How To: Set Your Fitness Goals

Set Your Fitness GoalsAs I have mentioned before it can be overwhelming once you make the decision that you want to be more active and healthy.  Not only is it difficult to pin down the “hows” but it can be daunting just defining the “what“!  In order to set your fitness goals, and have them be realistic and actionable, you need to sit down for 10-15 minutes and put some pen to paper (I am big on writing things down and visualizations).  We are going to figure out what we are trying to accomplish with this newfound direction in life…

First it is vital to remember that goal setting is an iterative process.  You will set your fitness goals many times over the course of your life.  They can, and should, change for a myriad of reasons such as:

  • A major life change (new job, moving to a new home, having a child, etc…)
  • You have reached your existing goals and now it is time for another set
  • An injury is requiring you to make some changes while you heal up
  • Your existing goals end up being unrealistic and you need to re-evaluate before you get discouraged

Whatever the reason ends up being, just be prepared to whip out the notebook every couple of months and set your fitness goals anew.

You should set, and re-examine, your fitness goals regularly.  Shoot for every three months!

The key to setting achievable goals is being realistic and honest with yourself.  If you are 100 lbs overweight and have never run a mile in your life, then your first goal list probably shouldn’t include a line item stating you are going to run a triathlon; or if you are super skinny and can’t do 5 pushups without your arms giving out perhaps writing down that you are going to do 60 pushups in 1 minute is overreaching a bit.  We want to make small systematic changes in ourselves, striving to be just a bit healthier and more fit each day.  Those are the sort of changes that are sustainable over the long haul and you want to set your fitness goals in a similar fashion.

What is reasonably achievable in the next three months?  Make a list of five things max that you want to achieve.  They can be anything, as long as they are realistic:

  • I will lose 10 lbs
  • I will be able to run an additional 2 miles without stopping
  • I will be able to touch my toes
  • I will eat two pieces of fruit a day
  • I will limit myself to one hour a night of TV
  • Whatever else you think is important for your goals!

I want you to notice two very important things on that list.

1) They all start with the positive statement “I will“, by saying “I will try” or something along those lines you have already given yourself a mental backdoor to failure.  Remember young Jedi, “There is do or do not… there is no try” #yodaprotip.  This is why it is imperative when you set you fitness goals that they are readily achievable.  Once you start seeing success it will become easier to motivate yourself for your next set of goals. Success begets success.

2) They are all in the form of a positive statement.  Instead of saying “I will eat out less” say “I will cook 4 healthy meals a week”.  The latter is a reminder of what to do, and it is quantified and measurable.  Being able to measure how well you are following your plan is huge! If something is nebulous, using the term “less” or “more” it is easy for your brain to rationalize failure to follow through (and it will; that damned cerebral cortex is a sneaky, lazy bastard!) but if you have a set goal that you will do something X amount of times a day or week it is undeniable that you have cheated yourself when you don’t hit your target.  Remember what I said above…

The key to setting achievable goals is being realistic and honest with yourself.

If you are honest and realistic when you set your fitness goals you are laying the necessary foundation for success. I promise.

Drop me a comment below and let me know what your first list of goals looks like, and make sure to follow me on Twitter for my exclusive #FitnessFriday tips for better health and fitness!




24 replies
  1. Glenneth
    Glenneth says:

    This is truly one of the best articles I have read about setting fitness goals. I love how you lay everything out AND provide examples. I look forward to reading more. Thank you!

    • TheJerd
      TheJerd says:

      I am glad you got something out of my ramblings! Let me know if there is ever anything I can do to assist you in your goals and make sure to keep reading… lots of Jerdtastic articles are coming in the near future!

  2. Michele Bergh
    Michele Bergh says:

    Great post on setting goals for fitness. It was structured well and easy to follow. I personally just started working on setting goals in this area. This will help me set some realistic and attainable ones. The only thing I don’t see above that I plan on adding to my goals is to make sure they are fun too. Fun is, on some level, simply a way of thinking. I want to find things that I will enjoy. I never want this to feel like a chore because I know I won’t keep it up if it isn’t fun. Thank you this awesome post!

    • TheJerd
      TheJerd says:

      I agree, you *have* to make your fitness choices enjoyable or you will not stick with them. That’s why I am a huge advocate of group fitness activities; it really adds a new dynamic (and support system).

  3. Tracey G
    Tracey G says:

    I like your approach. I especially like the advice about revisiting your fitness goals every 2-3 months and to accept that changes happen in your life and to adapt to them. This is a positive way of dealing with things that come up e.g. illness or injury slowly your expected progress.

    I also really like your advice about how to word your goals: eliminating the word ‘try’ and replacing negative statements with positive ones. It’s good for setting up the right mindset. Well done on a great post.

  4. yvonne
    yvonne says:

    The starting is sometimes the hard part, I agree, writing it down does set the goal down – almost in stone. Thus giving you that little extra to make you realize the goal

  5. Emma Davies
    Emma Davies says:

    This is great advice. I started framing my business goals positively a while ago but didn’t think to do it for the rest of my life. Here’s my new fitness goal: I will run 10k in 55 minutes within 6 months. Nothing like going public to make it more likely!

  6. Laura
    Laura says:

    Wow… I actually have that exact Munchkin game (one of many) and dice set floating around my house. Here I thought my (13 yr old) son would grow out of it, now only to find out it may be a source of inspiration and maybe even finacial support.

    Goal setting and goal getting is refreshing mid year. Rather than waiting until Jan 1st having goals for mid year is a great idea. I really like your actionable items and how you say to re-assess in 3 months.
    Thank you for the inspiration.

  7. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    Great post, and timely too. With school starting for the kids its time to get back into the habit of regularly going to the gym. I really like your comment “The key to setting achievable goals is being realistic and honest with yourself.” that is so true.

  8. BettyB
    BettyB says:

    Well said, Master Jerd! Your guidance on goal-setting hits home. It’s important to accept your current fitness/health reality and to commit to change at a pace that is achieveable…and to reassess often enough to keep sight of what’s working, and what clearly is not. Thanks! I look forward to reading more…and to setting some well considered goals for myself.


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