At some point in their lives, most people want to improve their physical fitness. This desire often arises when you’re setting New Year’s resolutions.
But fitness goals often sound like this:
- I want to exercise more
- I want to lose weight
- I want to go to the gym regularly
- I want to get healthier
While these goals are positive, they’re not particularly specific or measurable.
Moreover, they don’t involve a time frame or deadline. Your goals should be clearly defined if you want to meet them. You should also be setting long-term goals in addition to your short-term goals.
Most People Fail to Achieve Their Fitness Goals
When setting up your fitness goals, are you resigning yourself to failure? About 73 percent of people who set these types of objectives as New Year’s resolutions give up before they achieve success.
The top reasons for failure include:
- Difficulty sticking to a regimen
- Trouble getting back on track when you fall off of your path
- Difficulty finding the time to exercise
Motivation is only one factor that predicts goal-setting success. You also need to create a plan. That’s where fitness goals come in.
People often don’t achieve their fitness goals because they’re not actually setting them effectively. For example:
- Their actions aren’t in line with their objectives – What is your greater reason for achieving your fitness goals? Do you want to lose weight? In that case, you need to make sure that all of your actions, including those that fall into the category of diet and nutrition, align with your fitness goals.
- They’re not tracking their progress – Many people keep an eye on the results but don’t monitor their actions. If you’re just focusing on the number on the scale, you may feel like you failed when your weight doesn’t budge. Your progress isn’t solely linked to the outcomes. Creating fitness goals can help you realize that you’re still moving forward even if the consequences aren’t what you expected.
- They’re not honest with themselves – Perhaps you think that you’re taking the right steps when it comes to your health and fitness. If you’re not honest about your actions, though, you could lie on the couch eating potato chips all weekend and wonder why you’re not achieving your goals. Writing down your fitness goals can help you objectively analyze your progress.
Have you ever heard the saying, “A moment on the lips, forever on the hips?” You can’t change your body in a day. If you set only short-term fitness goals, you may get discouraged long before you have the time to make lasting change. Therefore, you must look at your long-term fitness objectives if you want to make lasting improvements to your health.
Why You Need Fitness Goals
One of the biggest reasons that people don’t see results from their workouts is that they don’t perform at a high enough level of intensity. Now that you know that, you might be thinking about giving your workout an extra boost tomorrow. But how will you know that you’re working harder tomorrow if you don’t know how hard you worked today?
Setting fitness goals lets you consistently monitor your fitness level. Without them, your mind can deceive you.
Let’s say that you enjoy cardio, but you’re not into strength training. However, you want to become more toned and develop defined muscles. You know that you have to lift some weights to get the physique that you want. If you don’t set goals, you’re apt to “conveniently forget” the last time that you lifted weights.
You might think, “I just did a bunch of weight lifting a couple of days ago. It’ll be fine if I skip it this time and just run on the treadmill.”
In fact, it may have been two weeks since you strength trained. If you haven’t been tracking your workouts, you don’t have a reference point by which to remember them.
It’s like waking up in the morning over summer vacation. You don’t know what day it is because you haven’t been going to work. Therefore, you haven’t been paying attention.
If you have been working out without following a plan, you may not have the body that you want by the time bathing suit season rolls around. When you feel like you’ve been putting in the time and effort at the gym but don’t have anything to show for it, you can get discouraged and stop exercising all together.
This entire scenario can change once you establish fitness goals. Some of the benefits of setting exercise and fitness objectives include:
- You see results more quickly
- You work smarter, not harder
- You can monitor and celebrate your progress
- You can quickly adjust what’s working and not working
- You stay motivated to move toward your goals
How Are Long-Term Fitness Goals Different Than Short-Term Ones?
Short-term goals can typically be attained by the end of the day, week or month. You can usually create short-term fitness goals by looking at your current situation and seeing how you can improve on it.
For example, if you don’t currently exercise, you may set a goal to work out for 10 minutes every day next week. If you generally run two miles a day, you might try to improve your speed or add some distance during the next month.
Short-term goals are relatively easy to accomplish. They should gradually expand on your current fitness level. Think of them as baby steps.
A long-term fitness goal is more outcome-based. It signals what you want to achieve by taking the baby steps that you’re planning to implement.
Some examples of long-term fitness goals include:
- Losing 20 pounds
- Lowering your BMI
- Reducing your cholesterol levels
- Running a marathon
- Staying healthy and avoiding disease as you age
- Reducing your dependence on medication
- Being able to run around with your grandkids
How Short and Long-Term Fitness Goals Work Together
Short and long-term fitness goals are both necessary to achieve lasting results from your workout program. Because a long-term fitness goal is usually at least 6 to 12 months away, you may find it hard to continue to dedicate yourself toward it.
Sure, you can pin a reminder to your refrigerator so that you see it every day. But wouldn’t it be easier if you gave yourself baby steps that could help you reach that goal? Those are your short-term goals.
Short-term fitness goals have several benefits:
- They remind you to keep working toward your long-term goals.
- They allow you to make and celebrate your progress.
- They make a challenging goal more achievable.
If you want to lose weight by the end of the year but don’t exercise, you’ll have to start small. Setting a short-term goal to work out for 10 minutes a day can help you establish an exercise habit.
However, you’re probably not going to lose a significant amount of weight if you only work out for 10 minutes a day. You need a plan to get from where you are now to your desired goal. You need to expand on your short-term goals as you progress toward your ultimate objective.
Your short-term goals are the tuners that help you get closer to your long-term objectives. If you’ve vowed to lose 20 pounds in 12 months, it would be safe to assume that you would like to have lost 10 of those pounds within six months.
If the sixth month rolls around and you have only lost five pounds, you may want to rethink your long-term goal. This doesn’t mean that you’ve failed. It actually gives you a better chance of succeeding. You may shift your long-term goal to 10 pounds because you realize that the initial objective wasn’t realistic.
Short-term goals allow you to assess your progress along the way. They’re the signposts on the highway that tell you that you’re heading in the right direction. If you stop reaching your short-term goals, you might need to change course altogether.
What Are the Most Important Fitness Goals?
According to Men’s Journal, the following fitness goals can help you work health into your lifestyle. These aren’t quick fixes for losing holiday weight or New Year’s resolutions that you’re likely to let go of within six weeks. They’re long-term fitness goals that can help you improve your wellness for the rest of your life.
1. Think Long-Term
It seems a little silly to remind you to think about your long-term fitness goals with a lengthy timeframe in mind. However, many people neglect to look ahead when they’re thinking about their health.
Athletes might push their bodies to the limit while they’re young, causing damage that prevents them from exercising in their later years. People who find success in every other area of life while they’re young may neglect their health only to pass away before they can enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Think about how you can incorporate health and fitness into your lifestyle now and forever. This is a great way to check yourself and make sure that your long-term goals are realistic.
2. Eat a Balanced Diet
There are so many different ways to talk about nutrition when it comes to health and wellness. Deprivation diets don’t stick. Restricting yourself could lead you to binge later on.
Instead of being someone who never eats carbs, what if you focused on balancing your diet? One of the best ways to do this is to think about nourishing yourself with every bite that you put into your mouth.
Think about how that could shift your mindset. Let’s say you’re craving a bag of potato chips. Ask yourself how nourishing those are for you. If you look at the nutrition label, you’ll realize that potato chips are basically empty calories.
You could make them more nourishing by dipping them into a high-protein sauce or swapping them for a baked potato topped with chunky salsa and black beans.
Changing the way that you think about food can create a nutritional regimen that’s easy to stick to. When you’re taking in a variety of nutrients, you’ll feel more satisfied after meals and reduce your cravings too.
3. Monitor Your Vital Signs
Although we’ve used weight loss as an example throughout this article, that’s not the only benefit of setting fitness goals. In fact, losing weight isn’t always a useful or important objective.
Does it really matter what size you are if your body is healthy? One way to ensure that you’re paying attention to your general wellness is to monitor your vital statistics, such as:
- Blood pressure
- Blood glucose levels
- Resting heart rate
Get regular physical exams. Improving your vital statistics is also one way to monitor your progress.
4. Stay Consistent
Because fitness is something that you should strive for throughout your life, you should focus on consistency instead of dramatic results. That’s one reason that long-term fitness goals can help you stay on track.
Depending on your experience and fitness level, the meaning of the term “consistency” can vary. If you rarely get out and move your body, a consistent workout routine might involve going for a 10-minute stroll every day. On the other hand, if you already exercise regularly, consistency may mean that you’re focusing on a particular muscle group for the next six months.
5. Work on Your Balance
When most people think about improving their fitness, they focus on working at a high intensity. Do you avoid stretching or gentle exercises because you don’t feel that they’ll produce results?
If you want to look better, build muscle and improve your performance, you should not neglect your flexibility and balance. Working these areas might not seem difficult. You may not notice the outcomes right away.
But you’ll improve your agility and movement. Enhancing your flexibility and balance will strengthen your core and create a mind-body connection.
6. Live on the Edge
Consistency and routine are some of the keys to making your fitness goals stick. You can stay healthy throughout your life with a regular workout regimen. But you might not see changes if you don’t get out of your comfort zone.
Trying something new, especially if it makes you feel a little anxious or fearful, will help you grow. The personal development gains that you attain by moving outside of the familiar can improve your fitness in the grand scheme of things.
Doing new things prevents you from getting bored. It allows you to push through plateaus. It opens your perspective.
One of the most effective long-term fitness goals that you set this year should involve experiencing something outside of the ordinary. You may discover the very thing that you need to propel your health as you go through life.
7. Develop Healthy Habits
If you’re on a health roller coaster, you may not be establishing the habits that you need to make fitness part of your life. Therefore, some of your long-term fitness goals should concentrate on creating healthy habits.
Some examples of fitness habits that you can establish this year include:
- Sticking with a consistent routine even if it means scheduling fewer workouts each week
- Planning your workout ahead of time
- Making warm-ups and cool-downs a priority
- Diversifying your routine
- Developing healthy ways to celebrate your wins
- Stop procrastinating
- Stop doing exercises that you hate just because you feel like you should
Advice for Meeting Your Fitness Goals
Although some people make meeting fitness goals seem easy, consistent exercise is hard for some to manage. About 25 to 35 percent of adults in the U.S. live a sedentary lifestyle. If you’d like to optimize your fitness, take some of the following tips into account.
Don’t Do It All at Once
It’s easy to think of fitness goals as all or nothing. Are you the kind of person who is either in exercise or couch potato mode?
When you’re working out, you might get excited about the possibilities. Once you get into the swing of things, exercising feels so good that you figure you’ll never stop doing it. So you start imagining all of the possibilities.
You just lost 10 pounds in two months. Imagine what you’ll look like in another two if you continue losing weight at the current rate.
You have seen impressive changes in your bicep definition since you began your regimen. You figure you can get six-pack abs and sculpted thighs in a couple more months.
Plus, if you’ve been setting fitness goals, you’ve seen how productive they’ve made you. Your confidence has improved, and you feel like you can do anything.
So you plow ahead.
Six months later, you’re 10 pounds heavier and no closer to feeling comfortable when swimsuit season rolls around.
Trying to do too much can set you up for failure. Although exercise is usually healthy, too much of it can wreak havoc on your body. Overtraining pushes your body’s stress response to the brink.
Some of the effects of extreme exercise include:
- A reduction in feel-good neurotransmitters, leading to depression and fatigue
- Stress-related diseases, such as hypothyroidism
- Sleep disturbances
- Weight gain
- Immune dysfunction
If your health suffers, you may not feel like working out. Doing too much at once is a quick way to get overwhelmed and slip back into a sedentary lifestyle.
Setting long-term fitness goals can combat this cycle as long as they’re achievable and realistic. Go easy on yourself. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
If you’ve failed every fitness regimen that you’ve tried, consider setting just one long-term goal this year. Some ideas are:
- Increase the number of push-ups you can do
- Lose a certain amount of weight
- Be able to do a split
- Perfect your handstand
- Run a 5K
- Develop a solid exercise program based on resistance bands
You don’t have to restrict yourself to doing only the exercise that corresponds with your goals. You should still maintain a balanced workout regimen. However, you don’t have to worry if something slips. Keep your focus on your goals, and you’ll have something to celebrate, perhaps for the first time ever.
