Fitness goals are important on several counts. They hold us accountable, expand our definition of possible, and encourage us to push through temporary discomfort for longer-lasting change. But figuring out how to set fitness goals you’ll actually want to attain can be part art, part science.
Focus on one goal at a time
When it comes to setting a fitness goal, one of the biggest mistakes is that people try to do too much at one time.
Perhaps you want to hit the gym every day, cut out added sugar, and get at least eight hours of sleep a night. Trying to tackle that much at once is essentially just setting yourself up for failure. With so many things to achieve, people get anxious, and if they didn’t do one thing, they feel like a failure. This can lead to negative self-talk that lowers your chances of achieving any of the goals.
Instead, pick one thing you want to crush – like, doing a pull-up, or completing your first-ever 5K – and channel your efforts into achieving that before exploring another goal.
Make it your own
It can be easy to scroll through the ‘gram and feel inspired-yet-envious by images of the super fit. Yet basing your own goals off of what you see others achieving is neither productive nor practical.
When we are bombarded by images of what fitness should look like and how we should do XYZ, it can be hard to identify what’s good for you.
Certain things that top athletes can do – run a marathon, do 100 push-ups, master the most challenging yoga poses – may be great for them, but it’s not metric that everyone should be measured by. In other words, your goal should be your goal – something that you personally are excited about and realistically able to achieve – not someone else’s.
Make it measurable, specific, and time-bound
Having a measurable goal allows your to track your progress, and the more specific your goal, the clearer the path to achieving it becomes.
Wanting to “be stronger,” for example, is a great place to start, but what does that mean to you? Saying you want to increase the number of push-ups you can do makes the goal measurable, and saying you want to be able to do 20 push-ups in one minute makes it specific. On top of that, the goal should be time-bound, as this helps you focus your efforts, develop a more structured plan for actually achieving the goal, and creates a sense of urgency that can be motivating. Examples of measurable, specific, and time-bound goals include being able to deadlift 10 reps at 90kg in three months, running a 5K nonstop by the end of the year, and correctly performing a pull-up by the start of summer.
A great way to remember this is through the SMART method, which helps you make sure your goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.
Play the long game
We all want instant gratification, but it’s important to be realistic with the time frame you develop for achieving your goal. Lasting changes can take a while to achieve.
Know that you are never going to make an overhaul in one week.
Instead, pick a goal that can be achieved over the course of several months or even a year. A long-term mentality will help you see your goal as a lifestyle change, rather than quick fix, and you’ll be much more likely to adhere to it.
Understand what’s driving your Goal
Sometimes fitness goals are driven by underlying fears, insecurities, or body image issues – like wanting to run a marathon because you were bullied in middle school gym class, or signing up for a CrossFit class because an ex once commented on your weight – and it’s important to address these issues rather than assuming achieving your goal will assuage them.
Consider a professional’s input
If you’re having a hard time evaluating your current fitness level, determining what would be a realistic goal, and/or just feeling overwhelmed about the process, it can be helpful to consult an expert, like a certified personal trainer. Take a look at our offerings here.
A professional can help give you guidance on how realistic your goal is and can help you set markers along the way, so you can check in and confirm you are on the right track over time.
Plan for a Support System
When thinking about your goal, you should also think about who in your life could encourage, motivate, and hold you accountable to it. Then recruit them whenever you’re in need of support.
If people you spend the most time with are supportive of your goals, it will make a huge difference.