Sticking with Fitness Part 1: Work Out What You Want

You’ve made a new year’s resolution to start a fitness regime. Congratulations! That’s an amazing first step.

Unfortunately, I’ve got some bad news for you.

You’re probably not going to keep this up.

“Well that’s negative! What kind of a ‘new year, new you’ article is this,” I hear you ask?

Sorry friend, but it’s the truth.

Statistically, 90% of people quit the gym within three months of joining. Those numbers don’t lie, and if I was a betting man, I’m afraid to say I’d be betting against you.

But why is that? Why don’t the many people keep up a fitness regime? And what is the 10% that stays the course doing differently?

That’s what I’m going to try and answer over this series. In these eight editions, I’ll be offering up a comprehensive guide, not just for starting, but also for sticking to a fitness regime in 2019. We’ll talk about the things that you need to get right, as well as the common pitfalls that you need to avoid in order to go the distance.

In today’s edition, we’re getting to grips with what I call the big question:

What Do You Want?

As far as I’m concerned, this question is big hurdle number one. Because, while “what do you want?” seems like a fairly straightforward thing to ask, answering it honestly requires a degree of soul searching that not everybody is comfortable with.

On the Importance of Goals

I’ve met plenty of people who start their fitness regime with – on the surface at least – a pretty laissez-faire attitude to the whole thing. Chances are, you’ve probably heard any one of the following from a prospective gym goer at one time or another:

“Oh, y’know, there’s nothing wrong with staying fit.”

“I figured I could maybe lose a couple of pounds.”

“I just wanted to feel, sort of, healthier, I guess.”

The instant you hear somebody giving you one of those lines, you know they’re in the 90% category straight away.

Why? Because they don’t have any concrete goals. Or, if they do, they’re not confident enough in those goals to articulate them.

As Zig Ziglar once put it, “if you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” And, by not setting yourself clear goals, you’re not really aiming at anything.

The result is that your fitness regime ends up not being a regime at all. Instead, it’s a series of loosely connected, ever changing exercises that may, or may not take you towards your goal. It’s unfocused, intangible, and ultimately unsustainable.

It’s very hard to keep yourself motivated without a goal in mind. A lack of motivation leads to procrastination, and procrastination eventually results in quitting. You get down on exercise for a while, before ultimately repeating the process the same time next year.

So how do you go about setting goals that you’ll actually see to completion? You start by thinking big.

Find Your Stretch Goal

Remember that soul-searching thing I talked about earlier? This is where that comes in. Now’s the time where you need to ask yourself what you really want.

Does it sound ridiculous? Does the very idea of trying to achieve it intimidate you beyond belief? It doesn’t matter. Say it out loud right now, and then write it down. Committing it to paper is a useful mental tool – it makes it seem more concrete somehow.

If you’re struggling to think big, then here are some utterly ridiculous sounding stretch goals to get your imagination going:

“I want to run the TCS New York City Marathon in under three hours”

“I want to stop looking like Peter Griffin and start looking like Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson.”

“I want to be stronger than Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Batman combined.”

What you’ve got now is an aim. More than that, actually, you’ve got a dream. And a dream is much more inspiring than an, “I just wanted to feel, sort of, healthier, I guess.”

So how do you go about turning that dream into a reality?

Turn stretch into SMART

Stretch goals have their limits. They are incredibly motivating, but they’re also kind of nebulous. You can dream about being stronger than Batman all day. But how do you actually go about doing it?

This is where setting SMART goals comes in. As LifeHack notes, SMART goals are those that are Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and completed within a specified Timeline:

  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable – quantify, or at least suggest, an indicator of progress.
  • Assignable – specify who will do it.
  • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved given available resources.
  • Timeline – specify when the result can be achieved.

Let’s say our stretch goal was to “stop looking like Peter Griffin and start looking like Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson.” There are many steps we need to take in order to make that goal attainable. So we need to work out what the first step is.

“Lose weight” is the obvious answer, but losing weight is a pretty vague idea (see the above, “I figured I could maybe lose a couple of pounds.”).

Your first SMART goal, then, might be to go to the gym three times a week and lose 6lbs/3kg in a month. You’ve targeted a specific area for improvement (weight loss), a measurable indicator of progress (going to the gym three times a week), you’ve assigned the goal (to yourself, obviously), stated a realistic aim, rather than a vague target (losing 6lbs/3kg), and you’ve given yourself a reasonable timeframe in which to do it (one month).

Armed with your SMART goal, you’ve got the best chance of achieving your goal. But, one big question remains. Once you get to the gym, what exactly should you be doing there to reach it?

Fear not! That’s where next week’s edition comes in. in “Get With the Program,” we’ll be running through the most popular beginner’s fitness programs out there, what they offer, and which one is right for achieving your SMART and stretch goals.

Having clear goals is vital to making a success out of your fitness regime.