How to Set Fitness Goals That Can Be Reached Realistically
Setting a goal can keep you focused and help steer you toward a particular objective. However to be successful at reaching your goal, it has to be specific, realistic and achievable. For example, let’s take the goal “I’m going to go to the gym every day”.
To be specific, the goal would have to be amended by adding two things: How long am I going to go to the gym every day? And what am I going to do once there?
A goal can’t be open-ended. It has to have a defined ending point. Otherwise with this goal, I’m going to the gym every day until I die! I terms of being specific, a better goal would be “I’m going to go to the gym every day for the next two months.” But as you’ll see next, that goal is not realistic.
To be realistic, I have to have a reasonable chance of attaining my goal. The goal of going to the gym every day is not. One of the generally agreed upon tenets of fitness is the body has to have at least one day per week off so it can rest, rebuild and repair itself. Our stated goal of going to the gym every day does not allow us that one day per week off. So from a realistic standpoint a better stated goal would be “I’m going to go to the gym six days per week for the next two months.”
From the achievability aspect, how much time each day do I have free that I can devote to going to the gym. Thirty minutes … 45-minutes … one hour? And what am I going to do once at the gym? With my stated goal, I don’t know. The current goal is to show up at the gym each day. Just going is not working toward a fitness goal. We have to have a specific plan of what we are going to do each day while there.
The Restated Goal
A better stated goal would be “I’m going to go to the gym six days per week for the next two months; four days will be a one-hour cardio routine each day while two days will be a one-hour strength training routine.” Now our goal is specific (I planned out and know which type of training and routine I’m doing each day for the next two months) realistic (six days per week at the gym with one day off), achievable (I have one hour each day to devote to exercising). See the difference? Specific, realistic and achievable.
Write It Down
The fourth thing with goals is they have to be written down and posted somewhere where you will see them all the time. Usually on the refrigerator is a good place as you’ll see them multiple times per day. If not written down, they are soon forgotten.
When stating a goal, don’t set yourself up for failure. Make sure your goal is attainable with a definite end result.
How Long Does It Take to Reach Peak Physical Fitness?
Before you can reach your peak physical fitness, you have to define what peak is for you; it won’t be the same for everyone. For you, it may be reaching a professional level in a sport, such as getting on the Olympic swim team, or finishing a marathon, or winning a powerlifting competition. Or it could be something as simple as losing weight and being able to exercise for an hour at a time without getting exhausted. What is your peak physical fitness goal?
Once you have defined it, you have to be willing to devote the time, focus, sacrifice and commitment in order to achieve it. In many cases we are talking years of effort. How you train and how often, along with when, what and how much you eat, how much you sleep, and how often you socialize all impact on working toward your goal. Everything you do should be focused on working toward your goal.
And keep in mind that the older you get, the harder it will be to achieve your peak physical fitness goal. From a physiological standpoint, we have the best opportunity to reach our peak when we are in our late 20’s to early 30’s.
After that, our bodies begin to change. We start to lose muscle mass after age 50. Our metabolism begins to wane by 10 percent at retirement age. We normally flexibility to the tune of 3 to 4 inches on the sit and reach test. And we begin to lose bone density after age 65; all factors that affect fitness performance in your later years.
The point – don’t wait too long to work toward your fitness peak. As each year ticks by, it will get harder and harder to maintain your current fitness level let alone reaching a loftier one.
If you have been sedentary for a while, first get a check-up to ensure you are healthy enough to begin training. Once cleared, then begin by focusing on activities that will increase your mobility and strength. While you won’t reach your goal and get “fit” doing these activities, you will gain confidence in your ability to exercise, get less sore as you go along and you will start to see results in as little as a couple of weeks.
Work up to exercising 150 minutes per week (30 minutes per day five days per week) of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise as recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In addition, two days per week add in strength training exercises that work the major muscle groups. Give your body time to rest and repair itself by taking one day per week off from training.
Once you can easily accomplish this training intensity, you have achieved a good physical fitness base and can start working up toward your peak physical fitness goal. You will most likely need a fitness coach or personal trainer at some point to further define the training you need to reach your peak. Keep in mind that depending on your goal, it could take months to years to reach it.