The broad picture of overall physical fitness can be overwhelming to beginners and experts alike. So many factors play a role in an effective program, but breaking your ultimate goal down into several mini goals can make reaching them much easier. The SMART goals system advocated by the American Council on Exercise is an ideal way to work toward becoming fit without frustration, which makes it more likely that you'll stick with the program.
Being highly specific about what your goals are and how you'll reach them is an effective way to help you get where you want to be, advises ACE. Decide what your ultimate goal is and the exact steps you'll take to get there. This gives you clear guidelines that help you work toward your desired results. For example, rather than simply deciding you want to get in shape, come up with specific goals for doing so. You might decide to jog for 10 minutes each day and then add 10 minutes to your route each week until you can run for 30 minutes or even one hour.
Your goals should be easy to measure, so you know if you're reaching them. If your ultimate goal is to lose 25 pounds, you can measure your progress with regular weigh-ins, and if you want to run a 12-minute mile, you can measure that by timing your runs. If you can't measure your results, it can be difficult to know when adjustments to your routine are needed, and you might not realize that you aren't making as much progress as you think.
Setting a goal you can't attain isn't conducive to success, which can lead to frustration and failure. At the same time, you don't want goals that are too easy because they don't give you the motivation you need to get in good physical shape, according to ACE. Choose goals you know you can reach with effort but aren't so lofty that you might never get there. For example, eating healthy foods most of time is attainable, while never having another ounce of sugar isn't.
Setting a goal of running a marathon isn't relevant if you hate tying your shoes and hitting the pavement. Goals that are relevant to your interests and passions are much easier to reach than those you dread or can't bring yourself to get to, notes ACE. If you love biking, a relevant goal might be completing a 3-mile ride several times each week. If hiking is one of your favorite activities, climbing a 14,000-foot peak would be a relevant goal.
Setting a time limit on getting to your goal is an important way to motivate yourself and stay accountable. Instead of a vague time line, set a specific date for when you want to attain your ultimate goal. For example, losing 10 pounds before your wedding or qualifying for a triathlon before your 30th birthday. Set short-term and long-term deadlines to help you stay motivated and on track.
- Photo Credit Siri Stafford/Lifesize/Getty Images