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In our lives, we set goals to give us purpose. We go to school to establish a career, and go to work to buy a house or to reach for that promotion. Setting plans and benchmarks for our future is an essential part of living a fulfilled life. It gives us something to work for when giving up seems more appealing.
So why wouldn’t this concept apply within the walls of the gym? According to studies, people are up to 70 percent likelier to practice sustained lifestyle changes associated with long-term health when motivated by an external goal. Goal setting is a part of fitness.
If you want to succeed you need a reason to work. Motivation that stems from a goal dictates how you train and helps to make exercise a priority.
Set A Goal
Registering for a 5k, 10k, marathon or even a trail race is a great way to maintain consistency in an exercise program. With the swipe of your credit card, you’re committed to showing up to the start line. If nothing else, the $100 entry fee will hold you accountable. Entering a race can also encourage a beginner to get involved with the running community. You’ll likely meet a future training partner over celebratory beers at the finish line, and the reward of sweet achievement is enough reason to sign up for another one.
Running isn’t for everyone. And even if it is for you, motivation doesn’t have to come in the form of races and finish lines. A goal can be as simple as getting in shape for a hike you plan to do on your family vacation, being able to bench press X amount of weight or even getting healthy to be a better parent and feel good while playing with your kids. What’s most important is to connect your goal to something you view as meaningful. Whether it’s to PR in a 5k or to avoid getting winded on the playground, connecting physical activity to things that are important to us will increase the likelihood of engagement and consistent exercise.
Make it realistic
While I’m a big advocate of reaching for the stars and going for the impossible, being realistic with your fitness goals is critical for success. It may seem a bit counterintuitive to start small, but when under the influence of goal-induced overzealousness, we can fall victim to burnout or injury. The key is to define a gradual and increasingly difficult set of fitness goals, all which work toward that big dream or aspiration. Breaking a seemingly unachievable goal into smaller, more tangible goals can help you gain fitness gradually, safely and while building confidence.
Make a Plan
Setting a goal is a great start and declaration of intent, but it’s only words until you have a plan. To achieve fitness goals and the accompanying lifestyle adjustments, exercise must become as routine as going to work. Establishing a fitness plan eliminates the option of “I’ll workout tomorrow instead” and can help you feel more accountable for following the daily plan. Moreover, following a fitness plan is a great way to track progress. Writing each workout down and how you felt in a fitness log is a cool way to look back at how you’ve progressed through the stages of working towards a goal, which can serve as positive reinforcement when staying on track seems unmanageable.
Failing is OK
A part of setting big goals is that success isn’t guaranteed. Although failure is scary, the possibility is what makes the challenge so attractive and achievement so fulfilling. When in the face of falling short of those goals, it’s important not to let the outcome define the process. Success isn’t made at the finish line but is formulated throughout the process and ingrained in the time spent working towards it.