Having big aspirations is admirable and inspiring, but when it comes to fitness, especially if you are just embarking on your fitness journey you should take a more calculated approach when setting goals. By setting yourself specific short term goals and a long term goal you are setting yourself up for success rather than failure.
Frequently, I speak to people who have decided to turn their lives around and adopt a healthier lifestyle but set themselves a huge short term goal and by doing this, they are really setting themselves up for a fall.
For example, If you haven’t exercised for the last 5 years and then decide you want to work out 6 times a week and lose 25 kg in 3 months you are setting yourself a hard/ virtually impossible target. Firstly, you will burn yourself out with the exercise. being sedentary for so long, even a basic cardio and resistance schedule(if devised properly) will test you and leave you feeling sore in places you didn’t think existed due to the fact you have ‘jumped in at the deep end’. Secondly, trying to lose that much weight in such a short space of time is bad for your body. Remember, you are going to need to completely change your diet which is the hardest thing about weight loss for most people.
When setting goals you want to ask yourself the following questions
- How big is the goal? Is your goal only attainable in three months or more? If so, make short term goals to get you to that long-term goal. Ideally, you should be able to reach the smaller goal in 8- 12 weeks
- Why do I want to lose weight? Is it health concerns, to improve your fitness, to look better, to get more attention from the opposite sex? Whatever it is, you have to have a clear reason in your mind as to why you are setting out on this journey
- What is your long term goal? . Is it to lose 25kg? is it to compete in a marathon, is it to apply for the cover model of mens health magazine? , is it to compete in a bodybuilding competition? These are examples of long term goals and giving yourself a 12 month period to reach these goals makes it a more achievable target.
- What is your short term goal? If your long term goal is to lose 25kg, then your short term goal should be working along them lines and be attainable, for example lose 5kg in 3 months and make improvements in cardio fitness and strength. Use things like the beep test and push up tests to measure improvements.
- What does it take to achieve the goal? This question addresses your goal’s frequency. If reaching your goal requires five workouts a week, but you can only get to workout two days a week because of work commitments, then you need to scale back your goal. Be realistic about what time you have to devote to the goal and be honest about your fitness level. Building your fitness base takes time, and being smart about increasing it will help you stay injury-free
- Ask yourself what things may hinder you from reaching your goals, i.e work, family or team commitments, laziness, lack of motivation, bad eating habits/ busy social life. Be perfectly honest with yourself as these things will affect your progress and need to be taken into consideration
Just be honest with yourself, and gradually work towards your goal.
Rather than setting a short term goal of ‘I want to run a marathon in 2 weeks’ after little or no exercise, why not set a goal of ‘I want to run 5k without stopping within the next 12 weeks’. It’s a more achievable goal but will prepare you, and help you to work towards your long term goal.
Or another example , ‘ I want to go to the gym everyday’ . There are two main issues with this goal. First, it’s not specific—what activities do you want to do and for how long? After all, just showing up at the gym doesn’t accomplish anything unless you get your body moving. Second, it’s not realistic. I love to work out and even I don’t want to go to the gym every day. Plus, taking a day off here and there helps give your muscles time to rest and repair, and it gives you a break mentally. A better goal to set is ‘ I want to do a resistance training program 3 days per week for 45 minutes to improve my strength’. Far more achievable and it give you chance to swap days around if things come up, it also give your body chance to rest and recover.
Also, don’t be afraid to tweak a goal as time goes by. Life happens! Remember, the key to setting yourself up for success is to be realistic, so if you get off track, then review and if needed, adjust your goals and get back into it!