Reverse-engineering | a strategy for reaching your fitness goals

A few weeks back a friend asked me how I was doing with my ’50 before 50′ list (the list of 50 experiences, goals and tasks I’m planning on accomplishing before my 50th birthday).

Not surprisingly, I’ve crossed off many of the ‘fun’ items on my list.

Backcountry camping trip with the boys. Check.

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Getting my first tattoo. Check.

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Going on a wine-tasting tour with my sisters. Check.

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Experiencing a hot stone massage. Check. (I was so relaxed I neglected to ask the masseuse to take a photo. That’s probably a good thing, right?).

Yet the four goals in my ‘fitness’ category sit untouched. Probably because they require much more preparation than simply calling the spa and showing up 🙂

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I started thinking about how I was going to reach those goals by next June.

When the deadline for a good is a long way off it’s easy to postpone getting started. And then panic when the deadline gets close. (I bet you’ve been there before too…).

Yet all four of them require regular, consistent training if I want to reach them in time and injury-free.

My youngest son’s obsession with increasing the range of his Nerf guns gave me a strategy for reaching my fitness goals.

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He spent much of the summer amassing a Nerf artillery, not for the purpose of harassing his older brother, but because he wanted to know how they worked and whether there was a way to make them work better (i.e. shoot farther).

He discovered that the best way to figure out how to build something is to take it apart.

Start with the final product, disassemble into smaller and smaller pieces and put it back together. It’s an approach known as ‘reverse engineering’ and one that can easily be used as a strategy to reach your fitness goals.

Reverse-engineer your health and fitness goals
  • Start with where you want to be. This is your goal. It might be a fitness event (like running a 5 or 10K), it might be a specific exercise accomplishment (like my 5 unassisted pull-ups), it might be a macronutrient goal (like eating 40/30/30 carbs/protein/fat), it might be a workout schedule (like 5 days of exercise per week).
  • Break down the goal into ‘mini-goals’, steps you’ll need to reach before you can reach your final goal. For example, walking a 5K, performing 1 unassisted pull-up, getting 20% of your daily calories from protein, exercising 3 days per week.
  • If the mini-goals still seem too big, repeat the step above. Continue breaking down your end goal until you’ve reached a mini-goal that you can consistently meet. For example, alternating 1 min walking and running intervals for 15 minutes, performing 2 sets of 5 band-assisted pull-ups, eating protein at breakfast time, exercising 2 days per week. Hint: the smaller the mini-goal, the more likely you’ll reach it. Small steps repeated over time lead to big change.
  • Work towards the next mini-goal. Once you’ve consistently met your ‘first step’ mini-goals, set the bar a little higher.

I’m currently using the ‘reverse engineering’ approach to help me get back to my goal of eating 5-7 servings of veggies per day (I’ve been battling the call of comfort food for the past 11 months and am yearning to get back that energetic and ‘clear’ feeling good nutrition gives me).

I know that going from where I am (2 servings on a good day) to where I want to get to (7 servings each and everyday) requires building new habits. My experience with habit formation tells me that trying to do it all at once is unlikely to be successful. So I’ve reverse engineered the process.

This week, I’ve replaced my lunchtime panini (high on carbs, low on veggies) with a salad. Two servings of veggies at lunch, with a serving of healthy fats and lots of protein.

Once I’ve got this habit well established I’ll go back to adding vegetables to my breakfasts. Cutting back on those pancake mornings and re-introducing veggies to my eggs.

The final step will be to replace the pre-dinner glass of wine with fresh raw vegetables. Something to munch on while I prep dinner for the family and catch up with my husband’s day.

Do you have current health and fitness goals that might benefit from a reverse engineering approach?

What’s one small step you could make towards those goals today?

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Comments

  1. HUGE HUGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Love this post. Just the inspirational lift I need!

  3. Really love reading this!! Amazing!