How to Set Fitness Goals that Get Results

Have you ever set out to improve some aspect of your fitness and failed miserably?

Is that elliptical machine you bought so enthusiastically serving as a laundry rack? Are you paying $60 per month for a gym you haven’t set foot in since LeBron played for the Heat?

It’s okay. I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. We all struggle to maintain a fitness program or healthy lifestyle at one point or another. Life gets in the way. Time becomes a scarce commodity. We change jobs, our car breaks down, etc.

But why is it so easy to abandon our fitness goals in the first place? Why do so many people make fitness-related New Year’s resolutions and drop out before January ends?

Because we make our goals too vague.

Think about it. “I want to lose weight” or “I want to get in shape” are not quality goals because they do not specify anything. How much weight? What does “good shape” really mean to you? Adequately lean or jacked up The Rock?

Let’s say you want to drive somewhere. You get into your car with a specific destination in mind. You type that destination into your navigation system. Every inch of road you travel and turn you take only serves you to get to where you are going. You can turn on the radio, take in the scenery, and enjoy the ride, but the point is that it’s taking you somewhere. By the end of the ride you will have ended up where you set out to be.

Now imagine you got into your car with no set destination in mind. You just start driving aimlessly, perhaps in circles, cruising through random neighborhoods. You might put the car in park and stare mindlessly out the window for a few hours and then go home. Sure, you took the step of getting in your car, but without a real destination, what did you accomplish?

The same can be said for setting fitness goals.

When setting fitness goals, you must focus on two things: 1) How much? 2) By when?

Let’s take a look at some examples:

I want to lose 20 lbs by July 1st

I want to gain 5 lbs of muscle by spring break

I want to run a 5k by my 40th birthday

I want to deadlift 160 lbs by Memorial Day

Goals such as these are specific and measurable. They give us a concrete destination to work towards, so we are not just driving around aimlessly as in the analogy.

When you know exactly what your outcome is, you are more likely to put in the work to make it happen.

Visualize yourself heading to the gym. Would you be more excited knowing you were on your way to take another step toward a major accomplishment or going through the motions on an exercise bike flipping through Golf Digest?

Another important aspect of setting these specific goals is the ability to break them down into smaller, easily attainable goals.

You may not be able to run a 5k right now, but you can run a half-mile. The following week you can run three quarters of a mile. The week after that you will complete a full mile. This will snowball your momentum until you are an unstoppable machine. Sound exciting?

Start small, work your way up in increments, achieve your goal, and celebrate your victory.

Let’s take the example of deadlifting 160 pounds by Memorial Day. If Memorial Day were hypothetically four weeks away, you could break that goal down into the following increments, adding 10lbs to your deadlift each workout, three workouts each week until you reach your goal:

Week 1:

Workout 1: Deadlift 50 lbs

Workout 2: Deadlift 60 lbs

Workout 3: Deadlift 70 lbs

And so on. By workout 21 you will have deadlifted 160 lbs and then you can brag about it to your buddies at your Memorial Day barbecue.

These same principles work for any fitness goal. How much and by when?

Take a minute right now to think about what your fitness goals are. If they are short term- be realistic. You won’t be Mr. Olympia in three months. But three years? Shoot for the stars.

Don’t let your limiting beliefs stop you from setting audacious long term goals.

Write your goals down. Studies have shown that writing down goals is one the keys to success.

Then break that goal into smaller, achievable subgoals.

Believe in yourself. You now have a destination. You know how to get there. Now take that first step.

Be awesome and be vital.

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