How to Set Fitness Goals You Can Stick With

There are many benefits to making fitness an integral part of your life—from increased energy levels to weight management, greater strength, flexibility, endurance, and more. 

Despite these incentives, remembering to exercise is still a struggle for many people. That’s where goal setting comes in, which is proven time and time again to increase adherence (your ability to stick with it) to fitness:

“I’ve found that setting goals, consistently and realistically, make the difference between viewing a lofty accomplishment as the ultimate achievement or seeing it as another step in what should be a bigger, more long-range goal—good health, long life and a feeling of fulfillment,” says David Leon Moore, finisher of 28 marathons.

But setting goals too high can be deterring—I’m not seeing any progress! My goal was to lose 5 pounds this month and I didn’t do it! Going too low is also dangerous because it can make fitness boring and leave you feeling unmotivated. In either case, your goals end up being useless.

Use the following strategies to create goals that do exactly what Moore suggests: propel you toward fitness success, feeling fulfilled and triumphant.

 Make Your Workout Schedule Work for Your Life

We have a tendency to believe we’ll change our lives for fitness. People who aren’t early risers plan morning workouts and then bail when their alarm goes off because—surprise—they don’t want to get up any earlier than they already have to.

To set fitness goals you can stick with, create a workout schedule that works with your current lifestyle, not against it. For example, if you know you don’t want to wake up early, don’t. Instead, plan to hit the gym after work; in many cases, you’ll miss traffic too, which is an added bonus.

If you know you won’t workout after work, find time during your lunch hour once or twice a week. That may be easier because your brain may be ready for a break.

Listen to your body, review your schedule, and figure out when you want to workout, rather than forcing yourself to make time for it.

Set Micro-Goals For Moving More During the Day

If your packed agenda doesn’t allow for a specific time devoted just to exercise, you can still find brief, periodic intervals to squeeze in movement—even at the office—which is easier than you might think:

“Often, while I’m waiting for the photocopier or microwave, I’ll do exercises like calf-raises, squats or lunges. If I make time here and there during the workday, it just means I have less to cram in later,” suggests Cristina Dulin, the Events Director at Fit2Run.

Instead of setting a goal to workout three times a week, set smaller goals that can be accomplished in the office or during your daily routine.

For example, do 30 squats each Wednesday or hold a plank for one minute, three times a day, every Tuesday and Thursday.

Other daily active goals you can set include

  • Stand and work for 15 minutes each hour, if possible.

  • Do 30 lunges down the hallway every Monday and Wednesday.

  • Do 15 squats while brushing your teeth.

  • Take the stairs every day by Friday.

  • Walk around the block three days a week lunch.

  • Do a 1-minute plank hold with co-workers three times a day.

To make your micro goals stick, set one for each day so they become a part of your daily routine. Then use an alarm to remind yourself to do it. This way, it’s easier to remember to get up and move, even when you’re busy and focused on something else.

Find Someone to Hold You Accountable

The term “strength in numbers” is especially true when it comes to reaching your fitness objectives. Research from Indiana University suggests that solo exercisers have a dropout rate of 43 percent as opposed to 6.3 percent, the rate for those who enlist a workout partner, according to Gina DeMillo Wagner, a wellness expert and contributor to Experience Life.

Being accountable to someone else means you’ll let someone else down if you skip a scheduled workout, not just yourself. So grab a like-minded relative, friend or significant other and make an agreement to sweat together on a regular basis.

Put Money on the Line

Lack of motivation is one of the most common reasons I hear from clients who struggle to stick with a healthy lifestyle. One way to boost your motivation—and stick with your fitness goals—is to align your goals with apps that put your money on the line, or allow you to earn money for reaching fitness milestones.

Here are a few money-making apps to check out:

  • DietBet: Join an on-going or new DietBet, or start one with your friends. If you stick with your fitness or weight loss goals, you split the pot with others who did the same.

  • Charity Miles: If you’re a runner, use this app to motivate yourself to spend more time pounding the pavement. With each run or walk you log, you’re adding to the pot of money that’s donated to the app’s charity partners. Doing good can be just the motivation you need to stick with your running goals.

Use the SMART Goal Setting Method

When forming sustainable fitness habits, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends the S.M.A.R.T. method, an acronym which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound. You may have heard this growing up, in school or even at work and that’s because it works.

Using this acronym, you break the goal-setting process down, ensuring that your objective is:

  • Specific: First define a clear and concise goal—“getting healthy” is too vague, but “running three times each week” is an actionable starting point.

  • Measurable: Create goals that you can track with actual numbers, like: ”I will run 2 miles 3 times per week.”

  • Attainable: Shoot for a result you can realistically achieve. “Running a 6-minute mile” may be too ambitious, even as a veteran runner, but “increasing my by 30 seconds every two weeks” offers a benchmark to focus on.

  • Relevant: Choose a goal that you feel personally connected to, like: “I want to start running because I have a genetic history of diabetes and don’t want to suffer like [insert loved one’s name here].”

  • Time-bound/sensitive: Determine the endgame of your fitness objective. For example, “I will train to compete in a marathon one year from now.” This gives you something to work toward in a very specific timeframe.
Setting summer fitness goals can be hard—much less creating ones you can stick with. Use these tips to find motivation, and propel yourself toward success, this summer and beyond.

BIO: Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than ten years and is currently a full-time blogger. She is also an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition specialist, and the owner of her own personal training business, Honest Body Fitness.

Follow Jessica on TwitterFacebook and Instagram for health articles, new workouts and more.

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