How not to be Les Misérables – Get yourself a goal!

It is a very common sight – people land up in the gym and hop on a treadmill and start running. After a very hard workout, they leave, sometimes never to return. Injuries, aches and illnesses play a havoc. The more determined ones return after a few months, a little subdued, but with a lot more respect for what they are doing to their bodies while exercising them.

How many times have you groaned about running making your knees hurt? Or lifting hurting your back? Or just feeling plain miserable after a work out?

I recently had a discussion with a friend – she woke up one fine day and decided to do sit-ups (in order to define her stomach) and wrenched her back.

I have done this myself. I started running with an injured ankle and injured it again. This time so badly, that it took a year to heal.

You can always tell the ones who know what they are doing from those who think they know what they are doing. They are focused. Even their rests and water breaks seemed designed and purposeful.

Most importantly perhaps, they know what this means 😉

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<Hell, yeah!>

Now I am all for training. Those who know me, even a little bit, know that I can be quite a nag when it comes to getting people to start exercising. I believe in the power of working out. It is the most sustainable, most healthy way of reaching your goals.

But that’s the key – What are your goals?

Goals are personal. And indispensible.

Why are you getting on to that elliptical? Why do you want to lift? Why are you joining zumba?

You have to have answers to those questions.

Let’s look at some common goals:

  1. The beginners’ goal – Lose weight.
  2. If you’re a little more enlightened you say – Lose fat.
  3. Now here is where things get interesting – Build muscle / Tone / Firm up.
  4. You have my attention – – Get stronger. Improve endurance/conditioning.
  5. Nice! – Improve running / tennis / squash (or any other specific) skills.

Goal 1: Lose weight. I’m sorry, but even if you’ve been working out for years, the fact that you have this as a goal puts you in the beginners’ category. Losing weight is a consequence of training; it is the inevitable outcome of a healthy lifestyle. Having this as a goal is like saying you want to become a doctor because you’re studying to become a doctor!

My suggestion: start moving. Stop sitting around. Cut out the junk from your diet. Cook more at home. And once you’ve done all this, educate yourself on fitness and get a REAL goal.

Goal 2: Lose fat. Two people can have the same height and weight, but very different percentages of body fat. There is a healthy fat percentage range for men and women that varies by gender and age. The range for women is 21 to 36 %; for men this range is 8 – 25%. You can find basic information here. Where you carry the fat makes a huge difference. Subcutaneous fat (fat under your skin, that is visible) is less harmful that visceral fat (fat around your organs). Those with low subcutaneous fat but high visceral fat are the skinny-fat people who are at high risk for serious illness unless they make a change in their lifestyle. To have a meaningful fat loss goal, make sure that you have a base measure of both your subcutaneous and visceral fat.

My suggestion: Get a body analysis done at a professional gym. Most gyms will have machines that can do this for you. Don’t depend solely on caliper measures. Then take a serious look at your diet. Beyond this, you too need to get a more focused goal, in order to build a training routine for yourself. You’ll need a serious training mix (duh! who doesn’t?). But in what proportion will depend on your more defined goal.

Goal 3: Build muscle / Tone / Firm up. I still have friends who don’t lift weights because they don’t want to bulk up.


Let’s be real, ladies. We don’t have what it takes to bulk up, i.e. testosterone. So let’s just start lifting. Carefully. Progressively. With strength and intent.

Life is easier when you lift.

My suggestion: Make a clear plan and engage a certified trainer for a few months to show you the correct way to lift to avoid injury and maximize effectiveness. In order to do this correctly, you too will need a serious training mix. But in what proportion will depend on your more defined goal.

Goal 4: Get stronger. Improve endurance/conditioning. Now this is interesting. Why? Because you are finally starting to look at the bigger picture. You focus on multiple aspects for strength. You know that strength training without agility makes you a lump, really. Endurance training is a must to increase your capability overall. And here’s where it starts getting technical. So this will be another post.

My suggestion: Keep going! Shake it up! And write to me. We’ll exchange routines!

Goal 5: Improve running / tennis / squash (or any other specific) skills. So, our running trainer makes us do plyometrics, ladder exercises, pilates, yoga and lot more as a regular part of our routine. Every month we get a newsletter stating what the focus of the month will be and why. For example, this month we’re doing a lot of ladder exercises – this will help us reduce foot strike time, improve agility and engage our central nervous system, thereby ensuring we do not go into auto mode. Now that’s so frikkin’ cool!

My suggestion: Keep going! Shake it up! And write to me. We’ll exchange routines!

Stay strong!

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2 thoughts on “How not to be Les Misérables – Get yourself a goal!

  1. Divya says:

    Nice title of the article. You have combined your love for food, fitness, flair for writing and HR goal setting fundas too 🙂


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