run a 100 km marathon but the longest you currently run is to the lift as it’s closing, starting your training by trying to run 100 km within a couple of sessions is not the best choice. Your body adapts slowly and needs the time to adjust systems such as lungs and heart to work effectively at a higher output. Using the running example, start with running or even fast walking shorter lengths such as 3-5 km three times a week and then build slowly.

Ashleigh Feltham: Photo Shaun Anthony.

2. Learn to enjoy the training at first

Don’t obsess about goal setting first up. Just get into the routine and don’t do more than you actually enjoy. Early on, focus also on getting your technique and nutrition right without striving for perfection. If you aim too high too early, it’s a sure fire way to fail, since not meeting fitness goals can lead to disappointment and a sense of failure for many beginners. This is one of the biggest reasons people drop out of training programs.

3. Set a timeline for reassessment

After four to six weeks, your body has adapted to the changes of the current exercise program and this is when you reassess. If you’ve made progress, start to switch up your routine. Using running as an example, increase the distance of the runs and/or the amount of times a week you train. For instance, you might increase the runs from 3-5 km to 8-10 km and possibly add in a running day or weights session to improve strength and minimise your chances of injury.

4. Find a buddy

Motivation has an expiry period and needs frequent refreshment. Having a workout buddy for the long term or even for a specific goal can increase your drive to keep turning up to the training sessions because it makes you more accountable. Everyone has those days in which the last thing they feel like doing is hitting the gym but when you see a session more as a mandatory appointment rather than an optional choice you’re more likely to get yourself to the gym.

5. Reassess your goals

The time to do this can be obvious, e.g. when you have achieved your goal such as, say, running the 100 km marathon. Set a new goal as soon as possible while you are still on a high from the feeling of achievement. Often members slip out of an exercise program completely after completing a goal simply because they failed to take the next step towards their next success. There are no limits to what you can achieve after you begin this process of goal setting, evaluation, reassessment that leads to continual improvement.