Setting Fitness Goals
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
The first step in any exercise program should be setting fitness goals. Taking the time to do this can increase your odds of success.
Ask Yourself Questions
The first thing you should do is ask yourself some questions that will help you figure out what your fitness goals are. Here are some to get you started:
Take a few minutes to think about these questions. Write down your answers and refer to them as you go about setting your goals.
What is your long-term goal? Can it be broken into smaller ones? If you break your long-term goal into smaller ones, then you will be more likely to stay on track. For instance, if you want to lose 20 pounds, then you might consider setting these smaller goals:
Another important thing to think about is your timetable. Think about when you expect to achieve your goals and be realistic. For example, if you want to drop 10 pounds by next Wednesday, then you need to reevaluate your timetable. A more realistic goal would be to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week.
Write It Down
Write down your goals after you have come up with the specifics. Putting your plan on paper will help you commit. It will also give you something to turn to when you may get off track. Write down all of your goals and when you expect to achieve them. Leave room to log your successes and challenges. You can modify your goals and timetable as you go.
Post your goals some place where you will see them often, such as your bathroom mirror, the fridge, or a bulletin board. This will keep you motivated and increase your odds of success.
You should also write down a schedule you can follow. Decide how many times a week you will exercise, what time of day will be best, and which days of the week work for your schedule. Decide how you will make time in your schedule. Writing a solid plan will bring you one step closer to adding exercise into your weekly routine.
Measure Your Success
If you do not measure your progress, then it will be hard to stay motivated. Schedule regular times when you will measure your success. For example, if you are trying to lose weight, you might log your weight first thing every Monday morning. If you want to build muscle, you can log how much weight you lift each time you workout. As your muscles get stronger, you will be able to lift more.
If you are trying to bring your blood pressure or cholesterol under control, you can still measure your progress. Instead of heading to your doctor every week for a blood test, log the number of times you exercise in a week or the weight you have lost. This is progress toward your goal. Then, when the doctor gives you the results, you can study your own log and modify it you need to.
A regular exercise program will reward you with a better physique, better health, and more energy. But why not reward your progress. You might consider buying a new outfit, treating yourself to a round at a new golf course, or going to a new restaurant you have wanted to try.
Taking some time to set goals will help keep you motivated and on track. Remember to be patient. Keep your mind focused on your goal and enjoy both the pleasure and the benefits of exercise that you will gain along the way.
American Council on Exercise
The President’s Council on Physical Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition
Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology
How much physical activity do adults need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
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Accessed October 8, 2021.
Physical activity guidelines for Americans. US Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf. Accessed October 8, 2021.
Setting S.M.A.R.T. fitness goals to overcome mental hurdles. National Academy of Sports Medicine website. Available at: https://blog.nasm.org/setting-smart-fitness-goals. Accessed October 8, 2021.
Last reviewed October 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 10/8/2021
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