Germaine Adams has ridden so many miles that its easy to assume shes a natural cyclist. But she tells a different story. The 35-year-old Web developer struggled for months to make it up a particular hill near her house without feeling like she was about to die. Then, in August 2003, she bid on a training package from Carmichael Training Systems (the folks who train Lance Armstrong) at a charity auction—and she came away with a prize far more valuable than the $150 she put down that night.
Before beginning her six months of over-the-phone sessions with Carmichael coach Ashley Kipp, Adams would just ride when she could, armed only with vague hopes of losing some weight and getting more exercise. Kipp made Adamss goals more concrete, giving her a schedule of weekly rides (either outdoors or at a Spinning class) at intensities that gradually progressed in difficulty. Kipp also encouraged her to join a gym and start strength training.
It wasnt long before Adams began seeing serious results. Not only did she start working out six days a week, but she also felt herself getting stronger. One day she rode up the hill she had struggled on so many times before and thought, “This cant be the same hill—its nowhere near as hard!” Adams saw the payoff on the scale too; since she first started working with Kipp, she has lost 55 pounds (and counting). Those successes gave Adams the confidence to set her own ambitious goal: Last September she completed a 100-mile charity ride—in one day.
The take-away: Fitness researchers, like Tara-Lyn Elston of Canadas McMaster University, speculate that the expertise a coach, trainer, or instructor brings to goal-setting can be a powerful motivator. Elston and her colleagues saw this firsthand in a study in which they asked 50 college students to perform a grip-strength exercise. After the first try, some were given goals for the next attempt; the rest chose their own. Those who had objectives set for them were about 40% more confident theyd achieve them than those who set their own.
Make it work for you: If you and your fitness program are on the outs, consider paying $40 to $80 for a session with a personal trainer or coach. First, though, talk with some of her other clients and find out if she has helped them set goals theyve been able to meet, suggests Gregory Florez, a health coach in Salt Lake City and CEO of FitAdvisor.com. If youre lucky enough to have a friend or family member whos experienced in your particular area of interest (for example, if you want to run a 10K and your sister regularly competes in road races), she can help set your goals as well—and hold you accountable for reaching them.