Whether your aim is to lose weight, tone your muscles, get fit, increase physical performance or protect yourself from chronic disease, you need to set effective personal fitness goals to get the most out of your workouts. Without setting fitness goals and tracking what you do, you will not be able to measure your progress. This post will give you the guidance and help you set effective goals, and the foundation for your fitness training success.
1 – What personal fitness goals do you want to achieve?
When setting fitness goals, the starting point is to make a decision about what you want to achieve. You need to be clear about the reason and have a mental picture of the outcome you want. This will help you focus and keep motivated.
Is it to lose weight? Or perhaps you want to be able to run faster? Do you want to increase strength and endurance? Do you want to get healthy and ward off chronic disease? Or do you want a combination of some or all of these reasons?
Write your one goal or list of fitness goals on paper because when you write things down, your brain registers it as the first step of taking action.
2 – Set realistic fitness goals
When you have decided on what you want to get out of a fitness training process, it’s time to break things down into detail.
If your reason is weight loss, how much do you want to lose and by when? Is your goal realistic? Aim for a sensible and sustainable 1-2 pounds a week.
Are you a runner and want to push yourself that bit more and run faster? What speed do you want to achieve, and in what time frame? Aim for an achievable target, don’t expect to run like Usain Bolt after 2 weeks of training!
Whatever your personal fitness goal, be as realistic and specific as you can. It is also important to determine and take into account your current fitness levels. The more realistic your goals are, the more chance you have of achieving them. Make sure you avoid unrealistic goals because it will be harder to meet them, and inevitably you’ll end up losing faith and motivation.
Only you know what your current level of fitness is and what your limits are. Be honest with yourself. It is unrealistic to set a goal of becoming a long distance runner in a month without previous training or understanding how much work is involved.
Setting unrealistic goals is the main reason many people become discouraged with their fitness training, and in a many cases give up entirely. We see this often at the beginning of the year when people join the gym and embark on a work out plan as part of their new year resolution, only to give up a month later.
Your goal needs to have a time frame and be measurable.
Now break down your overall long term fitness goal into small and manageable chunks, break it down to weekly and monthly targets. You can of course break it down even further to a daily target.
Fitness trackers and heart rate monitors can be of enormous help in monitoring and charting your progress thus keeping your motivation up.
Small short term targets are milestones, and as you accomplish each small milestone, you will gain confidence, motivation, and belief that you will accomplish your long term goal.
For example, if your aim is to lose 20 lbs of weight in 3 months, you need to lose 5 lbs a month and 1.6 lbs a week. A manageable 1.6 lbs of weight loss a week is very achievable and sustainable. Also, in terms of weight, losing small amounts steadily over time means you have a greater chance of keeping it off.
If you are a runner whose aim is to increase running speed by 5 mph in 5 months, you will need to set a monthly target 1 mph faster, and a weekly target of 0.25 mph faster.
Remember the saying: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
But having said that, nothing is written in stone, allow yourself some flexibility when life gets in the way. If you find your original cardiovascular fitness goal too challenging, you can amend it, and if you deviate from the path on the odd occasion, just get back on track the following day.
3 – Take a look at your diet
Now you have your personal fitness goals in place, you need to take a look at your diet and how it affects that goal. Your diet should be adapted to support your chosen goal. If you are doing a lot of high impact cardiovascular training, you’ll need to be consuming lots of carbohydrates to keep up your energy levels during training.
If on the other hand, if your aim is to lose weight, you will need to avoid saturated fat, sugar and processed carbohydrates. You can still eat healthy complex carbohydrates, and ensure you add lean protein to each meal to keep you fuller for longer, and of course lots of vegetables. But you still need to keep an eye on the amount of calories you consume.
If your goal is to become healthier and prevent chronic disease, in addition to switching to healthier foods, you will neet to eat specific foods known to protect against certain ailments, like oily fish and garlic to protect against heart disease.
To lose or maintain weight, it’s important to monitor calorie intake and adjust according to your level of activity. If you have a fitness tracker, you’ll be able to work out and monitor your calorific intake.
If you don’t, you can work out how many calories you need with this calculator to work out your daily requirements. You should aim to consume the correct number of calories for your gender, age, and level of activity.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, men require 2,400 to 3,000 daily calories, and women need 1,800 to 2,200 calories.
What constitutes a healthy diet ?
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the following percentage distribution of calories is recommended:
20 – 35% (average 30%) from fat like oily fish, flax oil, nuts.
10 – 35% (average 15%) from protein like lean meats, legumes, dairy foods and nuts.
45 – 65% (average 55%) from carbohydrates like brown rice, whole grains and cereals.
Pile your plate with vegetables and salads and include fruits and nuts for snacking, and vary the foods you eat to maximize the nutrient intake from your food. If you are trying to lose weight and not losing as much as you want, don’t forget to monitor your daily calories and reduce your intake, and add more cardio training sessions.
4 – Set Exercise Goals
Whatever your goal is, exercise is vital, in particular cardio training is an essential component, whether your goal is to lose weight, build up strength and endurance or get fit. The type of cardio fitness will depend on your personal specific goals.
For instance, if you want to run faster, then perhaps treadmill and road running are the cardio exercises that you should focus on the most. If you want to lose several pounds, you should focus on a moderate to high impact cardiovascular workout plan to lose weight that would burn lots of calories as the main activity.
You will need to consider how much exercise you need and the intensity required to achieve your physical fitness goals.
You’ll also need to work out how much time is required to focus on exercise.
For example, if you are looking to increase your running speed by 0.25 mph a week, you have to work out roughly how much time you have to put in every week to achieve your goal.
If you want to lose about 1.5 lbs of weight per week, you have to determine how much weight loss is achievable from your activity. You need to ask yourself: how much cardio for weight loss do I need?
How much cardio a day or per week you need depends on your level of fitness and what your goal is but for most people, the health recommendation is for a 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity a day.
If you are wondering “how many times a week should I do cardio?” Well, the recommendation is only 30 minutes daily, 5 days a week.
So if you are a fitness beginner, it’s really not that much. To make things even easier, the 30 minutes can be broken up into segments throughout the day.
The benefits of cardiovascular fitness are numerous and doing any exercise that gives your heart a good workout counts.
Another requirement is to calculate the number of calories you need to burn in order to get rid of that weight. Then estimate how many hours a week are required to burn off those calories.
This process does not have to be perfect from the start, you can adjust it as you go along to find what works best for you and your life style.
Monitoring the results of your performance makes it much easier to get a fairly accurate measure of your progress with your health and fitness goals. Investing in a good fitness tracker with a heart rate monitor will make all the tracking and monitoring a lot easier, and give you the much need motivation and encouragement to keep going.
5 – Add Those Goals To Your Daily Life
By this stage you will know what you should be eating, how many calories you need daily, and what type and how much fitness training you should be engaged in each week in order to achieve your fitness training goal. The final step for your success involves implementing it all into your current lifestyle.
This may involve juggling things around or making advance preparations. You could try planning your meals and buying ingredients days in advance, cook in large batches and freeze meals to avoid falling off the bandwagon. Ensure every meal contains roughly the correct amount of carbohydrates, healthy fats and lean protein outlined earlier.
Perform your exercise sessions at a time that suits you, some people love to exercise in the mornings, so it’s out of the way, others prefer to do it in the evenings, or even during their lunch hour. You can even break up your fitness workouts into chunks during the day if you have been distracted by family, social or work commitments.
It all counts towards your overall exercise requirement. The process is the same whether you are setting long term fitness goals or more immediate short term goals. Breaking everything down to small weekly achievable targets is the essence.
Setting fitness goals for improving your health, increasing endurance or losing weight can all be accomplished by changing your diet and taking up regular fitness training. It does not have to be hard if you plan and set realistic achievable goals, broken down into weekly or daily sessions. These tips on setting up your personal fitness goals may look simple, but they will help to fast track your training success.
What are your fitness goals this year?