Monday, October 6, 2014

Quit Making Excuses, Start Setting Goals

Today, I thought it might be helpful to share one of the biggest motivators to get me out the door and on a walk with my Barley girl.

Walking is great and there are many posts in this hop on the benefits and joys of walking with your dog--that's what inspired this #DogWalkingWeek celebration, after all.

But walking isn't always easy or fun. Recently, a co-worker said, "I'm not going to walk the dogs today because I'm having company and need to clean" (the company was arriving 6+ hours after we finished our work day). The next week it was "I'm not going to walk the dogs today because there's too much construction and I can't get out of my neighborhood to go to the park." Then it was "I'm not going to walk the dogs today because it's supposed to rain." The point is that it's easy to find reasons not to walk. I've come up with plenty of them myself--it's too hot, it's too cold, I'm too tired, I have too many papers to grade. Coming up with an excuse not to walk doesn't take much effort.

Barley thinks it's nice to snuggle up in some fleece, too.

Finding the motivation to walk can be more challenging especially when it's quickly getting darker earlier and earlier and it's getting chillier each day.

One thing that's been helpful for me has been setting goals. I have always liked having goals to work towards. I often tell my students to set goals and use rewards if they're struggling with procrastination: write a page, reward yourself with a snack/a tv show/15 minutes of Facebook. For me, I don't need physical rewards--for me, avoiding failure is a big enough reward. I blame my mom for this--until I hit Trigonometry, any time I brought home a grade that was less than a 95, it was "Uh oh, what happened?"

Last year for my New Year's Resolution, I set a goal of walking more miles each month than I had walked the month before. By the end of the year, I was challenging myself to walk every single day in order to meet the marks I needed to meet.

This year, I decided to shoot for an even 1000 miles by the end of the year. Most of my FitDog Friday posts have been about how close we are to achieving that goal. Even on days when it was really stinkin' cold, I knew I had to get outside for a walk because we couldn't meet our goals if we just skipped walking during the first three months of the year. It didn't matter if we only got out for .5 miles at a time because it was too cold to be out for more than 10 minutes at a time--every little bit we walked brought us closer to our goal.

When it got warmer and the weather was perfect, having a set number of miles we needed to meet each day gave me motivation to get out and take longer walks even if I might have wanted to go home and binge on tv shows on Netflix instead.

I bought a Garmin GPS watch during last year's goal to keep track of our mileage. Every time I plug in my watch to upload our walks, I get a visual representation of how close we're getting to our goal, which motivates me to keep going. We haven't walked every single day this year--but we've walked the majority of them and haven't missed a day since August 26. I can analyze our results and see our average mileage per day, our total mileage in a week, the number of calories I'm burning, and a variety of other information that I have no idea what to do with. There are also plenty of free walking apps for phones that can track this progress. I love the Wooftrax Walk for a Dog app that donates money to the shelter of your choice for each mile you walk.

After yesterday's first walk, we were at 83% of our goal.
Setting goals is a great way to motivate yourself--and you can add in rewards, too, if they are helpful for you. It's important to think about your lifestyle and your dog's capabilities as you set your goals. Not everyone has 45+ minutes a day to dedicate to walking the 2.97 miles/day we needed to reach our goal this year. Not everyone has a dog that's capable of walking that much in a day. Some people also have yards that their dogs can run and play in to get other forms of exercise outdoors, so walking every day might not be as necessary as it is for me and Barley who live in an apartment.  Set realistic goals: walking three times a week, walking at least 7 miles a week, walking 15 minutes a day--and reward yourself if necessary (even though I don't need the rewards, I often use my walks as an excuse for a glass of wine with my evening tv shows!).

So, instead of looking for reasons not to walk, try to find reasons to get out and spend time bonding with your dog and improving your health together.

A big thank you to My GBGV Life and Cascadian Nomads for organizing #DogWalkingWeek so that we can all motivate each other and share our tips for getting the most out of our walks with our dogs!


  1. It is indeed WAY WAY too easy to come up with reasons not to take your dog for a walk. I've come up with lots of creative ones myself: too windy, cold, or hot, usually. I agree that it's hard sometimes to motivate yourself, but in the end, it's healthier for everyone involved! Great tips :)

    1. I never regret it once I get out the door for a walk, but it's difficult to take that first step sometimes!

  2. Humans are way too good at the excuse thing. 365 days a year, no matter what, we do our long walk or run first thing in the morning. For one, we are a morning family, but it is also too early to have other things come up to interfere with our fitness. The walks and stuff later on become the gravy. Mom says once you make it a morning habit it is as vital to your day as a shower or brushing your teeth! Thanks for this important post!

    1. I admire your mom so much! I am not a morning person--I honestly have no idea how people with children are able to get up in time in the morning to get themselves and their kids ready for the day. I have a hard enough time getting myself out the door in the morning! We incorporate it into our after work and pre-dinner routines, though!

  3. It's so funny, because even when it's raining I don't think twice about going out there. It's not always fun, but he needs the exercise to stay healthy, so out we go! I'm so proud of you guys for reaching your goals! So close this year already! :-)

    1. We think twice when it's raining! But you know that Baby Girl puts the breaks on, so even if I convinced myself to do it, it's much harder to convince her!