6 Tips for Setting Realistic Training Goals & Sticking to them
Written By: Alex Smith
Trainer and athlete Alex Smith gives us some handy training advice with her top six tips on how to set realistic training goals and stick to them.
SET A GOAL. MAKE A PLAN. STICK TO IT.
Yes, this does all sound rather obvious! However, many people who start training for a fitness goal find that their enthusiasm to “smash” their goals will often lead to them neglecting to make a realistic plan.
ARE YOU SETTING YOURSELF UP TO FAIL?
The problem is, a goal that is not possible or requires too much sacrifice to achieve will very likely decrease motivation, lead to inaction and eventually result in failure.
So here are my SIX top tips on how to set realistic training goals and stick to them, with an extra technique and personal favourite of mine to finish, just for good luck!
SIX STEPS TO SUCCESSFUL GOAL SETTING
1. MINI GOALS AND VICTORIES!
Whilst there is nothing wrong with setting the bar high, often a challenging goal can feel daunting. Not only will you feel overwhelmed, you might be asking a lot from your body from a physical point of view too.
It can be helpful to break down your bigger, overall goals into small, bite sized chunks. As you achieve each micro goal, you will feel more encouraged to stick to your plan and keep fighting towards your overall fitness goal. See these as mini victories!
Whether it’s a Bench Press 1 Rep Max, your first 10K, a 24-inch box jump or your first ever chest to floor burpee, it’s important to remember that every person’s starting point is individual, but whatever the goal, it will certainly be better tackled in stages! Here are a couple of examples
Break your Bench Press into percentage progression. Your first small goal will be to perfect your technique at a light weight, the second to establish your current 1 Rep Max, the third would be to train at 60% of your 1RMax, next 65%, 70%, 75% etc. Plan a test week in 4 weeks’ time.
With regard to training for a 10K run, take it a kilometer at a time. Whether your micro goal is every new kilometer you cover or every faster kilometer, each run and every week you’re getting closer to your overall goal!
2. MAKE IT MEASURABLE, SPECIFIC AND TIME BOUND
Who else has heard of the SMART rule for working effectively? It’s a really effective technique to use when setting fitness goals!
It’s important that your goal is specific. It’s tricky to add a strategy or training plan to a vague goal.
Your goal must also be measurable. Not only does this make it easier to track progress but it’s far easier to work towards.
Next, it’s important to consider whether your goal is both realistically achievable and relevant to your current fitness level and lifestyle. Consider your current commitments and even reasons why you could fail. Something to bear in mind is that if your goal is going to take forever, and also cause you a lot of trouble along the way, you really will lose motivation!
Finally, your goal must be timebound. Time keeps you on track and making a plan with a realistic timeframe makes planning your time commitment to your training far easier.
Here’s a short example. Your fitness goal is to be able to back squat (specific) 100kg (measurable) before your 30th Birthday. Your birthday is in three months (timebound) and you’re currently squatting 80kg for two reps (relevant). You’re able to get to the gym 4 times/week and have been able to move a few clients around at work to ensure that you get to the Wednesday evening lifting class (achievable). Everything is in place to ensure that plan runs efficiently and effectively.
3. ONE THING AT A TIME
Keep goal setting simple. It’s very easy and tempting to get carried away when constructing a list of fitness goals. We’d all have a list the length of our arm! However, one huge mistake would be to try to do too much in one go. Again, not only will you feel overwhelmed and potentially demotivated but you could sacrifice quality for quantity. In a similar way to tackling micro goals, take on one fitness challenge at a time.
4. HELP RATHER THAN HINDER
Make sure your fitness plan includes types of training that compliment and are specific to your goal. For example, it’s no good training at 90% of your squat PB and trying to improve your marathon time during the same period. Nor is it sensible to try to attempt to put on body weight and size whilst training for an endurance event. It’s always helpful to ask a professional for advice when setting fitness goals if you are unsure.
5. DON’T GIVE UP. YOU’VE ONLY FAILED ONCE YOU QUIT!
Everyone has ups and downs on their journey to achieving their fitness goals. Life gets in the way, your body is fatigued or worse, you’re injured. It would be very unusual to take a straightforward and simple path to success. Anybody who does, I would suggest that their goal perhaps wasn’t challenging enough!
With each down, failure and every diversion from the plan, you’ll get mentally stronger and become even better equipped to take on more goals and challenges in the future.
Accept the failures. But always dust yourself off and keep moving forward!
6. KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE PRIZE!
A personal favourite! I have always focused on and pictured myself at the end goal. Whether it’s crossing the finish line, having a medal around my neck or drinking a cider in my finishers T-Shirt, this visualisation has always been a great motivator for me!
There is scientific research to support this too. When you visualise success, you actually stimulate the same parts of your brain as when you physically perform that same action.
So give it a go. Set a realistic goal. Make a SMART plan. And, even if you face challenges along the way, keep your eyes focused on the prize!
Alex Smith is an experienced Personal Trainer and the founder of AKTIV Training.