How To Set Fitness Goals and Actually Reach Them
How To Set Fitness Goals and Actually Reach Them
Your Goal Can’t Just Be to Lose Weight
So, you’ve decided to lose some weight. Cool. You might be patting yourself on the back right now, feeling proud for having such a great, healthy, worthwhile goal. Sorry to burst your bubble, but that goal is bullshit.
Sure, losing excess weight is great, healthy, and worthwhile. But weight loss is simply a product. It’s a result of a number of factors and consistent actions broken down over time. That is where the focus of your goals needs to be. On the daily habits, not the daily weigh-in.
Reflect on your Daily Habits, and Set Intentions from There
Instead of telling yourself you need to weigh less, ask yourself: How is your lifestyle supporting weight loss? And, how could it better support weight loss? I know you’re thinking, I need to go on a diet and exercise. And my short response is Yes. Yes, you do. But that’s still not good enough. You need to be more specific. Much more specific. First, start with some personal reflection:
What does your typical day look like?
What is your current level of activity?
How much sleep do you normally get?
What do you regularly eat?
How are you spending your spare time?
And nope, how much do you weigh? is not on the list. Because it’s irrelevant. The rest of those questions are relevant AF and have everything to do with why you need to lose weight in the first place. You need to identify the unhealthy habits that need to be changed. This journey is about so much more than weight loss. It is about health and fitness as a whole. Including, but definitely not limited to, weight loss.
The Scale has Nothing to do With the Process
When you limit your health and well-being to weight loss alone, you set yourself up for failure. There will be ups and downs on your fitness journey, both mentally and on the scale. If you allow a “high” weigh-in to mentally derail you from focusing on the habits and activities that will get you where you want to go, you will never get there.
Concentrate your efforts and emotions on the process. You can either feel crushed that the scale hasn’t moved, or you can feel proud as hell of your accomplishments off the scale. You live no less than 23 hrs, 59 minutes, and 30 seconds of every day off of the scale. It’s time to act like it.
Don’t allow the scale to make or break you on a daily basis. Your energy is better spent focusing on the positive changes and decisions you will make throughout the day. Don’t drain your energy first thing in the morning, anxiously awaiting a number to pop up on the screen and decide your fate.
(**This post contains Amazon affiliate and other affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something I may earn a commission. Thanks.)
How to Track Your Goals and Habits
Habits are formed, and weight loss happens, with consistency over time. Sporadic effort will not result in your new, healthy habits becoming second nature. And it will not get you where you want to go. You must commit to goals and stick with them. Even when life gets busy, messy, and hard. So, how do you keep your goals in the forefront in order to change your life?
RELATED POST: How to Keep Fitness Going When Life Gets Hard
Write Them Down
For me, having my goals and a habit tracker written down in a notebook has been instrumental. Having everything down on paper helped me change the habits that don’t support my goals, and create the habits that do. Not only are my monthly goals thought out and made “real” by being outlined on paper, but I update my habit tracker almost daily.
This means I revisit my goals often, in a visual, intentional way. Without needing to flip back and forth through 6 different apps on my phone, trying to keep the information straight in my head. Here’s a picture of the (bit sloppy) habit tracker grid I made in a spare notebook years ago:
I’m a big pen-and-paper gal. I’m the queen of to-do lists, and like seeing everything written out in front of me in one place. It helps keep my mind clear and focused. Not to mention, fewer things fall through the cracks when I have my tasks written down and top of mind.
But if pen-and-paper isn’t your jam, you could use a spreadsheet on the computer, or an app like HabitBull on your phone. Personally, I find I get too distracted by texts, notifications, and social media when I get on my phone. It makes it hard to be productive and stick to the task at hand. Pick a method that works for you. One you can and will keep updated, and revisit on a regular basis. This is big, because the less you look at your goals, the less you remember to work toward them.
A good way to avoid letting your habits fall by the wayside is to conduct a mid-month check-in around the 15th of each month. This is when I make a point to revisit my Monthly Intentions (see below). Upon comparing them to my habit tracking grid, I adjust my days and focus accordingly, if necessary. I can clearly see how my actions are impacting, or not impacting, my goals. I make any changes I might need to make in order to finish the month strong.
Goals vs Intentions
What’s the Difference?
- Goals are future-focused, while intentions are in the present moment.
