How to Set Realistic Fitness Goals (And Achieve Them in 3 Simple Steps)
Fitness. You know it’s good for you. We know it’s good for us. But knowing and doing are two very different things. Not all of us are going to have fitness goals that match up to the health gurus we see popping up in our Instagram feeds. Instead, we need to set realistic fitness goals so we can get healthy and feel good whilst doing it.
When you told us that our Power of 3 planners were a “life savour for the demotivated” and helping you row “over 530,000m” in just 3 months… we knew we had to share the process with you.
Using the concept of pattern recognition, The Power of 3 planner organises your goals into groups of three (an approach recognised by science).
So, we’ve extracted that process and planned it out for you below. Here’s how to set realistic fitness goals and get healthy, without the hassle.
What is a fitness goal?
A fitness goal is a target that you work towards as your health and fitness improve. It should be realistic, doable and meaningful to you and your interests.
Your fitness goal might be an event or competition that you’re aiming for, or simply attending a gym class or being able to run around the block. As long as your goal is meaningful to you and your level of fitness, it’s a good goal to have.
What are the most common fitness goals?
The most common fitness goals focus on the aesthetic. Less fat. More tone. Different shapes.
But here at Yop & Tom, we like to take a different approach to fitness goals. What if, instead of working out to change how you looked, you tried working out to change how you feel?
Improve your mental health
Fitness has been closely linked with mental health. Why? Well not only does your body enjoy the physical benefits of endorphins, but it also enjoys the satisfaction of getting stronger. You start to feel more confident, more powerful and more capable of doing challenging things.
Much like bullet journaling, regular exercisers often start to feel part of a community. Through your fitness, you can connect with other like-minded people, whether that’s at a local running club, a CrossFit box, exercise classes or something totally different.
That community allows you to feel a part of something bigger, as you enjoy a sense of togetherness with other people just like you.
Enjoy higher energy levels
Studies have shown that, when we start exercising, we actually increase our energy levels.
So the next time you’re feeling like you need to make an extra coffee to get you through the afternoon’s activities... try getting outside for a quick walk instead and get your body moving.
Fitness isn’t just about better physical and mental health, it’s also about enjoyment. You don’t have to do the hardest toughest most challenging workout every single day.
Sometimes, it’s just about having fun. Do something that makes you feel joyful. It could be a dance workout, a YouTube video, a bike ride with your best friend. The most important thing is to just get moving.
How to set realistic fitness goals
Get creative with a fitness goal that’s meaningful to you
Your goals are not always going to be the same as your friends’. For a fitness goal to be realistic, it needs to mean something to you. It should feel like a challenge but it should also inspire you and motivate you to keep going. Because you know how good you’ll feel when you achieve it.
Try to get creative and think outside the box. If running’s not your thing, skip over it for something else. If weightlifting’s more your style, ask yourself how you can bring that into your routine. Or, if you’ve always wanted to try breakdancing, be brave and book that beginner’s class.
Here are our favourite places to find inspiration for your fitness goals:
- Curate your Instagram feed with fitness influencers that inspire (not intimidate) you and figure out what it is about their content that you love so most. Then, go out and give it a go
- Get on YouTube and watch a tonne of different fitness videos. See where the algorithm takes you and what has you saying “oh, I wish I could do that”
- Try it. Grab your best friend and book yourself into every single fitness class you can find. Then, see what you can’t wait to go back to.
Hold yourself accountable and follow through to achieve your goals
When you’ve determined your goal, write it down. It’s been proven that writing things down helps you to remember them, as your brain processes your goals in a deeper, more meaningful way.
But you can go one step further…
One Power of 3 user told us “Actually physically writing down and checking off my activities is motivating me to get them done. It’s just a way more cathartic practise than using a phone calendar or app”.
Inside the Power of 3 planner, we ask you “how will achieving this goal help me?”. This gets you to look at the bigger picture and ask yourself how ticking that goal off your list will help you, as you move forwards to those bigger dreams.
Because when you know why you’re doing something… it becomes easier to stick to. It becomes a fitness goal with purpose.
