Set Fitness Goals You’ll Actually Achieve this New Year
Everybody makes New Year’s resolutions. But most people don’t stick to them.
Why is that?
There are several common mistakes that people make, especially when it comes to health and fitness resolutions.
This article will explore what the most common mistakes are, how to avoid them and what to do instead. Once you’re armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to head into the new year with a spring in your step and the motivation to reach and surpass your goals.
New Year’s Resolution Mistakes
Let’s start with some of the mistakes people make when they’re setting themselves fitness goals for the year ahead. We’ll talk about ways to avoid them in the next section.
1 | Being too vague
The most common mistake of all is being too wishy-washy when setting fitness goals. Do you think that Usain Bolt would have set the world record for the 100m sprint if he had set himself the goal of ‘running fast’? No. He had a very specific goal – to become the fastest man in the world over 100m. He would have broken that big overarching goal into smaller ones, e.g., run 100m in under 12 seconds, then under 11 seconds and so on. He probably had other incremental goals such as improve stance, build certain muscles, etc. The road to fitness success is paved with small stepping stones, not giant slabs.
2 | No accountability
Being accountable to both yourself and, ideally, another person is a critical factor in success when working towards your goals.
3 | Being over or under-optimistic
If you set goals that are too easy to achieve, you’ll feel unfulfilled and you may not even be able to summon up the motivation to achieve them. Strive for too much and you’ll feel dejected which may lead to giving up on your goal early on.
4 | Not enough planning
This is similar to the first one, but to achieve your goals, you must not only be clear about what you want to achieve, but you also have to be clear about how you’re going to get there.
SMART goals – the secret to new year success?
You may well have heard of SMART goals. They’ve been doing the rounds for a while now. But most people don’t realise just how powerful they are, especially when it comes to succeeding with fitness goals.
SMART goals are a fairly simple concept, with the letters standing for – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based.
The difficult part is working out how to apply these concepts to fitness goals. Here are some valuable tips for setting SMART goals that actually work.
Avoid being too vague and add in as much detail as possible without it becoming too overwhelming.
For example, instead of simply saying ‘I want to lose weight’, write down ‘I’m going to lose 10 pounds of fat and get leaner muscle tone’ or ‘I’m going to drop two waist sizes and fit into the jeans I used to wear three years ago’.
The wording of the goals is important too. Notice in the example above that ‘I want’ is replaced with ‘I’m going to’. Use definite statements, not hopeful ones.
Pick as many goals and targets as you want but remember to avoid being overly general. It may be tempting to just write something like ‘get healthy’. This isn’t good enough. Instead, break it into several specific goals, e.g. ‘I’m going to quit smoking. I’m going to drink less than 5 units of alcohol per week. I’m going to focus on eating a healthy, balanced diet.’
This is related to the specific section. To avoid being too general, you need to be able to measure progress and results against a target. Set exact weight loss goals, e.g., ‘Lose 1 pound per week until I have lost 10 pounds.’
Attainable goals are ones that are not too over-optimistic. If you set the bar too high, you’ll be tempted to give up before you’ve even begun. Be realistic – don’t aim to lose 10 pounds in one week for instance. Ask yourself this: ‘What advice would I give to another person if they’re trying to achieve this goal? What would be a realistic outcome?’
Do your research to finetune your goals. If you’re trying to lose weight, look up what is the average rate of weight loss for someone in your age and fitness bracket. For instance, if it says that 5 to 10% body mass loss overall is achievable, set your goal somewhere in the middle, say 7 or 8% so that it’s definitely attainable.
You need to make goals that are relevant to what you actually want. Don’t set goals that you think other people would pick for you or that will impress them. It’s no good saying ‘I’m going to run a half marathon this year’ if you have absolutely zero interest in running. Try to tie the goals in with your passions, whatever they may be.
This one is crucial. To give you the motivation to strive for your goal, there needs to be a timeframe attached to it. There’s nothing like time pressure to get you in gear, just think of looming deadlines in work or school. The anxiety of not hitting the deadline propels you into action and it’s the same with fitness goals. Just make sure you apply the ‘attainable’ rule to them and don’t try to do too much, too quickly.
For weight loss:
‘Lose 12 pounds over 12 weeks by eating a healthy, nutritious diet and exercising. I will do three cardio sessions of 20 minutes per week and two sessions of strength training.’
This is a good SMART goal as it contains all the right elements. The next thing to do is to make a plan and track your results. We recommend either using a tracker app, a simple excel spreadsheet or pen and paper.
Don’t just keep the plan in your head, writing it down or typing it out will make it more real and you’re far more likely to stick to it. Plan out your meals for each week in advance and make sure they are healthy and well-balanced.
Also make sure you plan your workouts and want you want to achieve from them, e.g. spend 20 minutes doing weight-training to improve leg muscles.
For muscle gain/toning:
‘Be able to squat 1 and a half times your bodyweight for 3 full sets of 8 reps within 3 months.’
This is a great goal to set yourself, as it’s specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. Now all you need to do is create a plan of how to get there. The best way is to set incremental goals that gradually increase the number of reps, sets and weight lifted. Work out where you need to get to and divide that up by the number of weeks.
For example, if you weigh 90kg, you need to get to 135kg squatting weight in 12 weeks. Let’s say you can comfortably squat 50kg at the moment, that leaves 85kg to build up to. 85 divided by 12 is 7, so you need to add 7kg per week, perhaps increasing from 3 sets of 4 reps initially, adding 2 reps every 3 weeks.
It’s up to you how you break it the steps up – the important thing is that you have a plan of action written down and you’re prepared to stick to it religiously.
How to stay on track
Ok, so you’ve set your SMART goals and you’ve been careful to avoid the common mistakes that people make. You’re halfway there to achieving your goals. Now all you need to do is stick with it and don’t give up.
That can be easier said than done. Most of us aren’t great at seeing things through unless we take some steps to make it more likely.
In the common mistakes section earlier on, we mentioned accountability. This is one of the key things to keep you on course. This could be as simple as enlisting the help of a friend to either train alongside you or to monitor your fitness tracker results. Make sure you choose somebody who isn’t a pushover – probably not a good idea to ask your mum! You want them to push you to achieve your goals and to be brutally honest with you when they think you’re not committing to it.
If you don’t have anybody that fits the bill, an alternative way to stay accountable is to join a social media group or use an app like Strava, where people compete against each other or compare results.
Stick to the plan and only change it if absolutely necessary
When you’ve set your goals and drawn up a workout schedule or healthy eating plan, don’t go changing it on a whim. Yes, you may need to change things due to unforeseen events or changes in circumstance, but make sure you’ve got a very good reason for doing so. If you’ve got an accountability partner, run any changes past them first to make sure you’re not just trying to make life easier for yourself or take shortcuts.