Learning how to effectively set fitness goals can make the difference on whether you ever achieve them or not. Unless you clearly define what you want and make a plan to get there, your odds of success will be significantly reduced. Whether your goal is to be leaner, faster, bigger, more conditioned, or eat healthier, goal setting will be a key deciding factor on getting you there. To have the greatest chance of achieving your goals, your goals must be clear, meaning they must be specific, attainable, measurable and time bound. 

Clarity. First, your goal must be clear and absent of any ambiguity for it to be effective. A goal is clear when it is specific, measurable and has a definite time set for completiion. For instance, when a goal is vague such as, "I want to be leaner before summer." or "I want to eat healthier.", it has little to no motivational value, and even less accountability which leads to the chance of never getting accomplished. A clear and specific goal will provide you with direction leading you to take action resulting in being more effective and successful. 

Attainable. Along with setting a clear goal, it must be a realistic and attainable one. A smart approach to this step is to set a long term goal and short term goals that lead up to the long term goal. Most fitness goals can be attainable, it's just a matter of allowing yourself enough time to get there. Setting a goal that is unrealistic or unattainable can erode confidence. Sometimes it may be necessary to consult with an experienced trainer or coach on setting realistic goals and time frames. Once the time frame is set, breaking your goal up into increments will make it easier to stay on track and less overwhelming. 

Here are a couple of examples:

  • The goal is to drop from a size 10 to a size 6. Your long term goal would be to drop 2 sizes in 12 weeks and your short term goal would be to drop 1 size in 6 weeks. You now have a clear goal and are prepared to take action at a pace that is realistic and more attainable.
  • The goal is to enter a physique competition. With the assistance of an experienced coach, first decide how long it may take to prepare. If the long term goal is to step on stage in 16 weeks, your short term goal may be to break up your regimen into 4 week phases. Each phase will have it's own clear goals and as you progress through each phase you are closer to your long term goal. 

Measurable. After setting up time frames, include precise ways of gauging progress. Gauging your progress will keep you accountable, motivated and allow you to celebrate your accomplishments thus far. Here are some ideas: 

  • Keep a journal with meal portions and frequency to assess weekly.
  • Keep a journal of baseline strength training values or speed times and evaluate periodically according to your goals.
  • Take progress photos and body measurements initially then again every 4 or 6 weeks depending on your goals. 

Goal setting is much more than just merely saying you want something to happen, it allows you to take control of your life's direction. Setting clear, specific and measurable goals will lead into effective plan to achieve them. 

By Liza Hughes RN
Fitness.Nutrition.Wellness.
Lifestyle Coach to Women

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