Goal setting, action planning, and monitoring
Scientific studies have found that people with and without an SCI are far more likely to begin a physical activity program—and remain physically active—if they set achievable exercise goals, incorporate those goals into a realistic and detailed action plan, and monitor their progress against their action plan.
1) Set physical activity goals
- Establish what activities you can do now, and write them down. For example: wheel or walk for 10 minutes duration.
- Determine weekly goals based on those activities. For example: wheel or walk for 10 minutes at moderate to vigorous intensity, three times per week.
- Adjust your goals as you get fitter. For example: check in at the end of each week to see your progress and, if you met your goal, adjust it so it’s more challenging (but still achievable). Remember to listen to your body—you don’t always have to improve, and maintaining your level of physical fitness can be also be a goal.
2) Create an Action Plan
- Your personalized Action Plan will outline the specific details of how you’ll achieve your physical activity goals—the activity you’re committing to, where and when you’ll do it, with whom you’ll do it with, how long you’ll do the activity for, and the activity’s intensity level.
- Your Action Plan should be realistic and include achievable goals and activities. An ideal format for your Action Plan is to set it up as a weekly calendar. Be sure to choose activities you enjoy. Take advantage of technology to keep you on track—for instance, if you use a smart phone, program in reminders.
- Your overall success will rest largely on how closely you follow your Action Plan. However, remember to be flexible. Life is unpredictable. You may need to modify your Action Plan to accommodate health complications or unexpected events.
- We also encourage you to share your goals. Tell a friend or family member what you’re aiming for, and ideally, find a buddy to exercise with.
How to make your plan “sticky”?
Need help actually sticking to your Action Plan? Here are three tactics that will help you avoid talking yourself out of doing your planned activity:
- Use action cues
Cues are triggers for a planned behaviour. For instance, if you’re planning to go for a swim after work, place your goggles beside your computer.
- Focus on the first stage of getting ready
If you’ve set your alarm clock and planned a morning activity, but you’re losing motivation because of all that’s involved, just focus on dressing appropriately and getting out the door…the rest will fall into place.
- Make exercise plans with others
Your exercise partners will be your conscience, and you’ll motivate each other.
3) Monitor your progress
- Track your progress on your Action Plan sheet, on a separate monitoring sheet, or using an app on your smartphone.
- We encourage you to write down the activity that you’ve done at the end of each day or just check whether you followed your Action Plan. You can provide as much detail as you want.