Do you start a new gym membership each January - promising yourself that “this is the year” you’ll finally get in shape - only to stall out mid-March?
You’re not alone.
Plenty of people get stuck spinning their wheels when it comes to setting and attaining fitness goals.
Instead of rocking a six pack or a pair of beautiful biceps, they wind up frustrated at their lack of progress.
This doesn’t have to be you!
Here are our top five tricks for avoiding this common pitfall and setting goals that’ll make you excited to head to your weekly workouts instead:
1. Get Specific
First, have a think about what it is you’re trying to accomplish with your new-found workout mojo.
Did your doctor tell you that you need to lose twenty pounds, or are you trying to bulk up and build muscle?
The more specific you can be with your goal, the easier it will be to develop a fitness plan to help you achieve that goal.
Sounds simple, right? You’d be surprised how many people struggle with this crucial first step.
“Research shows that a quarter of weight-loss plans fall by the wayside within two weeks,” writes Jane Sheehan in Fitness. “On the other hand, stick it out for a month and your odds of success skyrocket.”
In addition to making progress toward your goal a daily or weekly habit, consider how you can tackle the goal bit by bit, too.
If you happen to have a big fitness goal, like losing twenty pounds, trainer Matt Weik suggests breaking this big goal down into smaller, more manageable goals - like shedding 1-2 pounds a week. This will help you stay on task, without the risk of overwhelming you with your big picture goal.
When you combine uber-specific goals into a systematic training programme, you’ll start to build muscle and lose fat, helping you accomplish the final outcome of a slimmer, trimmer frame.
No matter what your fitness goal might be, it’s important to remind yourself that change doesn’t happen overnight. Rather, it takes about up to six months of consistent work before you - and your friends - notice how awesome your new body looks.
Give it time and don’t be afraid to change your plan as your needs change along the way.
2. Measure Your Milestones
When you’re talking big, over-arching goals like weight loss or muscle gain, it’s important to have specific outcomes to measure.
In addition to pounds shed, consider tracking other milestone like body measurements and how much weight you’re able to lift. Have your hip and thigh measurements decreased this week? Have you moved up from 20kg dumbbells to 25kg?
Whatever your milestone marker might be, track that information in a place you’ll remember - a notebook, a weight loss app, or any other online fitness tracker.
Don’t believe us? Check out this video from Indiana University strength trainer Josh Eidson on the importance of tracking your progress in the weight room.
Weight loss in particular can take a long time to achieve, since your weight will fluctuate as you build muscle and lose fat. If you’re new to working out, you might lose up to one pound a week, only to gain a little back again or not see any movement on the scale at all.
Focusing on other positive outcomes - like arm, hip, and leg measurements or muscle mass - can help you see how you’re progressing toward your big goal, even if you’re not noticing major changes overall.
When you achieve a milestone along the way, don’t forget to celebrate!
3. Be Realistic
While the point of goals is to challenge yourself, don’t shoot your fitness dreams in the foot by setting yourself up for failure.
Thigh gaps, six packs, and hollowed stomachs might abound in Hollywood, but it’s dangerous to try and mould your body to fit an unattainable ideal.
Instead of wishing you had a different body, make the one you do have stronger and more capable. If you want…
Sleek legs: add weighted sets of lunges and squats to your exercise routine on alternate days. Don’t be afraid of bulking up - weight training will actually make your legs slimmer. Regardless, feel proud of your muscular hammies!
Strong arms: planks, push-ups, and challenging vinyasa yoga can all help you sculpt a rocking upper body. Try taking measurements of your biceps each week to track your progress.
Rock-hard abs: hit each of the muscles in your abdominal group in order to whittle your middle. Even if you don’t lose a dress size, try measuring your waist and hips to see if you’ve made any progress.
When you set realistic goals, you’ll feel empowered to work hard and meet them - instead of despairing that you’re never going to get there.
Plus, once you knock one goal out of the park, you can find another specific, measurable, and realistic goal to set your sights on!
4. Give Yourself a Deadline
Just like any other part of the goal-making process, your deadline has to be realistic.
Can you lose twenty pounds in a month? Maybe, but you most likely wouldn’t be shedding weight in a healthy way - and you’d be much more likely to gain it all back as soon as you hit your goal weight.
When it comes to writing your goals down or discussing your goals with a trainer, focus on language that addresses a strategy or outcome - then attach a deadline and see if you can meet it.
If you’re a fitness beginner, goals like “In two weeks, I’ll work up to running one mile without stopping,” or “This week, I’ll perfect my push-up and do ten push-ups from my toes,” could be perfect jumping-off points for a larger health and wellness programme.
These examples are specific enough to give you something to work toward, and they come with a deadline attached, so you can track what it takes to reach your milestone. Read more about making a fitness plan here.
5. Keep Yourself Accountable
Of course we all have days where we can’t make it to the gym - that’s ok! As long as you’re keeping track of how many days you’re working out - and how many days you’re taking to rest - you can build a flexible schedule for yourself that makes it easy to stay accountable.
If you struggle with keeping yourself on task, consider asking a buddy to work out with you or even check in on you to make sure you went to the gym three times this week. Some fitness coaches even suggest starting a blog.
In fact, including others in your workout - whether that’s going to a class, scheduling time with a trainer, or meeting up with a friend - is more likely to help you meet your fitness goal.
“Having a reliable workout buddy increases your chances of sticking with your program,” Elizabeth Lombardo, author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness, told the wellness blog Experience Life.
Whatever your plan for accountability might be, put it in motion and stick to it to see major results!
Whether you’re hoping to lose weight, build muscle, or run a half-marathon, you need specific goals to help you get there.
Besting your own 5k race time, or beating your all-time record for pumping out the most push-ups is half the fun of fitness.
Be sure to track your progress and reward yourself when you hit that next milestone - then lay your personal stats in front of you and aim for a brand new goal.
Do you use fitness goals to motivate your progress? Tell us what you’ve been working toward in the comments below :