How to Set Fitness Goals You Will Actually Reach
In soccer games, and Casey Neistat & Nike videos, “without a goal, you can’t score.” Your fitness routine and the sport of futbol both have this in common. You can’t hit a target that doesn’t exist, and you can’t achieve the results you want from your workout if you don’t know what it is that you want. Once you’ve found your motivation and taken your first steps, taking the time to establish your fitness goals will save you time and energy, as well as make your fitness journey a lot more rewarding.
It’s hard to succeed if you haven’t defined what success is to you. Once you’ve decided on something to reach for, getting there becomes actually attainable. Rather than chasing some abstract concept of being “fit” or “healthy,” which can mean different things to different people, really think about what you want to accomplish. The simple act of defining what you’re aiming for is key to being happy with your new healthy habits. By formalizing and putting your goal into words and actionable steps, you’re much more likely to stick to it and see some great progress.
A Tale of Two Goals
There are two main types of goals, what I call End Goals and Action Goals. End Goals are what most people associate with fitness Goals, which is what you want to achieve as your result. Maybe that’s to run a 10K, lose 5 pounds, or squat two times your bodyweight within the next 6 months. These goals are what we train for, aspire to, dream about, and obsess over. Setting an End Goal is essential as it is driven by your core motivation, and pushes you to keep going throughout the ups and downs of training.
Action Goals are usually the forgotten step. Your Action Goals are what you want to actually do, and form the habits you need in order to actually accomplish your End Goals. These are steps like go for a run once a week, eat 1 serving of vegetables 5 days a week, go to the gym 3 days a week.
While the End Goal is important to keep in mind as it serves as your motivation to keep going and push through any plateaus you may encounter, it is even more important to keep your mind rooted in the present. By focusing on your Action Goals and the steps you’re going to take, you’ll have a recipe to follow and set reminders for, to make sure you get there.
By writing out 3 to 5 action steps you’ll take for each of your End Goals, you’ll start to reframe things. Rather than saying “I need to lose weight” or “I need to eat better”, you’ll get more out of your goals by putting things into specific steps such as “I need to eat 1 vegetable in 1 meal every day” and “I need to do 30 minutes of exercise 3 days a week.”
This focus puts the control in your hands, rather than maintaining the mindset of your goal as some faraway unreachable milestone. Just like with cooking, you’ll get the end result if you follow the recipe you choose. You’re in charge of your path and your fitness journey, and it’s time to start thinking about it in this way.
My recommendation is to start with as small Action Goals as possible. All too often people set big lofty goals when they are first starting out, especially in the summer or as part of a New Year’s Resolution, which is just a recipe for failure. It’s easy to say you’ll go to the gym everyday, but if you haven’t worked out in a year, it’s hard to go from 0 to 100. And let’s be honest, you’ll be lucky if you make it there twice a week. Doing too much too fast can also lead to injury, which will set you back even further.
Instead, think of the smallest change you can make that will put you in the right mindset and on the right path to your End Goal. This will set yourself up for achieving your Action Goal, and even encourage you to surpass it. It’s the “floss one tooth” philosophy, where getting up and taking out the floss is the hard part, but once you floss one tooth you might as well do the rest. Starting is always hardest, so make it easy on yourself, trick your mind, and give yourself the advantage by going as small as possible.
If your End Goal is to increase flexibility, make an Action Goal of stretching your hips before you go to bed on Sunday. You can totally do one stretch one day a week! With an End Goal is to lose weight, an Action Goal of replacing one soda or juice with a glass of water or tea is a great place to start. One glass of sugary drink isn’t a big loss, but has a big impact! For someone who wants to walk more, squeezing in a walk around the block before getting into the car or train on the way to work is a simple way to do it. The block is small enough but ends up being a nice step boost!
Visualize Your Goal
Once you’ve set your goals, it’s time to put them to good use. I like to write down my goals and keep them somewhere that I can see every day. When I’m getting dressed and see “Drink Tea on Sunday” on my mirror, it encourages to set up a pot of tea when I get into the kitchen. Seeing my eating goal written on the door of my refrigerator reminds me to pull some vegetables out for my meal. Reading my goal of walking 10,000 steps when I’m sitting on my couch pushes me to get up and go outside. Keep your goal written in your pocket or use an app such as coach.me, and get creative with other great spots that can encourage you to start or keep moving.
Step by Step
- Think of your Motivation
- Write your End Goals
- Write your Action Goals
- Make your Goals Visible
- Follow Through
Now, it’s time for that action. Take some time to follow these steps to think about and create your goals. It takes a little bit of time, but it goes a long way to sealing your success and bringing your health to where you want it to be. Set yourself up to success, and follow through! If you need help in designing your goals, a Fitness Trainer is a great resource for you.