- Goals are specific destinations or achievements, while intentions are lived each day – independent of achieving or reaching the goal, destination, or achievement.
- Goals are external achievements, while intentions are about the relationship you have with yourself and others.
Wow, right? Basically you need to practice daily habits with intention in order to reach your ultimate goals.
I use the terms interchangeably here, but when I sit down at the beginning of each month, I label my “goals” as “intentions,” as they are mostly day-to-day activities that require my attention, regardless of the progress I make, or don’t make, toward my bigger picture goals.
My intentions and goals, alike, have evolved with time – more and more habits have formed, and the trajectory of my fitness journey has changed over the course of 2 years. A little over a year ago I started tracking macronutrients, so now my nutritional goals are things like “X grams of protein per day” and “X number of calories per day.” I also started a new workout program and my exercise goals are now “4 resistance workouts per week,” with basically no dedicated LISS/HIIT. I’ve removed some personal goals and added others, like “1 date night per month,” for example.
The Tracking System I Use
I still use my trusty pen-and-paper method and compile information from MyFitnessPal, FitBit, FitIndex (my bluetooth scale app – currently on super sale), and the Sweat app in one, physical place. Only now I’m using this habit tracker with the grids already made for me. I use these colorful pens (that I need to hide from my kids), and keep my monthly goals and reflections looking pretty and at the top of my mind.
Here’s a picture of my habit tracker page this month, at my mid-month check-in:
This is how I managed to lose 22 pounds in 15 months. I set small daily goals and checked in on them often. I tracked, analyzed, adjusted, and moved forward. Pretty soon my habits changed in big ways, and the number on the scale changed with them. It was a legitimate lifestyle change, and one that I still easily keep up with. Creating permanent change is what I want for you, too.
How to Set Fitness Goals and Actually Reach Them – Step by Step
Identify Your “Why“
Why do you want to lose weight? Aesthetic reasons are fine and worthy, but only get you so far. Looking good in your jeans or bathing suit is awesome, but it’s not going to be strong enough motivation to hit the gym at 5 am or put down the box of cookies day after day for months on end. You need a meaningful, powerful why. Maybe it’s your kids, maybe it’s chronic health issues, maybe it’s your sanity. Whatever it is, find it.
I started my fitness journey 2 years ago and 30 pounds heavier. At 3 months postpartum for the 2nd time around, I was drowning in motherhood. My physical and mental health had fallen by the wayside. I lacked focus and a sense of purpose, both things I desperately need to thrive. My “why” was, and still is, my mental well-being. I need to take care of myself in a way that makes it possible for me to not just survive momming littles day in and day out, but to feel alive while doing it. My friend’s why was setting a healthy example for her children. It can be anything, but it must be powerful.
RELATED POST: My Postpartum Fitness Journey with the SWEAT App
What’s Your “Why”?
Your first task is to find your own why – one that will drive you to keep going even when it feels impossible. So what is it? This might take some time, but take that time and find it. Now you know what will keep your fitness fire lit, even on its dimmest days when motivation is lacking. This is important. Without it, the how and when of weight loss is far more challenging.
Set Your Goals
So you’ve figured out what you want to do – lose weight. And identified why you want to do it – your big “why.” Now to figure out the how and when. These are the nitty gritty details of weight loss. You don’t just decide you’re going to lose weight and then – POOF! – it’s done. How are you going to change your habits to support sustainable weight loss over time? Changing and creating habits is the goal. Weight loss rides on the coattails of your habits and consistency. Here’s how to set fitness goals and actually achieve them:
Create an Exercise Goal
My first step was to find a workout plan. Searching the corners of the internet, I looked for a workout program that would fit into life as I knew it at the time. That’s how I found Kayla Itsines’ BBG (Bikini Body Guide) program. I promptly printed out the workouts and guide, and had one tiny piece of the puzzle.
Really, I only had a partial piece of the puzzle. Having the program and actually doing it are two different things. Similar to how having a spray bottle of 409 sitting in your cupboard won’t make your house clean. I needed to implement the program, while maintaining a good mixture of motivation, accountability, and discipline. These three things work together to get the job done – when one is lacking, the others will help keep you going.
