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?