Most of us have, at one time or another, made a promise to achieve some kind of vague health or fitness-related goal. Statements such as “I will lose weight” or “I will get fit” are good examples. While it’s important to have these positive lifestyle intentions, we often fail at following through with them because the goal is simply too vague, unplanned and unrealistic.
Not following through on a goal can leave you feeling discouraged, which leads to the exact opposite result than the one you had intended. Feeling like a failure can, in turn, lead to an increase in unhealthy lifestyle behaviors. But on the flip side, achieving a goal can make you feel strong and well-organized, which often leads to following through on more positive lifestyle changes.
Here’s a guide on how to set fitness goals that will last:
1. Be Specific
A common goal, “get healthy,” is too general. There are so many ways to get healthy. How do you want to do it? Is it losing weight? Start exercising? Stop smoking? Break it down and it will be easier to manage.
2. Make It Measurable
This means that you should be able to clearly measure your progress. Saying “I want to get in shape” gives you no clear way to assess your progress. In order to re-frame the above goal so that it is measurable, start by measuring your fitness level. Then, determine a six-week goal based on the initial data. For example, if you start out by being able to run five kilometers in 34 minutes, a measurable and realistic six-week goal would be to run five kilometers, with no walking breaks, in under 30 minutes.
3. It Should Be Attainable
Before you can add a number, you have to know how high or low you want to go. It’s good to ‘shoot for the stars’, but don’t be too extreme. Likewise, a goal that is too easy is also not very motivating. Only you know your limits.
What percentage is attainable for you? Research suggests that a 5-10% weight loss is attainable for most overweight people. A measurable, attainable goal could be, “I will lose 7% of my body weight.”
4. It Should Be Realistic
When it comes to losing weight, we all tend to want the unrealistic and typically unhealthy quick fix. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap by setting unattainable health goals such as, “I want to lose 10 pounds in 10 days.” Instead, aim to lose half a pound to two pounds per week. Attempting to lose weight faster than this is unhealthy and will only set you up for disappointment.
5. It Should Be Time-Bound
This means you should set deadlines that will keep you on track. Don’t say, “in one year I will go to my doctor, and she will be happy with my weight and blood pressure results.” Instead, set a firm date for that appointment, and then establish mini-goal deadlines between now and your appointment so you have plenty of time to achieve your final goal. If you track your progress with mini-goals over the course of that year, you won’t be scrambling to see results the week before your appointment.
6. Find External Accountability
The fitness industry is not a billion-dollar behemoth because people desperately want information. Everything they need on that front can be found online for free. People pay the fitness industry for accountability. Whether it’s a coach or a fitness program, people will shell out crazy money as a way of holding themselves accountable to their fitness commitment.
7. Iterate Your Plan
Achieving your fitness goal is not a simple one-year endeavor you’re undertaking starting January 1, after which you can coast the rest of your life. Fitness is a journey you’re undertaking for the rest of your life. As such, your systems and habits will change as your body changes and your current setup loses its effectiveness. Flexibility is key to fitness. You need to be nimble and able to adapt quickly.
An achievable fitness goal should be SMART. This way, you know that your fitness goal will last. In this post, I shared with you a guide on how to set fitness goals that will last.
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