In life, we’re often told to dream big. To reach for the stars. To go for gold. And while having big aspirations is admirable, when it comes to setting fitness goals a more calculated and thought out plan is imperative for success.
When you first set yourself a goal, you’re likely full of motivation and raring to get to work, but over time these feelings can dwindle making the task of hitting your goals a lot harder. Therefore, breaking a big goal into multiple smaller, more attainable goals can help you both mentally and physically along the way.
The SMART method
For a goal to be achievable, it needs to be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based.
Telling yourself you’re exercising to ‘get fit’ or ‘get healthier’ is all well and good, but in reality, goals like these are too vague. Keep your goals precise as if your aims are too generic, how will you know if you’re getting there successfully? For example, if you want to lose weight, rather than saying just that, your goal might be to lose a specific number of kilos in a set time frame. Or, if you want to improve your strength, instead of setting yourself the vague goal of ‘I want to be stronger’, you should instead say something along the lines of ‘I want to add 10kg to my squat’ or ‘I want to be able to deadlift my bodyweight’.
Your goals need to be measurable, most importantly to allow you to know when you’ve reached them. When you start working towards a goal, begin by ensuring you know where you’re starting from. If you want to run a faster 5k for example, make sure you know your current time, or if you want to be able to lift a little more weight when you bench, be sure to note what you can currently do. From here, it is then important to keep track of how you are progressing. While some people may choose to use a smart watch or an app to track their hard work, a simple notepad and pen works just as well.
One of the biggest mistakes people make while setting goals is that they make them unachievable from the get go. You aren’t competing against anyone but yourself, so don’t set yourself up to fail with false comparisons to people who may be younger, fitter or more experienced than you. Make sure your goals are attainable for you – for your age, your current ability level and the time and resources you have available.
Goals should be set high, but they must also be realistic. A goal to lose 10kg in four weeks is both unrealistic and unhealthy. Likewise, if you are new to running and set a goal to run a marathon in a month’s time, you’re could be setting yourself up for disappointment, and probably a lot of pain too. If your overall goal is to lose 10kg for example, give yourself a realistic time frame to achieve this. Or, to keep you continually motivated, break the challenge down into smaller realistic chunks, such as setting yourself the goal of losing 2kg every four weeks until you reach the big 10kg.
Make sure each goal has a specific time frame for completion. As a result, your training will then all be for one specific date. This will give you focus and help with motivation on the days you find it hard to get going and, of course, easily allows you to determine if your goal has been achieved.