Why Goal Setting Is Vital to Walking Success

By Erin Palinski-Wade

You have made a commitment to yourself to start a walking routine. In order to not just start, but to also stick with this routine, you want to create a list of goals. When you compile your goal list, keep in mind that setting a goal isn’t just about the end result. Small goals, even daily goals, are really what help you to achieve your long‐term goals.

Take a look at an example: Mary wants to start walking to lose 40 pounds and decrease her blood pressure. Now, if every day, while Mary is lacing up her sneakers, all she thinks about is how much more weight she has to lose to reach her long‐term goal of 40 pounds or how many more months it may be before she can get off her blood pressure medication, she may become discouraged. In fact, she may feel that her goals are so far off that they’re not attainable and give up all together.

What can Mary do to get motivated and stay motivated with her walking routine so she can eventually reach her long‐term goals?

The answer is to set more goals! It may seem redundant, but setting small goals can help you achieve larger goals over time. In the journey to achieve your long‐term goals, these small goals also help you feel a sense of accomplishment, which helps you stay on track and motivated.

Mary may want to start by setting a goal of just walking, regardless of the time, daily. Just getting up and walking, even if only for a few minutes each day, means that she is on her way to being consistent with a walking routine.

After she has achieved this goal, she can set a goal to walk for a minimum of 10 minutes per day. Before she knows it, she’ll be down 5 pounds, and can focus on a goal of losing the next five. These small goals continuously give her something to work toward and achieve to keep her motivated. By using goal setting in this way, she is working toward her long‐term goals every day but isn’t becoming discouraged by the time it may take her to achieve them.

Goal setting can work in the same way for you and help to make you successful with your walking plan as well as your long‐term goals. To set goals for yourself, start by asking yourself, “What is my main motivation?” Whatever the reason, take out a piece of paper and write it down. Now write down what you want to get out of exercise. Write down every benefit you are hoping for: weight loss, increased energy, improved health, a smaller waistline, fewer medications, and so on.

As you write down your goals, make sure they are as specific as possible. If you want to lose weight, how much weight do you want to lose? If you want to decrease your cholesterol level, what is your cholesterol goal? If you are hoping your waistline will decrease, how many inches do you want to shed? Now, keep this list on hand because you’ll use it as I show you just how walking can help you to achieve all of these goals.