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How to Set Realistic Fitness Goals, and Stick to Them

Why is it that some people can achieve the most ambitious goals and others can’t. When it comes to fitness goals, one of the reasons that people fail is that they set broad, vague, and unrealistic goals. “I want to start losing weight next week,” “I want to get in shape next year,” or, “I want to be absolutely shredded starting in January.”

These goals are great but they are not defined. What is it that you want exactly?

A realistic goal is one that you can reach given your current mindset, motivation level, timeframe, skills and abilities. Realistic goals help you identify not only what you want but also what you can achieve.

A concrete, realistic fitness goal would be to lose 20 pounds in three months, drop 5 percent body fat in 10 weeks, or lose 5 inches by June 1. When you can set a goal that is realistic, and there is a defined timeline in which to get it done, it is much easier to accomplish.

The SMART goal acronym applies to many things but is especially applicable for fitness. Your fitness goals must be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.

Here is my advice on how to set realistic fitness goals:

1. Pick just one goal.

It is much easier to accomplish one thing that you write down and do everything possible to achieve. Don’t overcomplicate things by setting multiple goals, that will make your tasks harder to achieve. Focusing on just one behavior at a time gives you a greater chance of long-term success.

2. Make a plan and write it down.

Write down your goal on paper, and then list what you will do to accomplish it. Putting things down on paper, where you can see them, helps reinforce your motivation and makes you more accountable.

For example, let’s say your goal is to lose 20 pounds in three months. What are you going to do to accomplish that? Here are some specific, achievable steps you might include in your plan:

  1. Perform 30 minutes of cardio at least 3-4 days a week.

  2. Perform weight training for one hour 3-5 days a week, making sure I target every single body part.

  3. Eat green veggies with lunch and dinner.

  4. Drink 6-8 cups of water per day to keep me hydrated and feeling full throughout the day.

  5. Make sure that my meals have enough protein and all my meals contain whole foods. For proteins, I will eat chicken, turkey, fish, and beef. My complex carbs will come from oatmeal, sweet potatoes, rice, and legumes. For healthy fats, I will have unsalted almonds, sunflower seeds, pistachios, hazelnuts, peanuts, and pecans; almond and peanut butter; and will cook with olive oil and coconut oil.

3. Take inventory of your resources

Achieving goals relies on having the resources you need and overcoming the obstacles you face. Make an inventory of the things you have access to that can help you achieve your goals and the circumstances, which may interfere with your success. These include:

  1. Time: Determine how much time you have to reach your goals and whether the timeline is in your control. Make a list of other tasks potentially competing for your time while you’re working toward your goal.

  2. Motivation: Ask yourself whether you are committed to achieving your goal. Consider if your other commitments may conflict with working on your goals.

  3. Training: Take inventory of the skills you possess to reach your goal. Undergo further training to help you meet your goals.

  4. Funding: Assess whether you have the monetary assets you need to achieve your goal. Find out if things are depleting the budget you need to reach your goals.

  5. Support: Determine if you need any assistance in reaching your goals. If so, ask for help from someone who is in a position to support you in reaching your goals.

4. Track your weekly progress.

Seeing your weekly progress on paper will keep you motivated to continue what you need to do to accomplish your resolution. Your weekly log will keep you accountable, and on days when you are not feeling motivated, that log should kick-start you into to remembering your goal.

5. Share your goal.

When you tell someone else your goal, you are opening yourself to be held accountable for your actions along the way to achieving them. Colleagues, friends and family members are good resources for sharing your goals. Be sure to tell them that you appreciate their help to stay focused and that when they ask you “How’s it going?” they are helping you remain on target to meet your goals.

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