By Jason Cook, BSc, CSCS
With 2020 around the corner, there are inevitably fitness goals that you want to attack and to achieve. But how do you reach them?? Setting and completing fitness goals can be a daunting and overwhelming task - and the problem often lies in the approach and how a lot of people just say, “My goal is to lose weight.” You can’t just make a broad statement! There needs to be much more to the goal - there needs to be a HOW in that goal’s equation is going to manifest. Saying such a broad statement about how “I want to lose XX amount of pounds” and not sitting down and breaking it down is a sure way to set yourself up for failure - instead, you need to take a written, calculated approach to goal-setting, and you CAN meet your fitness goals.
Goal setting is like a ladder - with the big, broad goal at the top, and then as we break it down into smaller tasks we head down the rungs of the ladder. You can’t reach the top rung of the ladder without the rungs below it. Without your daily goals, you won’t meet your weekly goals, and if you don’t meet your weekly goals, you won’t meet your monthly goals, and if you don’t meet your monthly goals, you surely won’t meet your yearly goal. They are all contingent on each other going up the ladder.
Let’s start breaking this down with 6 guidelines I feel are important for meeting goals and for setting yourself up for success:
1. Find your Personal Motivation
Finding your personal motivation is going to help this be a successful process...identify WHY you want to meet your goals and find the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for the goals...what is it that is going to get you and keep you on track? For myself, competing has been/is my biggest motivator - there is nothing like an impending competition to push me to new levels both physically and mentally. You need to sit down and figure out what it is that is going to keep you motivated to do this long-term, and you can take your training, nutrition, and in turn your body, to new levels of achievement.
2. Write it down
The first thing you need to do in breaking this goal down is actually write it down in a journal, or on a sheet of paper, or put it in an iPhone, or on a tablet, or on a laptop, or carve it into a coffee table. Just make sure it is in writing and keep it somewhere it’s going to be seen a lot. By writing it down you are creating a contract with yourself – something much more tangible to the mind and body than a thought agreement in our head. Make it a real thing!
3. Break it down
I do not believe in only counting pounds lost as an entire goal, as there is much more to the biological equation and the human factor, but breaking down weight control is a tangible way to set goals, and is one way to measure progress. Here, as an example, is a breakdown if your goal is to lose 25lbs. Again, this is an example, and losing 25lbs should NOT be the only aspect of our goal setting.
4. Be Realistic
This can be a tough one, as everyone is different. You need to understand that this is a long-term process, as the body does not change rapidly. I recommend setting advanced weight loss goals at 1lb per week, and average weight loss at 0.5lbs per week – again it will be different for everyone – the more you have to lose, the more you can lose per week. For example, a person that is 300lbs can lose more pounds per week than someone that is 160lbs – it is simple math more than anything. Telling yourself that you are going to workout 7 days a week, eat only chicken and spinach, and lose 50lbs in 3 months is just not realistic.
Further, you should give yourself a reasonable timeline that fits within your own life schedule. Incredibly busy people with kids, demanding jobs, travel, etc. will tend to take a little bit longer than someone with more time to focus on themselves - but it can be done - again it’s about being realistic. Nobody wants to hear this, but be conscious of the fact that people over 35, people that have been unfit/overweight for a long period of time, and women that have children are going to need a little more time for the body to change than others not included in that list. Don’t be discouraged by these biological speedbumps, it is just the human body - they’re nothing a little perseverance can’t overcome!
5. Tell Someone Else or Partner up
This is an easy one that can pay big dividends. Find a friend or colleague that is trying to meet similar goals. You can both write your goals down as discussed above and exchange them for accountability. Try to workout together, or if that is not an option, share emails or phone calls, go for coffee to share progress, mishaps, and day to day details – sharing information can lead to forming good habits quickly and can keep you and your partner on track. Our gym has a fantastic environment for camaraderie and accountability, and many of our members team up to meet their goals together.
6. Learn to Enjoy the Ride
I see so many people set goals and HATE the ride there – they just want their weight loss to be done RIGHT NOW – but half the fun HAS to be in the journey. Think about how satisfying it will be when you finally get to your goals after a year of hard work. You will learn lots about yourself and your body along the way, and be ready for your next goal, because this is a never ending, awesome adventure.
