The Importance of Setting Goals

I recently ran my first ever race and it got me thinking about how exercise has played a role in my mental health. Finishing the race was a huge victory for me, for a couple of reasons:

 1) I was never good at sports growing up and I’ve always been self-conscious about my weight and my lack of athletic skills. I was nervous about the race in the weeks leading up to it, nervous I wouldn’t be able to finish, nervous that if I did finish I’d be way behind everyone else, nervous the “real” runners would be mean to me. Of course, none of this happened and I finished and beat my goal. Now, I feel more confident in my fitness because I have proved to myself that I am athletic.

2) Finishing the race showed me that I can achieve a goal if I put my mind towards it. When I signed up for the race, I could barely run half of its distance, and that was on a good day. I knew that I would have to put in a lot of work to get in shape and be able to finish. So I did. Each week I upped my mileage and I ran even when I didn’t want to. As I put in the work, I slowly improved. And all that training paid off when I crossed the finish line. What seemed impossible was made manageable by taking small steps. 

While training for the race, I saw mental health benefits from exercising. When I went for a run, I was able to leave everything behind; I didn’t have to think about school or drama or any other stressors, I could just run. I would play my favorite music and completely zone out. This helped me to clear my head and reduce stress.

Also, exercising felt like an accomplishment, and the discipline it took to run on days where I wanted to do anything but run rolled over into other parts of my life. I found myself more likely to do my homework rather than mindlessly scroll through social media or watch TV, and I think it was because I developed a sort of mental discipline. By running, I was able to get the ball rolling, so to speak.

Finally, I liked running because I was able to see myself progressing. Sometimes with school it can feel like I’m putting in so much work with nothing to show for it, but this was not the case with running. Because I saw progress with running after putting in the work, I was able to believe that my work in other areas of my life would eventually pay off. This helped me stay motivated

My advice to others who feel lost and hopeless would be to set a goal and work toward it. It doesn’t have to be a fitness goal, it could be to read a whole book or to finish all your homework before the weekend. Then, chip away at it day after day. It feels great to be working toward something; it’s good to have a purpose. My other advice would be to exercise. This could be anything from doing workout videos at home, walking the dog, or going to the gym and lifting weights. The mental benefits from exercise are undeniable, and time spent exercising is time well spent. 

As for me, my next goal is to squat 135 lbs. I’m going to take a little break from all the running and get back into the gym. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can achieve, and I hope everyone can use today to get a little closer to their goals.

What are things that you enjoy doing? How do you think you can incorporate goal setting into it? Do you have any current goals that you’re working towards?

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