Let’s say your ultimate goal is to become a long-distance runner but, right now, you’re finding short runs pretty tricky. You’d start by setting yourself the goal of running a 5km race. Alongside that goal, you’d write down why that goal matters to you e.g. “this will allow me to build up my endurance so that my next race can be a 10km run”.
Another question the Power of 3 planner asks is “how do I measure success?”. This is another helpful accountability question.
If you have no way of knowing that your goal has actually been achieved, you’re going to feel demotivated. It’s going to be harder to keep on showing up and, ultimately, the chances of falling off track get that much higher. This is exactly why SMART fitness goals are so effective.
Using the same example of endurance running, you could choose to measure your success by the time or distance that you’re able to run for. Or, if your fitness goal is a little trickier to measure, such as starting a regular yoga practice, you could set a goal of practising yoga a certain number of times per week or being able to do a certain yoga pose.
Break your fitness goals down into 3 milestones
Once you’ve got your big fitness goal, look at how you can break it down into manageable chunks. How can that main goal become a series of smaller goals?
Instead of going after one giant goal that feels such a long way off, you can start checking each of these three milestones off your list and know that you’re partway through already.
If you want to go one step further (and feel even more on top of things), try getting more granular. Take each of your milestones and write out three tasks that you’ll follow to achieve that milestone. Make them clear and actionable, so you can refer back to your plan and know exactly what you need to do to achieve your fitness goals.
For instance, if your goal is to run a half marathon, start out by setting yourself three milestones to achieve along the way. These could be a 3-mile run, a 5-mile run and a 10-mile run as you increase your endurance before the race.
Once you’ve set those milestones, you can break each of them down into tasks to complete in order to achieve them. For a half marathon, those tasks could include particular training sessions, rest days and cross training.
“Logging my results in this wee book has kept me motivated and am just finishing my first 3-month section. Fat boy, done good! 1 stone 1 pound down!! Over 530,000m rowed. Setting up my goals and targets for next 3 months.”
3 fitness goals examples for every level
Fitness goals for beginners
Need some beginner-level fitness goals for inspiration? Joppe (aka Yop) is a big tennis fan and can often be found outside on the tennis courts after work. Choose a sports game that you usually love to watch and arrange to play a session with some friends.Then, use the next few weeks or months to grow your fitness and get ready for the game. You’ll find that there’s less pressure than a session at the gym because you’re with your friends. And, you can go for as long (or as little) as you like! It’s 100% up to you.
Short-term fitness goals
If you’ve already got a good level of fitness under your belt, some external accountability can go a long way in helping you achieve your short-term fitness goals.Look for a sporting event that will be just enough of a challenge to move you up a fitness level, whilst still being a realistic goal. A 5k or 10k running event is great for this, and you could even try fundraising for your favourite charity for that extra dose of motivation.
Long-term fitness goals
For long-term fitness goals, you need a bigger challenge. Tom’s a keen cyclist who loves the mental health benefits of unplugging from his digital devicesto get out on the road, away from the busy pace of day-to-day life.This makes an event like a triathlon the perfect fitness goal. With running, cycling and swimming races making up the all-day event, it’s an opportunity to test your fitness on multiple levels. Just remember to set those milestones so you can tick off your achievements along the way (trust us, you’ll have plenty to celebrate!).
What to do after you’ve achieved your fitness goals
Celebrate, enjoy your goal before setting a new one
Just checked a new goal off your list? Congratulations! Take a moment to celebrate and let it sink in before setting any new fitness goals. All too often, we hurry through life, constantly moving from one thing to the next. Instead, give yourself a chance to enjoy everything you’ve done!
Look at what you loved and what you’d do differently
Now that you’ve achieved your goal, it’s time for your goal reflection. This is a big part of the Power of 3 planner process, as we ask you:
- Which goals were hit?
- Which goals were missed?
- Which goals are no longer important to you?
Look at what went well and what you loved about the process, so you can bring more of that into your next goal-setting practice. And then ask yourself what you’d do differently, so you can learn from those trickier moments.
Use your learnings to set a new fitness goal and level up
Once you’ve done all that, it’s time to level up. Repeat the process to find another (realistic) fitness goal and continue on your journey. You’ve got this.
Make fitness easy….
Keep yourself on track with a Power of 3 planner and make it easier to achieve your goals: