Are you tired of how you look, and how it feels to be in your body? You probably wish you could start an exercise habit but have had many unsuccessful attempts to make the habit stick. What you need to do is start small and slowly expand to a regular exercise routine with short-term goals and go from there. This article will teach you the importance of short term goals and how they can lead to lasting impacts on your life.
Short-Term Goals Lead to Long-Term Growth
Small goals are often overlooked for being too easy to do, too simple and not contributing to lasting change. However, short-term goals can be crucial to getting you to the desired fitness level you want to have, and here’s why.
Fitness is a broad term with many avenues in which you can take improving your body. There’s strength training, agility, endurance, cardio and a slew of other choices you can make. With all the decisions, it’s easy to experience a choice overload, in which the sheer number of options is likely to make someone paralyzed and indecisive. Thus, they end up never making a choice.
By picking one short-term goal — and one is the crucial part — you focus in on one area of improvement and let the other fall to the waist side. If you decide you want to be able to do 100 bicep curls in one sitting, you discount running a 7-minute mile, swimming 20 laps in under a certain amount of time, and so forth. You’ve given yourself a direction in which to grow.
Once you’ve made progress in one short-term fitness goal, you can choose to expand the goal further or tack on a different goal, such as being able to touch your toes or touching the ground with your elbows. Whatever you decide, short-term fitness goals give you structure and forces you to focus on one area of improvement at a time.
Short-term goals are easy to do and can often be accomplished in a few weeks if you consistently work toward your goal. It feels good to accomplish one short-term goal, and you’re thus beholden to continue your progress into another goal. The more goals you complete, the harder it will be to stop and the more ingrained accomplishing your goal will be.
Thus, short-term goals give you the momentum to constantly strive for improvement, to make fitness fun since you’re getting a pleasurable reward for completing each goal (feeling accomplished). Such momentum is necessary to keep you pursuing your goals and not burning out, which is the problem with a focus on long-term goals.
Focus on a long-term goal, such as losing 70 pounds, is often daunting since the size of the goal seems too large for the amount of time you put in. It’s easy to see that you’re not making progress in your goal when you actually are. But if you focus on short term goals, such as losing a pound a week, in about a year and a half you’ll have accomplished that long-term goal.
It takes momentum to keep you moving and not get stagnant. Stagnancy leads to impatience, which leads to ultimately dropping your goal.
The more short-term goals you accomplish, the more skills you grow. Therefore, it becomes easier to accomplish goals quicker and more efficiently. Your skill level experiences compound growth.
With small goals as your motivation, you can successfully reach your long-term goals. In the previous example, if you lose one pound a week for 70 weeks, you’ve learned a lot about yourself in that time. You’ve learned when you become impatient and want to give up in addition to how to keep yourself motivated toward your short-term goals.
When you examine your growth in short-term goals, you see how you grow over a long period. This is especially true if you log your journey through short-term fitness goals in a journal or word document. By seeing the struggles you face on the minor scale, you see your growth on a larger scale since you had to push through minor inconveniences to reach the broader goal.
Short-term goals take consistency and dedication to accomplish on the micro-level. But when you accomplish a series of short goals, you accomplish growth on a scale that was otherwise impossible to achieve.
Here’s How to Make Goals You’ll Stick To
Now that we’ve established the significance of short-term goals, we have to make sure you’re setting up goals properly. If you set up goals that are too vague, idealistic, or otherwise unachievable in your circumstances, you’re not likely to finish them and thus not get the overall growth you want.
To establish goals you’ll actually stick to, you need to set up S.M.A.R.T. goals. Here’s what the acronym stands for.
You need to be specific with what you want. When you say “I want to lose weight,” there’s no indication of how much weight you want to lose or through what methods. You could lose 30 pounds by not eating at all, but that would be extremely unhealthy and lead to more problems than solutions.
Instead, you could say, “I want to lose five pounds with cardio and clean eating.” That’s a specific goal with not only the end destination in mind but the process in which you’re going to get there. Specific goals are more likely to be achieved since you know what you want, you know how you’re going to get there, and you’re less likely to find loopholes.
What metrics will help you determine if you’re meeting your goal? If you say, “I want to lose five pounds with cardio and clean eating,” you know the metrics in which you’re going to measure your weight loss — pounds (or whatever weight system exists in your country). But what do “cardio” and “clean eating” mean? You need to establish metrics for this system.
For example, for cardio, you could use the number of runs each week as your metric. You measure successful cardio at three runs a week for at least ten minutes. If you don’t run that number of times for that long, you know you’re not on track with your goal.
Further, “clean eating” could mean three servings of vegetables, two servings of healthy carbs, and two servings of protein in each meal. In the beginning, you could reduce a serving of junk food to one a day, so you’re not likely to binge and ruin your goals.
By measuring the number of servings you have, you focus on an addition-based diet versus a subtraction-based one. You’re not taking away bad foods but adding healthier ones to your diet in ways you can measure and monitor to see if you’re on track for your goals.
Is your goal realistic in your circumstances? For example, some people can grind for hours on end and be able to achieve their goals. Such a person has naturally strong willpower and can push through any distraction.
You may think you’re such a person, so you might set up a “Go to the gym every day for a week” goal. But ask yourself if you’re really like that. If that’s not achievable for you at the start, you’re likely to drop your goal and stunt your progress.
It’s best to start with ridiculously small goals so that you don’t get discouraged. Small goals, such as going to the gym for an hour one day a week, is achievable and leads to the direction, momentum, and growth we talked about earlier.
Idealism is the killer of goals. Stay realistic and ensure that your goals are achievable before you resolve to accomplish them.
Relevance refers to goals that make sense on a broader scale. Most fitness goals will fall under this concept, but sometimes we can get swept up in the pleasure of setting up and achieving goals.
For example, if your goal is to lose weight, you shouldn’t tack on another subset of goals designed to make you build muscle. The two processes, while they can coincide, need two different methods to complete efficiently.
Losing weight requires eating healthy and frequently exercising, keeping the amount of fatty and sugary foods low. But muscle building requires eating a lot of food to spur muscle growth, which is why many people go through bulking and cutting periods to gain muscle then lose the fat accrued in building that muscle.
If your goal is only to lose weight, building muscle is rather irrelevant and could be damaging to your goal. Stick to one and make sure all subsequent goals are relevant to your overall long-term goal.
If attending school has taught us anything, it’s that deadlines motivate us. When you give yourself a general time frame for when you want to accomplish your goal, you’re likely to work backward and set up a structure allowing you to get to your finish line.
So let’s say you want to lose five pounds with cardio and clean eating, you’ve defined the metrics for cardio and clean eating, and all your smaller goals are relevant and achievable. If you don’t give yourself a deadline, you’re likely to go soft on some weeks because you have all the time in the world to make up on the cardio or clean eating you should be doing.
Deadlines are crucial for ensuring you maintain consistent progress and to avoid padding your schedule. Deadlines also push you to prioritize your goal over the other millions of things that could pop up and demand your attention.
What Types of Short-Term Fitness Goals Can You Do?
Warm-ups are a crucial part of warming up, as they drastically diminish your potential for injuries.
A bit uncommon, but you can make warming up properly and thoroughly a goal as well. If you’ve done this consistently, then this shouldn’t be an issue for you. However, many fitness enthusiasts work out without warming-up correctly and thoroughly, especially if they’re younger.
You could find it beneficial to make more efficient, more thorough warm-ups a fitness goal for you for the overall health of your body. For example, you could do:
- 30 seconds of stretches for each muscle group (head, upper body, waist, and back, lower body, ankles, and feet).
- Dedicating 15 seconds to each joint as well.
- Do 30 jumping jacks to get your heart pumping.
- Do three sets of dynamic stretching to loosen up your whole body further.
Next up is heart and circulation health. One perk of cardio is that there are many avenues for you to go through, depending on your preferences and limitations. For example, running is considered the best cardio you can do according to Time, but people with joint and back problems may not be able to run for long durations.
You can ride a bicycle, go swimming, walk-briskly or find a myriad of other ways to get your heart pumping through physical exercise (so watching scary movies don’t count).
Let’s say you did decide to choose running as your preferred form of cardio. You can:
- Run consistently for three days every week.
- Run for at least 10 minutes at a time.
- Run at least half a mile.
Then as you’ve achieved these goals for a few weeks, you can focus on increasing the number of times you run each week, how long, or the distance traveled. The essential part is consistency and making sure you get your butt running every week.
Another often neglected fitness goal is flexibility, but there are multiple benefits to striving for better flexibility.
For instance, better flexibility reduces the likelihood of injury since your muscles and joints are less tight. If you lift weights and happen to turn a certain way, your muscles and joints will be able to withstand the different pressure rather than tear.
Further, flexibility improves posture since your back muscles won’t be as tight and thus pulling your spine down. There’s also evidence of better blood supply to tissues, delaying the amount of time in which you get winded, and improved supply of nutrients in your circulation.
To improve flexibility, you should do these before every time you work out.
- Do 15 toe touches.
- Grab the top of your foot and pull it behind your back until you feel a strong stretch. Hold that position for 10 seconds and do the same with your other leg.
- Do a piriformis stretch for 15 seconds.
- Stretch your back muscles by leaning back as far as you can with your arms raised and holding that position for 10 seconds.
- Stretch your triceps by reaching back one arm to touch your shoulder blade, using your other arm to push the elbow down. Do each arm for 10 seconds each.
- Stretch your toes and calves, each for 20 seconds, to prevent shin splints.
You can find other exercises online to fit the exact flexibility goals you would like to achieve.
Whether you want to look lean or simply to be able to lift more than you usually can, strength training is a great way to not only promote fat burning but improve willpower as well. Weight training is uncomfortable, so pushing yourself past your comfort zone is an excellent way to promote self-control and discipline.
Many athletes use short, frequent bursts of energy to build muscular endurance. There’s a blitz of exercises, such as sprinting at full speed, taking a short break, then doing the sprint multiple times to build leg muscles and cardiovascular health.
For weight-training, it’s recommended to lift 40 to 60 percent of your maximum weight for one rep for an amount you feel comfortable. After three-weeks of consistent weight-training, increase the weight by 50 percent then increase the repetitions by 25 to 50 percent. After consistent growth over three weeks, you’ll see major changes in your muscle composition.
Short-term strength building goal examples:
- Do 100 reps at a weight with which you’re comfortable.
- Be able to do five more pull-ups every two weeks.
- Increase your weight reps by 25 to 50 percent every three weeks.
- Rotate through your muscle groups (arms, back, legs, chest, core) once a week for three weeks straight.
While physical fitness may be your goal, try improving your mental fitness as one. One of the best ways to do that is through meditation, either guided or solo.
Meditation has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, both of which causes your body to tense up and potentially lead to injury during exercise. Further, meditation promotes emotional health by causing you to address underlying emotional issues, and it also leads to improved self-awareness, so you’re able to observe yourself and how you operate better.
Meditation is both the easiest and hardest thing you can do in your life. All you need to do is sit down in a quiet, tranquil environment and breathe deeply and slowly and focus on your breath. Some experts advise focusing solely on your breath and avoiding getting consumed with stray thoughts that pop into your head.
That focus and self-awareness are difficult to achieve for beginners, but with practice and steady sessions, you can extend heightened self-awareness and internal calmness into other areas of your life.
- Meditate for at least five minutes a day or 20 minutes once a week. You can increase the duration or weekly frequency, the more ingrained this habit becomes.
- For an extra challenge, try to focus only on your breath. Discount any stray thought entering your mind and return to your breath whenever possible. This helps you improve your focus and willpower, which can translate into your workout routine.
Another creative goal to strive for is to change up the types of exercises you do. After establishing a routine, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and feel like you’re not progressing. Step out of the gym and try to find a new form of exercise to engage and challenge you.
If you’re used to doing reps at the gym, try giving rock climbing a try. Rock climbing not only forces you to use the muscles in your arms, back, legs, and core but forces you to think strategically as to which path to the top is best for you.
Further, swimming is excellent cardio, and muscle building workout in addition to forcing you to focus on your breathing. If you feel stagnant in your running growth, you could sport a swimsuit instead of running shorts.
Check out what’s available where you live. You could be a great boxer, martial artist, dancer, or badminton player.
Fitness diversity goals:
- Try out one sport you never thought you would do.
- Try out something that makes you nervous or would make you self-conscious (like ballroom dancing or other forms of dance).
- Find one new dance or sport to try every month.
- Participate in a new type of fitness regime every three months.
Take Your Goals Month By Month
The best way to focus on your short-term fitness goals is to take them one month at a time. You’ll usually know what your work, school, or social schedule looks like and can plan your fitness goals around them. Whether you’re trying something new, like club basketball or tango lessons, you don’t have to feel like you’re committed to something you don’t ultimately like.
Best of all, you can start a new goal at any time of the year. Screw New Year Resolutions! They’re statistically not likely to work, but people still put faith in them anyway. How many of us have said, “Ya know, I’m going to get my act together at the start of the new year when I can start fresh.”
Even if it’s the middle of October, set up a goal that you can complete by October 31. Even if it’s walking around the block for 10 minutes every morning, you’re making more progress than you would have otherwise done. Something is always better than nothing.
Then, when November rolls around, you can start up another fitness goal. Say you want to shave down the time it takes to run a mile by three minutes. You have to work consistently hard run for endurance and quicken your speed. You’ll have to eat healthily and copiously to ensure you have the proper nutrients for your running practices.
But at the end of the month — after Thanksgiving has come and gone — you’ll be able to say you’ve shaved down your running time by three glorious minutes. In December, you can choose to do another fitness goal such as increasing the number of reps you can do at a certain weight. Still, be sure to revisit the treadmill or track to keep up your cardio fitness.
That’s the beauty of short-term goals. They build off of each other and improve your overall health, even if you’re focusing on subsections of fitness each month. After you’ve finished a few fitness goals, you not only have the confidence that you can do whatever you put your mind to but that your body is now more capable of handling whatever fitness extremes you encounter.
Be Kind to Yourself
Even if you’re making consistent progress over several months, life inevitably gets in the way. You might be unable to hit the gym or go for a swim for a considerable amount of time, finding your momentum for the fitness progress you made diminished in the meantime.
That’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up too bad for not somehow doing more than you could have, such as going to the gym late at night to keep up your goal or running even if you were dead tired. Remember that goals are meant to serve us, not vice versa.
Don’t get discouraged if you miss a day or can’t complete your goal for whatever reason. Yes, it will be disappointing, but it’s not the end of the world. You’ll have to build that momentum again, struggling to get to the uphill battle of growth until it becomes easier.
Use Mistakes as Guides for Improvement
If anything, you can learn from your mistakes and why you couldn’t complete your goal and try to compensate in the future. If an emergency came up, such as a sick family member, or your boss assigned a massive project that had to be taken care of, then that is outside your control, and you shouldn’t feel too bad about it.
But if your momentum fell because you lacked the motivation to go to the gym or you simply forgot to do your exercises, then consider those learning moments. Especially if you’ve been logging your journey in personal growth, you can see when you falter and from what causes. From there, you can learn to mitigate those causes in the future.
Start Your Fitness Goal Today
No matter what, start right now. There’s no excuse to do something little, such as a walk around the neighborhood or 10 pushups after reading this article. Growth is about consistency and dedication, and there’s no better time to start than here and now.