2019 was my year of ‘Fat to Fit’: losing weight, gaining fitness and improving my diabetic health. But that’s in the past now. So what’s my plan for 2020?
Setting clear goals and targets for 2019 contributed hugely to a successful year. I didn’t hit all my goals and milestones – but I achieved most of them and comfortably exceeded several in the process.
I cut a very different figure today to what I was a year ago. Nearly four stone lighter. Fitter. Stronger. And in control of my diabetes for the first time.
Consequently, my approach to 2020 needs to be different too. I can undoubtedly carry forward a lot of what I learned last year. However, it’s time to set new fitness goals and challenges that build on what I now have.
Starting point: understand *me*
Last year was the first time I had ever created my own fitness plan. While I learned a lot through research and seeking advice from others, I quickly realised I would gain just as much through my own experience and self-discovery. I had to set personalised goals that would motivate me, pitched in that sweet spot between easy and stretching.
I started with four key insights about myself:
- I’m a data-driven person. Quantifiable targets appeal to me.
- I’m a procrastinator. If I only set long-term targets, I will put things off.
- I struggle with focus. Give me 20 things to do and I will flitter aimlessly and achieve none of them.
- I’m easily bored and reward-driven, so will soon lose interest in a rigid, unvarying plan.
With these insights in mind, this is how I built my 2019 plan:
- Set clear targets. Hit a certain number by a specified date, then measure my progress to keep me motivated.
- Mix short and long-term goals. I did set some goals for the entire year, but also others with a shorter timescale. I also had a few key milestones to focus on throughout the year.
- Avoid having too many goals. At any given time, I never really had four or five things to focus on.
- Change things up. I altered my training and focus throughout the year depending on what my next milestone was, so every few months I would start a completely new routine.
- Don’t feel guilty. An occasional big night out wasn’t breaking my routine; it was part of it. I got into the mindset of it being a reward I had earned rather than a sin.
2019 targets and milestones
Having done my self-reflection, these were the main targets I set myself during the year.
A combination of niggling injuries and me underestimating the appalling autumn weather meant I didn’t meet my two Parkrun goals. But I did reduce my personal best by five minutes over the course of my five runs – so not too shabby.
And I definitely saw the motivational benefit of setting a target over the Christmas holiday. Having joined the gym in April, there was no way I was going to miss my year-end target of 68 sessions. That meant squeezing in two visits between Christmas and New Year, which I duly did – with the last one on New Year’s Eve. How’s that for just-in-time completion?
I also pencilled in three key milestones during the year.
Each of these gave me a fixed point in time to focus on. And changing my training regimen for each of these helped inject some variety and challenge to stop me getting bored.
The above combination worked really well for me and meant my motivation never – well, rarely – wavered throughout the year. It was successful enough that I’m applying the same methodology to 2020.
My 2020 fitness plan: Fewer inputs, more outputs
However, one thing I am changing this year is to shift the emphasis from primarily input goals to output ones.
What’s the difference?
Input targets are about measuring effort – for instance, counting steps, Parkruns and gym sessions. Tracking these ensure I turn up but they don’t tell me how effective my efforts are.
By contrast, output targets are about measuring results, such as my Parkrun time.
Most of my 2019 goals were based on inputs – and deliberately so. I needed to develop good habits and build my base fitness. However, now I am at a reasonable level and exercise is ingrained as part of my routine. So I can focus more on tailoring my training on driving specific outputs.
So rather than setting myself a target of doing X runs or Y gym sessions, my initial goal for this year is one carried over from 2019: to complete a 5km Parkrun in 30:00 by the end of April.
That means I’m not going to worry about focussing on long-distance stamina or increasing my top speed. And I’m not going to allow myself to be distracted by too much weight training. Instead I can focus single-mindedly on improving my 5km pace.
I’m also setting myself a weight target of 172 pounds (12 stone 4). But rather than having this as a year-end goal, I’m aiming to reach this by the end of June. This more or less equates to losing a pound every two weeks – definitely achievable but stretching enough to keep me focussed. If I can achieve this, my follow-up target will be to maintain that level through to the beginning of December, to prove to myself that it’s a sustainable weight.
I’ll add in more fitness goals as the year goes on, but that will do for starters.
My weight and Parkrun time are output targets, and I’m only going to set one input goal. This is to do 150 ‘high intensity’ sessions in 2020 – essentially three a week. Depending on my current training focus, this could be gym sessions, runs or even classes. It doesn’t matter exactly what, as long as it helps me towards my goals. But three sessions a week is what I think I will need to drive sustained improvement, so it provides a useful yardstick to keep me committed week in, week out.
Finally, I will also establish two or three key milestones. I have already pencilled in another Tough Mudder for later in the year but I’m still working on some other ideas that haven’t quite taken shape yet. But I definitely want to have those fixed points in time that I can commit to and focus on.
And finally … less is more
I do have one final goal. It’s a difficult one to quantify but it’s still important to me.
Last year I was sometimes too impatient and overly focussed on hitting or exceeding my numbers. That meant I often extended my workouts or squeezed in an extra session instead of taking time to rest and recover properly.
Pushing too hard was ultimately counter-productive. Inadequate recovery meant my running performance started going backwards. I also suffered a number of injuries – ankle, knee, shoulder and back – which set me back in the second half of the year. It’s impossible to eliminate the risk of injury, of course, but better recovery can help mitigate it.
Last year taught me that focussing too much on inputs will eventually have a negative impact on my outputs. Recovery and sleep are just as important to me as activity. So instead of worrying about a step goal that nudges me to go for an extra walk or a run, I’ll allow myself more downtime to recover properly for the big efforts that really matter. Sometimes less really is more.
And that’s my fitness plan for 2020. Not so much revolutionary as evolutionary, but hopefully one that will keep me motivated, focussed and successful through to the end of the year. Here goes.