Plus, as you move into the following year, you’ll have cemented a habit with the goal that you accomplished. You can set a new long-term goal and continue to refine the one that you worked on during the previous 12 months.
Set Fitness Goals in Multiple Categories
If you feel comfortable setting more than one goal without worrying that you’ll overdo it and burn out, consider creating one objective in each of the following categories:
- Personal achievement (like finishing a race)
You may even want to create one long-term fitness goal and break it up into these categories. For example, if you’d like to lose 20 pounds by the end of the year, consider what action steps you would have to take in each of these groups to make it doable.
Focus on Progress Instead of Perfection
Perfection can discourage you so much that you never try again. Or it can cause so much anxiety that you never start moving.
Tony Horton explains that perfection can prevent you from being satisfied with your life. So many people believe that they will be happier when they’ve finally attained their goals.
But what about all of the accomplishments that happen along the way?
Let’s say that you want to lose 20 pounds by December. You have your eye on the prize, and you won’t be satisfied until you reach a certain number on the scale.
If the deadline for this long-term goal is months away, though, you may have trouble staying motivated as you move toward it. You may not celebrate each pound that you shed because it’s never enough. By the time December comes, you’re over it. You’re no longer excited about your goal, and you’ve stopped working toward it.
Failing to meet your goal only makes you feel worse because it’s another item on your list that has been left unchecked.
What if, when the end of the year comes, you look back at all that you have accomplished even if the number on the scale doesn’t reflect what you consider perfection? In this scenario, you may be able to celebrate the fact that you:
- Went to the gym consistently
- Established a regular walking regimen
- Gave up soda
- Paid attention to your hydration
- Lowered your blood pressure
- Made new friends at a race that you ran
- Tried a Zumba class
All of these bullet points indicate some type of progress for which you can reward yourself. Don’t lose sight of your wins just because you haven’t achieved the big one. Your journey is ultimately more important than the outcome.
If you’ve been setting long-term goals and breaking them up into short-term ones, you probably don’t have to worry about this. Every short-term goal that you achieve gives you a chance to celebrate.
Pat yourself on the back every time you finish a scheduled workout. Allow yourself to take a bath after a particularly intense session. Appreciating the short-term wins will help you find gratitude for the journey.
Make Sure That Your Goals Are Realistic
Goals should be challenging, but they shouldn’t be impossible. You don’t want to work hard only to come out empty-handed.
Make sure that you set realistic goals. For example, perhaps you have a long-term goal to fit into your size 8 jeans within six months.
If you fit into them six months before and have simply gained an extra five pounds over the holidays, you’re likely to achieve your goal. If you haven’t fit into those jeans for 20 years, you’re not necessarily setting a realistic objective. In that case, it might even be unsafe to pursue your goal because you may overtrain or undereat to achieve the drastic weight loss.
Hire a Personal Trainer
A personal trainer can not only help you set fitness goals but also hold you accountable for achieving them.
Some of the benefits of working with a personal trainer include:
- Produce results more efficiently
- Optimize fat loss and muscle gain
- Lower your chance of injury
- Create a habit that lasts a lifetime
- Overcome plateaus
If you get injured, you may not be able to continue with your fitness plan. An injury could derail your goals, although you can always adjust them. However, getting assistance with your workout and fitness goals can help you crush them without hurting yourself.
Set Bucket List Goals
Many people have bucket lists for their personal goals. This is an example of an extremely long-term, or lifetime, fitness goal.
Have you ever thought about developing a bucket list for your fitness objectives? Some of the items on your list could be:
- Do 25 push-ups
- Run a 10K
- Become proficient at three yoga poses
- Master a box jump
- Learn to swim or ride a bike
- Do a pull-up
- Climb a rope
- Hold a plank for one minute
- Lift your bodyweight
- Learn to surf or body board
- Learn to kayak or use a stand-up paddleboard
Creating a bucket list can help you stay excited, even when you’re not feeling motivated. It’s the ultimate compilation of long-term goals. Keep adding to it to make fitness a priority for a lifetime.