Whatever your fitness goal -- whether to lose weight or improve athletic performance -- setting measurable, achievable goals improves your outcome by 30 percent, according to research published in the April 2002 issue of the journal “Perceptual and Motor Skills.” Set your own exercise objectives by asking a series of questions and answering as specifically and honestly as you can. Workout goals that are personal to you are more motivating.
What Do You Want?
An ambiguous goal provides undefined and unimpressive results. What specifically do you want from exercise? Articulate your goal more precisely than “to lose weight.” How much weight? Over what period of time? What would weight loss give you? Is it to fit into a particular item of clothing? Is it to impress someone? Is it to accomplish a physical feat? Answer these questions with candor.
Why Do You Want It?
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Consider your motivation for achieving your goal. If it is to fit into a size four dress before your 10-year high school reunion, ponder why this is so important to you. Perhaps high school was a mine field of bullying and harassment for you based on your weight. If your goal involves strength or aerobic fitness, ask why you want to be stronger. Is it to perform better at your job or to keep up with your spouse on the hiking trail? This part of goal setting makes your goal intensely personal to you and will fuel your motivation as you work toward achieving it.
Can It Be Measured?
If looking good naked is your goal, how will you know when you have achieved it? Instead, make your ends measurable with specific parameters, such as losing 2 inches off of your waist or reducing body fat by 3 percent.
Is It Proximal?
A goal that takes you a year to achieve lacks the proximity to keep you motivated. The National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends goals be achievable within a short, defined time period, such as three months. If you have 50 pounds to lose, start with 15 pounds in that timeframe. The success of achieving the initial goal will motivate you to lose the next 15 pounds.
Is It Challenging?
Exercise goals should be challenging but not impossible. If you have never run in your life, setting a goal to run a marathon the following month is impossible, not to mention foolish. Instead, set a challenging but doable goal of running a 5K without slowing to a walking pace.
Envision Your Success
What will it look like to achieve your goal? Envision yourself strutting into your high school reunion or crossing the finish line. What will you feel? What will you believe about yourself? Place this image at the forefront of your mind as you push past the challenges of achieving your goal.
- Perceptual and Motor Skills: Goal-Setting Protocol in Adherence to Exercise by Italian Adults
- Health Education Research: Dose relations between goal setting, theory-based correlates of goal setting and increases in physical activity during a workplace trial
- Health Education Research: Goal Setting Frequency and the Use of Behavioral Strategies Related to Diet and Physical Activity
- NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training; M. Clark, S. Lucett, R. Corn
Pamela Ellgen began writing in 2000 for "The Asian Reporter" newspaper. She is an award-winning journalist and writes on religion, culture, health and fitness. Ellgen graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in writing from Washington State University and is a certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine.