Goal Setting

Take a look around your gym and take a mental picture of all the people exercising. In a vast majority of cases, if you revisit the same gym in 12-months time, those people will, in the majority of cases, look exactly the same. They won’t have lost weight, built muscle, gained strength or increased their fitness very much if at all. In fact, it will appear as though they are stuck in some sort of time vortex doomed to doing the same thing over and over but getting no results. Some may even drop out of exercise altogether, frustrated with their lack of progress.

Part of the reason for this lack of progress is lousy programming but the real crux of the matter is lack of proper goal setting. In other words, their training has no direction or focus.

Having a well-defined exercise goal is like putting together flat-pack furniture with a very detailed set of instructions – you use the right tools, follow the steps and build your new cupboard or chest of drawers in a logical, timely fashion.

In contrast, exercising without goals is like trying to put together the same furniture flat pack but without instructions and not even knowing what you are supposed to be building! Yes – you may eventually figure out what to do and make something resembling a useable piece of furniture but it’s going to be more luck than judgement and the odds are stacked heavily against you.

Having an exercise goal means that you know (or can find out) what sort of exercises and training you should be doing, what diet you should be following and will ensure that, every time you go into the gym or head out for a run, you do so with purpose. Each workout should take you a step closer to your goal or goals.

Fitness and exercise goals can come in a variety of shapes and sizes from losing 20lbs to losing six-inches off your waist to breaking seven-minutes for a mile run to being able to do 15 pull-ups. By setting goals, you move away from simply exercising and you start training and it’s training that will help you make improvements in your fitness, appearance, performance and health.

The best goals are ones that are quantifiable. Vague goals like lose weight, tone up, get stronger aren’t explicit enough. Instead of setting vague goals, use the acronym SMART to help you make your goals more realistic and therefore attainable.

S – specific

By making your goals specific, you will be able to direct your efforts more effectively. For example, rather than just set the goal to get fit, set the goal to be able to run three miles without stopping. Being able to run three miles without stopping shows that you are indeed fit however the goal to be fit is very vague. Make your goals specific to give yourself a target to aim for.

M – Measurable

Your goals should be quantifiable so that means you need to be able to put a measurable value to them. If you want to lose weight, how many pounds do you want to lose? If you want to get stronger, how much weight do you want to be able to lift? Make sure you can put a number to whatever you are trying to achieve. If you can’t, make your goal more specific so that you can measure your progress.

A – Achievable

Any goal that you set yourself should be challenging but ultimately achievable. If you are currently a non-runner and you set yourself the goal of winning the first ever marathon you enter, you are really stacking the odds of success against you. There is no harm in dreaming of great things but rather than set lofty and ultimately unreachable goals, set goals that you can achieve in a reasonable time frame. Once you reach your initial goal, you are then free to set yourself a loftier target. Rather than focus on one big, distant goal, set yourself smaller goals and work toward each one a step at a time.

R – Recorded

Recorded goals have much more gravitas than a verbal or mental goal. Write your goals down and revisit this document from time to time to remind yourself of what exactly you are trying to achieve. Feel free to share your goal with friends or family or post it on social media sites. Alternatively you can keep it to yourself. Whether you make your goal public or keep it private, revisit your goal to keep yourself focused.

T – Timed

Placing a time constraint on your goal adds an element of urgency to what you are trying to achieve. Without a time constraint, it would be all too easy to put off starting your diet or exercise programme because there would be no real pressure. By adding a time constraint to your goals, you are less likely to miss workouts or stray from your diet – you have a deadline to meet and that will maintain your focus. Make sure your deadline is sensible and won’t put you under so much pressure that the whole process becomes unpleasant. Make your deadline tight enough that you have to stay focused but not so tight that you are unlikely to reach your goal in the given time frame. Add a 10-percent “fudge factor” to allow for life getting in the way and briefly interrupting your progress.

Some of the most successful people in the world use goal setting – from captains of industry to Olympic athletes. You can significantly increase the results from your workouts by using goals to guide your training and keep you motivated.