When taking your first steps to becoming physically active or starting a new exercise routine, goal setting is important for staying motivated and making sure what you’re doing at the gym is helping you towards what you really want from your training.
It is safe to say that about three-quarter of fitness plans putter out and stall right around the six-week mark. Sure, you do really well in the first couple weeks and hit the gym and hit it often, but as soon as a variable comes into play (sick, work, kids, injury) you have a really tough time getting back at it. It’s also safe to say that you can’t find your way back because you have no idea where you left off.
This is what goal setting is all about. You can’t finish the race if you don’t have a start and finish line. Goal setting allows to you write down your goals, hold yourself accountable to them and eventually see them ticked off the list. But before you just start scribbling on a page there a system to make sure you set good goals and ones that are going to help you in the end, not hinder you.
You should put some thought into making your goal by following this acronym: S.M.A.R.T.
Specific: Your goals are much easier to perform then just a general goal. For example ‘lose weight’ is a general goal. A specific goal would be ‘lose 10 lbs of fat in six-weeks.’
Measurable: This means you need to be able to track your progress on your goal. If your goal is to get stronger you can track it by writing down the weight you use at each exercise every time. If your goal is to lose fat, weigh yourself and find out what your body fat percentage would be. Make sure that there is a way to measure your goals, even if it’s just a weekly picture of yourself.
Attainable: This means making your goals reachable. Say you have a yearlong goal (lose 100 lbs), break it down into two six month goals (lose 50 lbs in six months), then break it down further and further until you have a weekly goal to reach (1.5 lbs a week). You also have to make the goal challenging, if it’s something you know you can complete, then it’s not a good goal. You must be committed to work towards your goal or else it is not going to be very realistic.
Realistic: This may be one of the most important guidelines to creating a goal. The average person should aim to only lose about one to two pounds of fat weekly through proper diet and exercise. Many television shows like The Biggest Loser have huge weight losses each week for a few reasons – the participants are incredibly overweight which means they can lose a lot more weight each week and all they do is exercise, they don’t have television or movies to sit and watch all day, they aren’t working for eight hours a day then going to the gym, their job is working out. So making a goal like ‘lose 15 lbs in a week’ is not a realistic goal.
Timely: You need to give yourself a set time or day to get your goal accomplished by. Saying I want to lose 10 lbs is a good start but by when? Giving yourself a time limit makes you more motivated to do the work. Remember if you don’t reach your goal by your set date, take a step back and look at what you’ve got accomplished up until that point, look at what worked and what didn’t work for you and find ways to fix them.
A simple way to stay strict to your goal is by writing it down and giving it to someone you trust or put it in a place where you can see it every day. Make a contract out of it to yourself to reach that goal, don’t change your goal half way through or two weeks in or else it will defeat the purpose. Stick with your goal and see it out to the very end.