As you set goals, you are going to need to move from long-term to short-term, dissecting your goals along the way. Let’s break it down in this hypothetical example. Weight Loss in this example can be swapped out for other examples like “Doing a powerlifting competition” “Running a half marathon” or anything else fitness related that is a goal of yours. You need to choose your goals wisely so you can take the appropriate steps to meet them. What EXACTLY are your goals? Lose weight? Increase muscle mass? Both? Whatever our goals are, you need to identify them clearly from the outright. The key here is going to starting big and long and breaking it down step by step to a daily goal.
WEIGHT LOSS EXAMPLE
YEARLY GOAL: Lose 25lbs
How do you do this?
Well, there are 12 months, so that is roughly 2lbs per month. That sounds a lot more manageable when it’s broken down that way. So how do you lose 2lbs each month?
Go to the gym every month of the year – even in the summer and over the holidays when you usually tail off. Consistency in training is the most important part of a fitness-related goal!
Sign up for personalized training with us to learn proper technique and fitness planning
Sign up for group fitness classes to have structure and accountability
Be consistent with your nutrition - even during the difficult months like December.
Learn how to meal plan and meal prep to ensure your nutrition is where it needs to be.
Start a daily food and exercise journal (or download an app to track it) and fill it out almost every day for the year.
So now you have a yearly plan. Broken down month by month it might look like this:
MONTHLY GOAL: Lose 2lbs each month
How do you do this?
Set up a structured meal plan and stick to it. Don’t know how to do that? Sign up for a seminar with us!
Go to the gym every week of every month - even when you’re busy - no excuses!
Don’t go out drinking every weekend and give yourself a weekly drink allowance. Choose events/special occasions, and avoid binge-drinking.
Limit eating out. If you eat out once a week, make it once a month instead - eating out is FULL of unwanted calories, and making your own food is the best way to ensure you know how many calories you are actually consuming.
So now we have a monthly plan of attack with micro-goals to lose 2lbs each month. How do we meet those goals week by week?
WEEKLY GOAL: Lose 0.5lbs per week
How do you do this?
Cook all your own foods following the grocery list and meal plan
No alcohol during the week
No eating out
Go to the gym every time it’s scheduled. Don’t miss workouts!!!
Exercise every day (even on non-gym days)
OK so those are the weekly goals, so how do we meet these goals every day?
DAILY GOAL: Lose 0.07lbs per day
How do you do this?
Prepare all our meals in advance.
Eat only your allotted meals as per your meal plan
Go to the gym on scheduled days and WORK HARD, and get exercise on non-gym days. Our programs always ensure you're working hard and have great member and trainer accountability!
Keep a daily journal on food and exercise
When you break it down into micro-goals from Day to Week to Month to Year, you get tangible ways to meet your goals every day. If you meet your daily goals, you will meet your weekly goals, and when you meet your weekly goals, you will meet your monthly goals, and if you meet your monthly goals, you will meet your yearly goal. Losing 0.07lbs per day sounds less daunting than losing 25lbs in a year. Break it down and lay it out and set yourself up for success.
Do remember that progress is NEVER linear - it will go fast and slow, as well as stall and speed up, and we need to embrace the biological aspect of this process, staying focused and on track. A week without weight loss is not a reason to throw in the towel and revert back to the eating that got you out of shape in the first place. Journalling and detailed progress notes will help keep things in perspective, and allow you to make adjustments as you go - minimizing stalls and keeping you moving towards your goals.
And remember that you’re not going to be perfect every single day. It’s just not going to happen. It’s the person that’s most consistently close to their laid out plan for the longest that’s going to be the most successful. Avoid full derailments off the tracks and stay focused. A quote that I heard years ago (sorry, can’t remember who I heard it from) that still resonates with me to this day is, “Do 80% right, 100% of the time” So you don’t have to be perfect, but be consistent. Consistency is the key to all of this!!
2020 is almost here - go out and have yourself a goal crushing year!