What sets you apart from the washboard abs of Instagram?
Apart from genetics (Sorry!) it's likely your strategy, or lack thereof.
Thousands of us work out week-in, week-out. But many of us in the fitness community don't see any results because we aren't training with a purpose-oriented plan.
Today, we'll help you go from a gym-guesser to knowing exactly what you want and how you'll get there with proper goal setting.
Why is it Important to Set Fitness Goals?
If you don’t know where you’re going, you can take any path. In other words, without a goal, it doesn’t matter how you workout because you aren’t trying to achieve anything specific.
Goals give you a focus, which enables you to define a clear plan and tick off your progress as you get there.
If plans are so essential, why aren’t we all using them? Because it’s hard! Tell us if one of these statements sounds like you:
- Plans are boring and monotonous
- Your lifestyle is too unpredictable for a plan
- You try but no matter what, you can’t stick to your plan
- It’s too overwhelming to make a plan
These statements are all accurate to a certain degree, but there are ways to overcome these challenges. Besides that, there really is no better feeling than hitting a fitness goal.
The benefits of achieving your fitness goals:
- Hitting a goal is a form of positive reinforcement that will motivate you to keep going.
- Ticking off a new achievement creates a sense of self-satisfaction and raises your self-esteem.
- Achieving what you set out to contributes to better mental clarity and a sense of self.
- And importantly, working out regularly, no matter your goal, will alleviate the symptoms of many mental and physical health conditions.
How to Identify and Set Fitness Goals
How do we go about setting our fitness destination and path? Here’s an easy-to-follow framework for when you’re feeling lost on your fitness journey:
Assess Your Current Fitness Self
Begin your fitness journey exactly where you are by reviewing your current health and fitness state.
If you have a known health condition, please talk to your doctor before starting a new lifestyle or significantly changing your workout schedule.
With a clear understanding of your relationship to fitness, you can now follow on to the next two steps: choosing your fitness goal and creating a schedule.
Side Note: Setting Realistic and Achievable Goals
Understanding your current fitness level is less about goal setting and more about what’s realistic and achievable.
If you struggle to hold your weight from a pull-up bar, wanting to be a ripped callisthenics adonis within three months will be a short and disappointing journey.
Choose incremental goals that give you a greater sense of progress and achievement, and you’re significantly more likely to see results.
Choose Your Main Fitness Goal
Fail to plan; plan to fail.
Take a look at your current fitness level. Would you like to walk a little further or run a marathon? Would you like to be able to carry your shopping in – or compete in a weightlifting competition?
Here are four common types of fitness goals that may suit you:
Working out to improve your everyday life
Becoming stronger and more flexible will improve your ability to complete everyday tasks and reduce your risk of injury.
Working out to improve your mental health
Focus on movements that make you feel good, such as walking in nature, team sports, yoga, or weight lifting.
Working out to lose fat mass
Consider your diet and doing more calorie-burning cardio. You can also build more calorie-experience muscle mass through resistance training.
Working out to gain healthy fat and muscle mass
Focus on eating enough healthy carbs, fats, and proteins while going heavy on weight lifting and resistance training to build muscle.
Side Note: Setting Short-term and Long-term Goals
As mentioned earlier, realistic goals are much more valuable than lofty ones. You can also choose to set short and long-term goals. For example, you can spend five months working out to improve your everyday life through functional training while also maintaining a bigger five-year goal to build muscle for aesthetics.
How to Create an Effective Workout Plan
With your destination realised, let’s set a path to get there. Here’s how to go about building a workout plan.
Choose the Right Exercises and Adding Progressive Overload
The best exercise is the one that you do. Form the building blocks of your workout plan by choosing exercises that are accessible to you, both physically and financially.
Most importantly, if you want results, you need to choose exercises to apply ‘progressive overload’ to. Progressive overload means gradually making an exercise harder as you grow fitter to keep challenging your nervous system.
Progressive overload for different goal types may look like:
- Adding distance or more speed to your runs
- Adding more weight or more reps to your resistance exercises
- Trying more challenging skill levels in sports
Planning Workout Frequency and Duration
Next, consider your schedule.
It’s helpful not to think of your workouts as set in stone. Instead, plan for busy weeks by choosing a minimum and an ideal volume of workouts.
The UK Government recommends 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week. If you want to see results, you probably need to be doing double this. So, imagining a 150-minute week, here’s how you could split it:
3 days x 1 hour
5 days x 30 minutes
See how each option will fit dramatically different schedules? Choose what works for you, and don’t be afraid to experiment.
Incorporate Strength Training and Cardio
If you’re used to working out without a set plan, you might stick to a specific exercise style, such as running.
Typically, cardio is used more for weight loss, while strength training is about building muscle. In reality, you should utilise cardio and strength and switch up the split and intensity based on your goals.
Add Variety to your Workout Routine
Some of us thrive on routine, while others despise it. Build your routine the way that works for you.
Here are a few easy ways to mix up your routine and keep it fun:
- Swap around your workout times and lengths
- Introduce new workout styles such as trail running for road runners or callisthenics for weight lifters
- Ask a friend to join you for some support and company
Make Time for Rest and Recovery
Finally, be sure to include rest days in your routine. The body coach references how rest days can decrease your chance of injury by allowing your muscles to repair themselves.
On rest days, you can either forget about exercise completely or take ‘active rest’ by trying a low-impact exercise such as stretching or walking.
How To Track Your Progress Using Fitness Goals
Tracking your progress will motivate you and allow you to adjust your routine.
Here are ways you can consistently track your progress over time:
- Fitness tracking apps on your phone
- Wearable tech such as a fitbit
- Progress pictures
Non-scale victories also allow you to track your progress without fixating on numbers. Here are a few examples of non-scale victories:
- Feeling comfortable in your clothes
- Being able to do an exercise you couldn’t before
- Competing in a race or competition
- Sleeping better
How Do I Stay Motivated to Achieve my Fitness Goals?
Staying motivated is one of the biggest challenges for anyone embarking on a fitness journey. Here are our tried and tested ways to stay motivated:
- Be accountable: Tell someone (or everyone) what you’re doing and ask them to keep you accountable.
- Journal your way around the “screw it” effect: Often when we’ve had a setback, we’ll think “screw it“ and throw in the towel altogether. Use journaling to give yourself perspective and avoid giving up.
- Habit stack: Associate new habits with old ones. For example, if you reach for a beer every day after work, leave your workout clothes next to the fridge. It sounds weird, but it works.
- Assess the root cause: If you’re struggling to stick to your regime, maybe it’s too ambitious. Consider reducing your intensity or number of sessions, then build back up slowly.
Working out regularly, with a goal or not, will transform the quality of your life both now and far in the future. However, setting goals, as we’ve done in this article, will help you achieve the lifestyle goals of your dreams and often make working out significantly more enjoyable.
If you’re serious about setting fitness goals, consider getting a trainer. We offer a PT service in Brighton with offerings to suit any budget.