Goals should be two things: attainable and measurable. You’ll see a lot of “you can do anything you set your mind too” and I love that saying myself. But the truth of the matter is, when it comes to health and fitness, change happens within the boundaries of time and pushing those boundaries will usually lead to failure. Being realistic about your goals is a non-negotiable for success. Making your goals specific and measurable is important because you need to be able to track your progress. That means your goal can’t just be to lose weight. It has to be specific. A measurable goal would be that you want to lose 35 pounds by a certain date. So check out these must know tips for setting health and fitness goals.
As we talk about goal setting I want to encourage you to feel empowered instead of overwhelmed. I’m a firm believer in the power of putting goals down on paper. When you break it down it’s easier to get a grasp on it. So try to take each step seriously and pay close attention to my tips throughout. Don’t worry, you can reach your goals!
Tips for Setting Health and Fitness Goals
1. Decide on Your Long-Term Priorities
The most important thing to know about your long-term priorities is that they might change. That’s totally fine. But for now, decide what your big, overall goal is today and write it down. As you progress, if your priorities change, you can just adjust your plans. No big deal. Goals sometimes have to be just as flexible as your plans to reach them.
- Tip: You can always have multiple long-term priorities (goals). I actually think it’s better to list specific goals like maintain a healthy weight, eat a plant based diet, live an active lifestyle, etc. That in comparison to a blanket goal such as living a healthy lifestyle, can be more helpful. When you get more specific it’s easier to keep in mind what you need to do get to that ultimate goal.
2. Know Your Why
If you hang out on my blog long enough you’re sure to run across this point in several of my fitness related posts. I’ve said it so many times and I’ll say it again — you cannot reach and/or maintain a goal without a solid “why.” When I say solid I mean meaningful.
If you are only interested in losing weight because of what other people think about you then weight loss is not what you need. If you are only interested in running a marathon because your cousin Becky who your mom thinks does everything better than you ran a marathon then running a marathon is not what you need. These are heart problems. These require a whole different kind of attention.
Learning to love yourself for the sake of yourself, running a marathon because you’ve never finished anything in your life, learning to weight train because you’ve always felt weak and you want to feel strong for once — those are examples of meaningful “whys”. Whys that have nothing to do with anyone else. Get one of those before you move onto the next step.
- Tip: This requires you to be brutally honest with yourself. If you can’t do that, find someone who will. Sometimes the best thing you can do is meet with a personal trainer or fitness coach. They are on the outside looking in. They have your best interests in mind and want to see you succeed. A good coach is going to be supportive but not afraid to tell you like it is (lovingly).
3. Choose Short-Term Goals
Once you write down those long-term goals I want you to put them away. Nothing overwhelms like focusing only on the long-term. You have a bunch of little decisions to make here and now and if you’re going to make the right ones you need to dial it in a little. Short-term goals are easily attainable, mini-goals that are going to move you closer overall to your long-term goals. There are a ton of small habits you’ll need to get rid of and new, better ones you’ll need to create.
Below is a list of short-term goals you can start with if overall health and/or weight loss is your long-term goal. Note: if your long-term goal is to run a marathon (or something like that) then these short-term goals ideas will help, but you’ll have some that look more like running so many miles a week, two strength training for runners workouts a week, etc.
- Drink half of your body weight in ounces of water every day
- Cut out added sugar
- Eat three cups of veggies a day
- Workout four days a week
- Replace coffee with herbal tea
- Pack your lunch for work
- Meal prep
These are some great examples of short-term goals but please keep in mind that you don’t need to do all of these at once. I always suggest to my clients to choose two short-term goals at a time and give them a two, three, or four week time frame. If it’s an easier one to form a habit out of, like drinking all that water, go for two weeks of focusing on that. If it’s one that’s going to take more time to stick, like working out four days a week, make that a longer time frame.
Once you get to the end of your set time of focusing on that goal, that doesn’t mean you quit doing that thing. Hopefully, at that point you’ll be ready to go on with that habit with a little more ease and you can stack something on top of that. A new goal, like cutting out added sugar. Just keep adding the good habits and it will get easier and easier with consistency.
- Tip: this might seem like the long way around, so to speak. But the more time you take to ease yourself into a new lifestyle, the most likely it is to stick. You did not get to the place you are right now overnight and you won’t get to a new place overnight either. Take your time, it’s a process that cannot be rushed without consequences.
4. Make a Plan for Measuring Progress
If we’re talking about must know tips for setting health and fitness goals, this one cannot be left out. If you can’t measure your goals, like I mentioned earlier, you aren’t going to reach them. Let’s stick with our weight loss example. If that’s your overall long-term goal then you’ll want to track the following things:
- Take body measurements
- Take photos (wearing the same clothes, same positions, same lighting)
- Keep a food journal
- Keep a workout journal
- Try a “how I feel today” journal – mental health is important to track too!
These are just examples and your tracking might look different based on your goals. But you get the point, I’m sure. Document the process so you can see the progress.
- Tip: There are tons of fitness apps that allow you to store and track all this information if you’re working toward weight loss. Whether you use an app or just a simple notebook or a special health and fitness tracking journal, keep all your information in one place. That will make it easier to track consistently.
For more must know tips on setting health and fitness goals and actually achieving them, check out this article I love about The Science Behind Setting Goals (And Achieving Them).