Thursday, February 21, 2013

Performing a Fitness SWOT Analysis

SWOT Analysis. Anyone who’s worked in the corporate world or taken an introductory business management class is probably familiar with this method of analyzing one’s strengths and weaknesses. Commonly used in business, the SWOT is a subjective look at the positive and negative internal factors of a company, as well as the positive and negative factors external to a company. The SWOT can help with goal setting, competitor analysis, marketing, and many other corporate planning strategies.

But the SWOT does not have to belong solely to the corporate domain! We can use the SWOT principles to analyze our own fitness landscape and provide a tool to help us reach our goals. Let’s take a look at each component of SWOT as it relates to fitness, health, and wellness. 
Fitness SWOT Analysis. K. McLaughlin (2013)

Strengths – A strength is a positive, internal factor – meaning something you control and inherent to you. These can be skills, talents, interests, or abilities. Some examples include: cooking, understanding basic nutritional concepts, playing tennis, muscular endurance, grip strength, time management skills. Questions to ask yourself include: 
      • What do you do well (in relation to health/wellness/fitness)?
      • What do others see as your strengths?
      • What behaviors/skills will contribute to your progress?

Weaknesses – A weakness is a negative, internal factor. This would be something that you need to improve upon or an area where you lack skill, knowledge, or ability. Some weaknesses could include: emotional eating, poor upper body strength, or poor stress management skills. Questions to ask yourself include:
      • What could you improve (in relation to health/wellness/fitness)?
      • Where do you have fewer resources (e.g. time, equipment, knowledge, experience)?
      • How can you overcome these?

Opportunities – An opportunity is a positive, external factor – meaning it’s outside of your control and exists in your environment. Opportunities could be people, events, or objects of motivation. Even an interest in something, such as group exercise classes or mixed martial arts, can be included. Some opportunities could include: a charity 5K you’d like to compete in, your best friend who consistently works out, your partner who supports your health initiatives, your personal trainer, a CrossFit gym you’re interested in trying out, a trusted health magazine that inspires/motivates/educates you. Questions to ask yourself include:
      • Who/what in your life motivates you & supports you to be healthier?
      • What interests you (types of exercise, cooking, nutrition)? What would you like to know more about?

Threats – A threat is a negative, external factor. “Threat” is a really harsh word, but in terms of our fitness analysis, let’s think of “threats” as deterrents to our fitness/health goals or something that thwarts our progress. It might even be something temporary in nature, such as bad weather or sickness that could prevent our normal workouts. Some threats could include: the office candy dish, the family member that “shows love” with their rich, buttery, sugar laden baking, 60-hr workweeks. Personally speaking, cupcakes are a huge threat for me! (Note that in our SWOT, the cupcake would not show up as a weakness, since it is not internal; it is an external object, making it a threat. Stress eating or eating out of boredom would be the behavioral weakness leading to the consumption of the cupcake threat.) Questions to ask yourself include:
     • What products, environments, or people could thwart your progress?
     • Can your strengths/opportunities overcome these?

How can you take all of this information and put it together to benefit you? 

1) Do you have a fitness, health, or wellness goal that you’d like to work toward? If so, complete a SWOT with that goal in mind. For example, let’s say you want to lose 10 pounds. What strengths and opportunities will help you reach that goal? Conversely, what weaknesses and threats do you need to be cognizant of so that they don’t sabotage your progress? Any health and fitness goal can benefit from a SWOT, whether it be performance based (e.g. running a half marathon), body-metric based (e.g. reduce fat mass, increase muscle mass, lose weight), or lifestyle based (e.g. eat 5 fruits/vegetables a day, improve stress management skills).

2) If you don’t have a fitness, health, or wellness goal in mind, you can complete a general health and fitness SWOT to determine your strengths and identify areas of improvement. This could then help you formulate a goal you want to work toward.

Whether you’re a novice exerciser or a competitive marathoner, everyone could benefit from thoughtful examination of fitness habits, strengths, and weaknesses. Have you performed a fitness SWOT? Please share your experience below!

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