How many times have you started a new fitness regime only to give it up weeks later as an unachievable disaster? I have been there, we have all been there but it doesn’t have to be this way!
Setting goals is so important, not just in terms of your fitness but in life too. They allow you to measure how far you have come and, if done correctly, can give you a regular sense of achievement as you hit many mini goals on your way to your major goal.
Sometimes you will have your goal in mind from the start; running a sub 30 minute 5k or dropping a dress size for example but sometimes you will have a vaguer notion of wanting to get fitter, achieve more or get stronger. Some people, like me, function better with a goal like entering a race but in every cases the key is to formulate these goals in such a way that they don’t seem too mammoth to achieve or too woolley to ever be achievable. These are my top tips on how to create goals that you can achieve:
- Make your goal specific. “I want to lose weight” is not specific (and as a very important aside weight is not necessarily the best measure of your body composition. As a result you will hear many fitness professionals talk instead about fat loss and this in itself can be a thorny issue as it is important to establish why this is important to you – this is probably worth a separate blog post all of its own so watch this space). If your goal is weight loss, have a think about what that actually means to you..do you want to fit into size 12 clothes again, do you want to lose a stone, half a stone? Have a think about how you can reformulate “I want to lose weight” into something more specific like “I want to fit back into my size 12 jeans”*
- Make your goal measurable. If your goal is to drop a dress size you can measure this by trying on the clothes that you want to fit into. If your goal is performance related you can record your running time or the weight you are able to lift for a certain number of reps and sets…whatever the goal, you need to be able to measure it so that you can make sure you are alway progressing. “I want to fit back into my size 12 jeans” could now become “I want to fit back into my size 12 jeans. I will measure my progress by trying on the jeans every month”
- Make the goal achievable. In order to get to the overarching goal of getting back into size 12 jeans it is really helpful to set some short term goals along the way to keep you motivated on what can seem like a long and arduous journey. Some short term goals might include “I will exercise for 45 mins-1 hour three times per week, every week”. This can be measured by keeping a training log. You could also have a nutritional goal to swap sugary snacks for fruit and to not drink alcohol on weeknights. These can all be recorded with food diaries or food trackers. What’s important about these shorter term goals is they are achievable steps towards your main, long term goal.
- Make sure the goal is realistic. This is a really hard one as we are all impatient and we all want massive results yesterday but in terms of the mindset that you adopt, this is crucial. I cannot stress this one enough – to get results you will need to work hard, consistently and make changes for the long term. I will say it again as it is so important: to get results you will need to work hard, consistently for the long term. If you want to drop a dress size, it is not going to happen over night. If you start out aiming to workout 6 times a week and eat nothing but kale and chicken you will not be able to sustain your new lifestyle for very long. Be realistic. How many times a week can you realistically fit a workout into your schedule? What simple changes to your diet can you make so that you don’t always feel hungry or that won’t break the bank?
- Set a timeframe to achieve your goal. Bearing in mind that you need to make sure your goal is realistic, you probably won’t drop a dress size in one month. Your goal or goals might now look something like this: LONG TERM GOAL: I want to fit back into my size 12 jeans in 6 months time. I will measure my progress by trying on the jeans every month. SHORT TERM GOALS: exercising for 45 minutes-1 hour three times a week within one month. I will keep a gym log of my sessions to measure my success; swapping sugary snacks for fruit and vegetables every day of the week within one month. I will keep a food diary to measure my progress; no alcohol on weeknights. I will keep a food diary to measure my progress. Obviously this is only one example, and there are any number of goals that you could pick and any number if routes to get you there.
- Make yourself accountable. Tell your friends, tell your family, get a personal trainer, join a gym…if you have to account for your actions to someone other than yourself, you will be surprised at the number of things you think twice about doing. Even something as simple as keeping a food diary can make you think twice about the foods that you eat. As a personal trainer this is probably the thing that most of my clients use me for and with regular conversations I am able to see where someone might need more help.
- Make sure it is something you care enough about to stick with it! ‘Motivation: a reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way’. If you don’t really care about your goal it will be very hard to motivate yourself to make all of these little life changes to get you there. Sometimes you have to dig really deep to find that motivation and having a goal that you really want to achieve will help to get you there.
- *This is just an example and I want to stress that there are many many goals you could have and there is absolutely no reason for them to be aesthetic. I simply chose this example because fat loss is a very common reason for people to take up exercise.