How To Set Fitness Goals For Success

Goals are important in our everyday lives and in fitness as well. They help us have a clear direction, stay accountable and check our progress. While it’s important to not become obsessed with these goals, it is equally important to set realistic goals. When it comes to fitness and body image, it is easy to set impossible goals, that instead of helping us will lead us to a path of depression or giving up altogether. This happens when the goals we set are so high it’s impossible to attain them no matter how hard we work. So how can we set fitness goals that will help us become a better version of ourselves? Here are some of the tips that helped me overtime.

Assess your current situation

The first thing to do before you set any fitness goal is to correctly assess where you’re at at the present moment. You’d be surprised how many people think they can easily lift heavy weights or run 5 miles without any training. So they set goals to get to 10 miles in a few weeks, when in reality, in their current form they can barely get to 2 or 3 miles.

There’s no shame in admitting to yourself you are completely out of shape. After all, most of us have sedentary lives, so if you haven’t been exercising consistently, your endurance and your strength are probably very low.

For a correct assessment, I would suggest a personal trainer. He/she will be able to correctly assess where you are at without being biased. If you don’t want to invest, try a walking/running program for beginners. Maybe one of those “from couch to 5K” programs. Take care though not to test by going straight for a long run without proper warm up, as you risk a very bad injury. To test how much you can lift the idea is to find the weight which allows you to do, with proper form, about 10-12 reps. If you have to stop sooner, it’s heavy. Or if, on the contrary, it’s too easy and you can do more, it’s too light. Remember proper form is key! Also, always warm up first!!

How often do you train?

The next step in setting your fitness goals is to figure out how many times a week you can train. Ideally you want to go for 3-4 times a week, especially if you are starting from 0 days per week. Don’t try to train 6-7 times a week just for the sake of reaching your fitness goals faster! Why, you ask? Because you might obtain the contrary effect. Your muscles need time to repair and rest after a workout. Some suggest the ideal is to rest for 48 hours between workouts. Like this article from Greatist says, “All pain, NO gain”.

The length of each workout

Again, this depends on the results of your assessment, or otherwise said, on how advanced you are. It also depends on what exactly you are doing. If you are taking a power walk, or practicing yoga, you might be able to go for 60-90 minutes per session. However, if you’re doing a HIIT (high intensity interval training) circuit, 20 minutes might be enough, plus another 5-10 minutes as a warm up and the same as the cool down.

What fitness goals you should NOT set

These are the goals that are either unachievable, completely unrealistic or require so much time that you’ll inevitably get discouraged and quit. You need to see quick progress and achievements, we all do. But fitness doesn’t work like that. It takes time, resilience and effort.

Here are a few examples of WRONG goals:

  • I want a six pack – depending on your current shape and size, your metabolism and your diet, this goal can take years to achieve. Years of perfect training and eating, something that for most people is not doable. The fitness models, the professional sports players, the movie starts they dedicate their lives to this. For us with normal 9-5 jobs and other responsibilities dedicating so much time to this goal will be nearly impossible.
  • x cm more at the butt, arm etc – wanting to gain muscle mass is a great goal, sure, but if you tie it to a certain number around your bicep, or your thigh, chances of feeling like a failure when that number isn’t reached are huge.
  • x cm less around the waist, arm etc – same story. Don’t focus on the number.

Fitness goals you can actually achieve

So if all of those are wrong, how do actually look a few goals you can actually achieve?

Progress, not perfection!

I know it’s sort of cliché, but it’s true. If your main goal is progress, it’s something that will be easy to obtain.

So don’t focus on how much you can lift. Don’t say you want to get from lifting 10 pounds to 100 pounds in a month. Focus on lifting a bit more than you were when you started. In this way, you’ll be able to train focusing on how the weights feel. When they feel to light, it’s time for an upgrade.

The same goes in every area of your training. You want to run more, maybe you dream of one day running your first marathon, but you are a couch potato now?  Progress, not perfection. Today you barely walk 1 mile. In a few weeks you could be power walking 3 miles. Give it more weeks, you can start running. And so on. Any progress counts. So make that your greatest goal. Keep going, even when it’s hard.

Each goal you make, whether you want more strength, or endurance, to loose fat or to gain muscle, don’t make it about numbers. Don’t restrict yourself within a short timeframe. Strive to be better, to feel better.

Make it a goal to feel good and to have fun, because fitness, working out, should be fun, a hobby, something you do to relax and break from the normal routine. And something you do for health. Any fitness goals set with these things in mind will have a much greater chance of success than if you focused on numbers.

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How to Set Fitness Goals for Success

Comments (2)

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    The Timeless Voyagers

    It’s always hard not putting a number to your progress. But when you do focus on it, you lose so much motivation to keep going. Especially with the scale! Then I realised that if I’m slowly building muscle, the higher muscle mass could be why the scale doesn’t change. But then again, I could just be making excuses 😛 This weekend we decided to work out more for better health and energy levels rather than a sole weight loss focus. This post came at the right time!


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    These are all really great tips! I need to reassess my fitness goals come to think of it. They tend to change over the years. But it’s always important to have fun and feel good – loved that you included that! 🙂


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