Schedule Your Workouts and Follow Through
I followed the BBG program as suggested, and included my workouts in my Monthly Intentions at the beginning of each month. And I still do over 2 years later. I typically break it down to the weekly level, and my exercise goals in the beginning sounded something like this:
-All 3 BBG circuits each week
-2-3 LISS &/or HIIT cardio sessions per week
Simple enough. Knowing my stay-at-home mom schedule changed daily and was highly dependent on the kids’ everything, I remained flexible about what days and times I completed my workouts. At the very least, I knew I had from Monday morning to Sunday evening to get my three 28-minute sessions done. Less than an hour and a half over SEVEN DAYS is doable one way or another.
Tailor your Schedule to YOU and YOUR Life
You can certainly be more specific with your weekly goals and commit to which workouts you’ll do at what times on which days. Especially if your daily schedules are decently constant and you enjoy a more concrete schedule. Your goals could be 10,000 steps/day, weightlift 4x/week, 3 runs/week, or yoga 2x/week, etc. Decide what habits will support the results you’re looking for and go for it. Starting small is MORE than okay while you get your bearings and figure out what works for you. To start with, your goal could simply be to walk 3 days each week.
RELATED POST: 6 Things You DON’T Need to do to Lose Weight
Create a Nutrition Goal
On top of exercise, I knew I had to reel in some unhealthy eating habits in order to see progress. I began setting monthly and weekly food intake goals, in addition to my exercise goals. When I started, and for the first 14 months of my fitness journey, I didn’t track anything – no calories, no macros, no nothing.
In the very very beginning, before my habit tracking grid was born, I didn’t write down specific nutrition goals. I just set out to replace some “trash” snacks and sides with more fruits and veggies. This mental note, however, didn’t fully solve my dilemma of eating a bag of tortilla chips with salsa and topping off my large wine glass a few times every Friday and Saturday night.
So, I ended up setting some junk food limits. I didn’t cut anything out of my diet completely. Junk food and I go way back and I couldn’t do it like that. My nutrition goals at the time were things like:
-3 servings of chips per week
-1 serving of crackers per week
-1 treat per day
-booze only on the weekends
This is where my habit tracker really came into play. I had a place to track when I partook of chips, crackers, and treats. I always knew how many I had, or didn’t have, left for the week.
Make Your Nutritional Changes Doable
Starting with small changes in your diet and nutrition is a great idea. The smaller the change, the less overwhelmed you will be. The more doable the changes are, the more successful you will be at making them. You’ll build upon each seemingly small, but mega impactful, success over time. Consistently tracking my exercise and nutrition has strongly contributed to my overall 30-lb weight loss. It continues to drive and support my fitness goals even now, despite weight loss no longer being one of them.
It Won’t Always go to Plan
Even with all the organization and motivation in the world, there will be days, weeks, even months that don’t go to “plan.” That’s OKAY. Just flipping through the pages of my old notebook, I notice some of the Xs in my early-on habit tracker grids stop appearing 2 or 3 weeks into the month. I’m not sure why now, but I just stopped tracking for the month altogether. Luckily my most impactful, positive fitness habits were solidified prior to my 3-month hiatus from tracking and logging during the summer of 2019. It happens!
Practice Grace and Move Forward
Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re making mistakes, falling off the wagon, and failing. But none of that matters as long as you continue to try, and get back on track. I haven’t had an unlogged month in a full year now. Sometimes I totally nail the month and my goals, and sometimes I don’t. But I’m always consciously bettering myself and aware of my habits and choices.
Not hitting your goals for the month doesn’t make you a bad person, or a failure. Give yourself grace, and move on! Dwelling on the past and wallowing in regret won’t change your future. Dusting yourself off and putting in the work will.
RELATED POST: The 5 Pillars of Diet-and-Exercise Success
You Got This!
Losing weight and going after your goals can be overwhelming. Start small, be consistent, give yourself grace, and be patient. Staying organized and focused on what you want to accomplish day in and day out will help you along the way to a healthier you.
As time goes on, you might even realize that completing your daily habits and tasks brings you far more joy and accomplishment than a hypothetical number on the scale ever could. There’s really no end game, so you might as well enjoy the ride.
What’s your best goal setting or tracking tip? Please let me know in the comments, and follow me on Instagram to see my monthly intentions, summaries, and check-ins.
Thanks for reading How to Set Fitness Goals and Actually Reach Them!
Other Posts You May Enjoy: