In fitness, as in other aspects of life, it’s always more motivating when you have something you’re working towards – an end point: a goal. Now, it’s easy to set a goal, to say “I want to do this” or “I will be this by X…” – but if you really want to achieve your goals, it’s probably worth spending some more time mapping them out first…
So, here’s the process I go through when setting goals and targets for my clients and myself:
1. The End Point:
What is your ultimate goal? What made you hire a coach, join the gym or change your lifestyle in the first place? No matter how ambitious or huge it may be, start with this, and work backwards.
Look at your motivations – what has spurred you on to set this target, and what is going to push you on to achieve it. Is it an internal or external factor that’s motivating you? By understanding the reasoning behind your objectives, it’s going to help you (and your coach) approach them in the right way.
3. Is your “End Point” Realistic?
Now, most goals we set for ourselves are possible, but sometimes what we think we want changes when we better understand the situation. Analyse your goal, look at what you would need to do to get there and think “Is that what I really want? Am I going to enjoy the process and is it going to be worth it for me?” If the answer is no, then you re-adjust the goal. This doesn’t mean ripping it up and throwing it away, but often just adjusting the parameters of what you are hoping to achieve.
4. ‘Chunk’ it:
Starting out, your goals are going to seem like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Feeling so far away from what you want can be very demotivating, and promote a “whatever, it’s not going to happen” kind of attitude. So, the best thing to do is to break your ‘big’ goal down into lots of ‘little’ goals. These can be of increasing difficulty and size, working towards your ultimate “End Point”.
5. Use Performance Markers:
When breaking down your goal into chunks, vary the type of progress marker you use: looking to build muscle? Set yourself a target of increasing your 5RM in a specific exercise, rather than always tracking muscle circumference, weight and Fat Free Mass. Looking to reduce your body fat? Set yourself a target of improving your PB on a 5k run, how many press-ups you can do in a minute, rather than just looking at the scales and your body fat percentage. Variety is usually a good thing
6. Set yourself a time frame:
Now that you have all your goals laid out, give yourself a time frame for each of them. By giving yourself deadlines to stick to, it provides a sense of urgency and gives importance to all the work you put in. It also gives you a definitive way of tracking progress – not hitting your targets? Readjust your training and timeframes (the same goes for if your deadlines are too generous as well)!
7. Keep Adjusting:
Something I hear a lot listening to Shredded by Science Radio (which is a brilliant podcast by the way), and that I fully agree with, is that when it comes to health and fitness, the target is constantly moving. It’s not a case of “Set target. Achieve target. Fitness achieved.” but rather constantly adjusting and adapting to each individual situation. As you get closer to one goal, you might want to try something else, get bored of your approach, or set the bar even higher. That’s fine. Don’t feel that once you pick a goal you need to stick to it until you get there. Match the goals to what you want, not the other way around…
8. Enjoy the process:
I’ve left the most important point until last. Now, this isn’t to say that if you don’t love what you’re doing, don’t do it at all – for health reasons we need to do certain things, whether we like it or not. Just remember – health and exercise doesn’t need to feel like punishment. Find things that you enjoy, and implement them into your regime. Find the approach that works best for you, don’t follow something because it’s “optimal”. Optimal doesn’t exist, not in the real world.
Goals are set to be achieved; make sure you stack the odds in your favour!