Goals are important. Seem obvious? It isn’t always. For example, try this scenario:
You walk into the gym for the third time this week and the guy who started training at roughly the same time you, some 8 weeks ago, is over by the dumbbell rack. You were roughly the same size when you began yet for some reason the progress you’ve made seems pretty pale in comparison to his. You wonder why.
First of all, you shouldn’t be comparing and perhaps it’s just a matter of genetics and his anatomy is just more muscular. However, there is a third very realistic possibility: He has clearly defined goals. The value of setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic & Timely) fitness goals is never to be underestimated. Let us explain why.
What makes a goal SMART?
Goals need to satisfy certain criteria:
There’s a difference between saying, “I want a better body” and “I want to have 10% body fat in the next 2 months”; it’s a matter of being specific.
In order to make progress, you need to be able to chart your way forward, assess how far you’ve come and how far you have to go. This reinforces the need to have goals that are measurable. For example, you can track your BFP week on week to see your progress.
Ambition is important but it needs to be with perspective so your goals should be an actual possibility.
Similar to the previous point, your goals need to be aligned to your available resources and what they can make possible.
Without deadlines you’ll be chasing a unicorn. Goals need to be time sensitive or there is no motivation to accomplish them.
Goals vs milestones
Locke and Latham (2006) wrote:
“Typically, a goal, once accepted and understood, remains in the periphery of consciousness as a reference point for guiding and giving meaning to subsequent mental and physical actions.”
Milestones are different to goals but are equally as important. An effective way to chart your progress and stay motivated is to set and celebrate milestones. For example, if you wanted to add two inches to your arms over the course of 8 weeks, it would be important to take note of milestones like the first inch of growth and when it occurs.
Types of fitness goals
Just as setting goals in fitness and health is important, differentiating between the different types of goals is important too:
This refers to athletic performance. Training and living a healthier lifestyle will improve your physical prowess. Performance goals can be set to improve strength, mobility, flexibility, agility and speed.
This refers to how we look. We’re all aware of the abundance of selfies floating around Instagram and that have been stored away on our phone but do these have a place? Yes, with moderation of course. Taking note of your physical appearance is a way to help you keep on track with your aesthetic goals. Aesthetic goals are concerned with how you look, giving form priority over function.
Some people purely have an appetite for knowledge and living a healthy lifestyle helps them acquire the knowledge they seek in exercise, nutrition and general wellbeing.
We’re all familiar with that after-gym glow, the one that makes our problems seem more like molehills than mountains and puts us in a positive mood. Many of us attend the gym and workout because of the feeling of contentment we experience through challenging our bodies and getting a release from everyday life.
Each of us should have our own goals to follow which is also further reason making comparisons in the gym ultimately has no place.
Benefits of setting goals
- Gives you perspective
- Helps you focus on the elements, factors and processes that are beneficial to your progress
- Satisfaction of meeting milestones and accomplishing the overall goal
- Guides your behaviour and directs your actions
- Allows formulation of a concise and effective plan and strategy
- Motivation and measurement of progress (Locke e. and Latham G., 2006)
If you’re looking to improve your fitness, build a better physique and feel better in your body then the first step is setting a clearly defined goal. After all you can’t set on a journey if you have no idea where your destination is. That is the fast track to arriving nowhere.
Locke E. and Latham G., New Directions in Goal-Setting Theory, Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2006, Volume 15, Number 5, pp265-268
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