You’ve just made the commitment to take control of your health. The next great challenge is this; set an effective goal and actually stick with it! It is easy to just say you’re going to do something, but much harder to actually follow through until the end. In fact, a study by the University of Scranton found that 3/4 of the people who set New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight give up by the six-month mark. Plus, did you know that 60% of gym memberships go unused? We spoke with Tina Kowalski, who is the Director of Fitness at Paramount Sports Complex in Annville, PA. She provided some excellent insight into how to set fitness goals and stick with them.
When you are ready to embark on a fitness journey, the first thing you should always do is create a plan. Tina explained that this should be “a well thought out strategy and vision of what you are going to do and how you are going to get there.” She recommends using the American Council on Exercise’s S.M.A.R.T. guidelines. This means you goal should be…
SPECIFIC – First, make sure that your goal is specific and not just a general goal like ‘I want to lose weight.’ Tina described, “Goals must be clear and state specifically what you want to accomplish – something like lose five pounds.”
MEASURABLE– Next, “Goals must be measurable so you can see if they are being achieved. If your goal is to lose weight, a measurable goal for a beginner may be ‘walk on the treadmill for fifteen minutes per day.” She added that it is a good idea to use a calendar to record your workouts so you can stay on track.
ATTAINABLE – Goals should be attainable. This means you should choose a goal that is realistic and healthy. It is okay to lose ten pounds in eight weeks, but not to lose 25 pounds fast for a wedding that is just two weeks away. It is more likely that you will give up on your goal and feel like a failure if the goal is unattainable from the start.
RELEVANT – “Make sure the goal you are setting is relevant to your particular interest, need and ability,” Tina explained. “Do not set the goal of running a marathon, if you absolutely hate to run! Select a goal that you can commit to. Something that excites you, keeps you interested and looking forward to doing the work to achieve it!”
TIME-SENSITIVE – Finally, make sure that your goal is time sensitive. Give yourself a clear timeline so you can monitor and evaluate your progress regularly. This also helps you avoid the ‘I’ll do it someday’ attitude.
Once you’ve set your SMART goal, it is a good idea to take note of your starting point. Look in the mirror and see the shape of your body, note your starting weight, or test yourself out running for a certain amount of time. Photos can be a useful tool to help you see your starting point. You might not feel great taking those starting photos, but it will pay off when you have a rockin’ body for comparison at the end of your journey!
When you are setting your goals, don’t forget to challenge yourself. An article by Edwin Locke explained, “To be effective in improving performance, goals should be specific and challenging, which means ‘difficult by reachable.’” He continues, “It has been found that people trying for specific, challenging goals consistently outperform individuals trying to ‘do their best,’ or those with specific but easy goals, and those with no particular goals.” This means, if you set higher goals you’ll end up with a higher achievement!
Once you’ve created your SMART goal, the next step is to make sure you actually reach it. Easier said than done, right?!
Tina recommends that you take your general goal and create specific smaller goals that can help you take the right steps. This might be something like, “Exercise 3 – 4 days per week for a minimum of 30 minutes per session, in order to lose five pounds in the next four weeks,” or “Perform a strength routine a minimum of two times per week, for four to six weeks, in order to increase lean muscle mass.”
These smaller goals will help you maintain your motivation so you can keep moving forward. “It is important to reevaluate and set new goals to keep moving forward to the next one and ultimately your long term goal.”
An article in Health Education & Behavior explained, “When a person is working on distal or long-term goals, sub-goals may also provide the person with frequent feedback and may be more psychologically ‘real’ than more global, complex, or distal goals.”
Tina did caution one thing. “Do not set too many goals. Keep them manageable. One of the most common causes of exercise dropout is that clients perceive the exercise program to be too time-consuming.” She likes to keep it simple at first and increase the intensity as you start reaching your initial sub-goals. This helps keep people driven and excited about their goals.
As a Certified Personal Trainer through ACE and AAAI-ISMA since 2004, Tina has had a great deal of experience helping people set and reach their goals. She shared, “I retired high heels and suits for sneakers and workout gear …and I’m not going back! What began as a ‘hobby’ is now my life’s passion!”
In her own words, here are the three keys to achieving your fitness goals.
There you have it! Make sure you set your goals using the SMART guidelines, keep yourself motivated using smaller sub-goals and remember Tina’s three keys to success. Have confidence in yourself, keep working hard, and before you know it, you’ll reach your goal. Good luck!
What are your goals? Read about a few types of runners below:
Can Running Make You Happier With Life?
What techniques do you use to make sure that you reach your goals?
What was your greatest success after setting a goal?
Locke, Edwin A. Goal Setting. No. GS-4. MARYLAND UNIV COLLEGE PARK COLL OF BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT, 1980.
Strecher, Victor J., et al. “Goal setting as a strategy for health behavior change.” Health Education & Behavior 22.2 (1995): 190-200.