How To Set And Achieve Your Fitness Goals

by MindJournal - 8 min read

How To Set And Achieve Your Fitness Goals - MindJournal

From keeping us accountable to keeping us motivated and marking out the pathway to success, it’s vital to have something to work towards. In fact, research from Western Washington University found outlining your aims can have a significant impact on your ability to reach them.

But, figuring out these goals can be tricky. Not to mention sticking to them once you have.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the secret is not running before you can walk. In other words, take it easy, step-by-step, and you’re far more likely to get where you want to be. Likewise, keeping a planner can help keep you on track and bolster your confidence when inspiration wavers.

Here are our top tips for choosing your goals and achieving them.

Plan Your Finish Line

Before setting out on a fitness journey, it's essential to have a clear idea of where you want to get to. Maybe you want to set a new deadlift PB. Start by asking yourself exactly how much weight you want to lift and by what date. Likewise, don't just aim to 'improve your fitness' – aim to run your first half marathon or your fastest ever 5k by a set milestone.

It may sound simple, but the power is in putting pen to paper. But don't just take our word for it. A study from Dominican University in California found you are 42 per cent more likely to achieve your goals by jotting them down. And with a recent neurological study finding that both men and women could be better at setting goals, why not start today?

Be Realistic

We're not saying you shouldn't aim high, but if you've never tried Olympic lifting before, you're unlikely to master it straight away. If you have a weak left knee or an old injury, it will take some time to work through the problem before you can set a new squat PB.

These aren't immovable obstacles, just things to work around and bear in mind. Be kind to yourself, slowly build your confidence and the sky is the limit.

Don’t Overload Yourself

While it's good to have goals, having too many can be overwhelming. Just like it's difficult to add muscle mass and lose weight at the same time, trying to run faster, get stronger and slim down will pull your focus in too many different directions, making it much more challenging to succeed at any goal.

Having a realistic – and compassionate – discussion with yourself can help you manage your own expectations. Remember, you're not a 'failure' just because you can't do a hundred things at once. You're a human being focused on smashing a singular goal before moving on to the next challenge.

Set Micro-Goals

As anyone who's ever trained for a marathon knows, it's a long and intricate process. You don't just leave the house one day and run 26.2 miles the next. You build it up, over months, with a planned schedule. Achieving any fitness goal should be like this.

According to Harvard Business Review, setting small goals is the key to achieving big changes. Instead of going for broke right out of the gate, break down your challenge into smaller, achievable milestones and give each of them a deadline for completion. That way, you won't get daunted by the task ahead, and you'll have a clear indication of your progress as you go, with plenty of small accomplishments to celebrate along the way.

Keep A Journal

You might spend every day looking in the mirror, thinking all this exercise is getting you nowhere, only for a friend you haven’t seen in a while to comment on how healthy you’re looking. Every fitness goal is like this; it can be difficult for us to see progress without looking at the bigger picture.

The benefits of journaling are well documented. Not only will it keep you motivated and on track, but if you’re ever feeling disgruntled, you can look back at previous entries and remind yourself how far you’ve come and the challenges you’ve overcome along the way. All of which should help fuel the fire.

Accept Set-Backs

Are you going to get out there and smash a couch to 5k in 9 weeks, per your training plan? Are you going to improve your grip strength in five sessions? Become a bouldering champion in a few months? Unless you're some sort of once-in-a-generation athlete, probably not. And that's absolutely fine.

There's a difference between where you actually are and where you want to be. The key is to align these two aspects early on. Stick to your goals, but remember there will be injuries, rainy days, closed gyms, family commitments, and more. That's life, and it's okay. Don't let one 'bad' day or a week off get you down. Take a breath, be kind to yourself and get back on track when you're ready.

Go Easy On Yourself

Don't take this the wrong way, but you might never achieve your fitness goal 100%, and that's not a bad thing because it isn't the end goal that matters, really. It's the fun you have along the way, the milestones you reach, the change in how you feel, the friends you make and the skills you learn.

Self-compassion has been proven to boost motivation and life satisfaction. Only managed 80% of your desired pull-up target? Congratulations, you're 80% stronger than you used to be. Celebrate all progress – if you aren't quite exactly where you hoped to be, you're still a heck of a long way from where you started.

Setting realistic goals with a clear time frame is a great way to begin while documenting your fitness journey can help you celebrate milestones and provide motivation during difficult periods.

Ultimately, there's no such thing as a 'bad' workout, so even if you don't quite reach your goals, you'll learn a lot along the way – and be able to apply your new plan even more successfully next time.

So what are you waiting for? Ready, set, go.

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