Beginner Exerciser Series: Goal Setting
Jun 14, 2021
This blog is for people new to exercise. You may be here because that applies to you, or you may be here to try to gain perspective from the point of view of a new exerciser. Either way is great and I’m glad you’re joining me!
It’s important to remember that no one can make someone be ready to lead a healthier lifestyle other than that person. Having a strong support network, including friends, spouses, parents, children, or even personal trainers, is important, but nothing can make a person change until they are ready to. It’s the responsibility of the support network to encourage the change and be there when needed, but it’s not the responsibility of the network to convince someone they need to make changes in the first place.
So, if you’re here for yourself, you’ve already shown the first step, which is an interest and willingness to make a change. So, congratulations, and we’re happy to have you!
Getting your body to a good state of health has countless benefits. Exercise can slow, prevent, and in some cases reverse the effects of certain diseases, such as heart disease, issues with blood sugar or blood pressure, arthritis, osteoporosis, and more. Exercising regularly can help with body and mind as well as energy levels, complexion, mood, and more.
So, you probably know all this, and you’re at the next step: ready to start but no idea how to. A lot of people fail at this point. Without capitalizing on this momentum, you get stuck, and then never start. So let’s try to avoid that! Let’s talk about important steps to get started on a fitness routine, no matter your starting point or goals.
When starting out on any fitness program, you want to make sure you’re doing it for the “right” reasons. That means something different to each person. Find your “why”.
I want to be able to play easily with my kids or grandkids
My bad cholesterol/blood pressure is going up and I want to avoid medication.
I just found out I have... (osteoporosis, osteopenia, high blood pressure, etc)
My weight gain is making my favorite activities uncomfortable
I have a specific fitness goal: hike a certain trail/mountain, run/walk a 5k, etc
When doing this exercise, try to keep asking yourself “why” until you reach a good reason. This will avoid “simple” answers such as weight loss. We want to avoid weight loss or a number on the scale as a “why”. Why do you want to lose the weight?
Example: I want to get healthy.
I want to lose 10 pounds.
Because I don’t like how I look
Because I’m uncomfortable in my clothes and want to be able to move around better
There you go. Your “why” is your increased confidence and mobility, not a certain number on the scale!
Once you have your why, then you can move on to the next step, which is defining your goals.
It’s important for goals to be SMART.
S - Specific
M - Measurable
A - Achievable
R - Relevant
T - Timely
Specific - Goals should be clear and specific, so that you will be able to focus and feel motivated in achieving it! Try to focus on why you want to achieve the goal. What, exactly, are you trying to do? How are you going to get there?
Ex: I want to get back into my fitness routine after taking a break due to the pandemic.
Great goal, but let’s be more specific. What is or was your fitness routine? What do you want to make sure you accomplish?
Ex: I want to return to my 2019 schedule of working out 2 times per week with my trainer, and also commit to going for two fast paced walks per week.
Measurable - Goals should be quantifiable. You should be able to look back and clearly say “Yes, I did that” or “No, I did not accomplish that”. This makes it easier to track your progress and meet your deadlines.
Ex: I want to work out more
What does “more” mean to you? What are you currently doing, and what’s the difference between that and your goal?
Better: During my two walks per week, I want to make sure I hit at least 4 miles.
I want to work out with my trainer twice per week and do one workout on my own.
Achievable - Nothing’s worse than setting yourself up for failure. Reach for the stars, sure, but be realistic. Goals should be achievable based on your body, your time, and your other obligations, while being difficult enough to be motivating and challenge you to break out of your current routine.
Ex: I want to work out 5 times per week
Are you currently working out 3-4 times per week and want to take the next step? This would be an achievable goal. But if you’re a beginning exerciser, this is likely not the case. This might be a great eventual goal, but let’s start a little more realistic.
Better: I want to eventually work out 5 times per week, increasing slowly. I will start with 2 times per week and increase monthly until I reach 5.
Relevant - This goal needs to feel important to you and be in line with your other goals, both fitness related and not. Sometimes, in order to get to where we want to go we have to do some things that we don’t want to do (like working out before work, for example) but the goal itself should be an exciting joy.
Ex: I want to run a 5k!
Maybe this is a great goal for you. But if you’re someone prone to knee issues, maybe this isn’t a good choice. Maybe there is another goal that would still leave you feeling accomplished and proud without taxing your body potentially beyond repair.
Better: Since running exacerbates my knee problem, I want to swim 500m nonstop.
Timely - Every goal needs a date attached to it. This gives you a timeline so that you can plan out the practice needed to achieve it.
Ex: I want to run a 5k.
What a specific goal! Great! But by when? Tomorrow? Maybe not achievable! Three years from now? Too easy!
Better: I want to run the Turkey Trot 5k in my city in November of this year.
Some goals I hear often and how they could be “SMARTer”:
I want to feel more confident in the gym
This is a great place to start, but this fails several of the parameters. There’s no way to specifically measure your confidence today, and so we can’t measure change in the future. Take it a step farther: what makes you lack confidence in the gym? Is it what you know? Your strength? Maybe focus on learning new exercises, getting in a certain amount of sessions per week, or committing to doing something that makes you nervous.
“I want to learn 3 new exercises per session with my trainer, and commit to trying them out on my own once a week”
I want to start working out
Excellent! This is something all trainers love to hear. However, we need to take this a step farther to keep up your great momentum.
What do you plan to do for exercise? What does working out mean to you? How often? By yourself, with a trainer, or with a group (if you are truly new to exercise, we always recommend a trainer to start out!) This is a goal a trainer can help you solidify and create.
“I want to find a trainer that will help me get where I want to go. Once I find one that I like and trust, I will ask for their help in creating a plan for me.”
Please feel free to share your goals with me via here on the blog, on our Instagram and Facebook at @FitnessTogetherPointLoma, or in person at the studio for a free intro session! We can make sure your goals are SMART- Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.
Hopefully while you've been reading this blog you’ve been thinking of your own goals in your head. But you might not know where to start, and that’s where a trainer or coach can help you. Next week, we’ll be talking about choosing the right trainer for you, and making sure that you’re choosing a knowledgeable and credentialed trainer who can help you set goals and meet them.