Published at 12 April 2021

How to set and achieve your fitness goals

You want to get in better shape – but what does that mean for you? It’s time to think about – and set – some fitness goals. Here are some tips for doing it.

By Paul Russell

Getting in shape means different things to different people. Some see it as six-pack abs, a great 5- kilometer race, or the ability to bench press their weight. Others may just want to hike in the woods without pain.

All this to say, when it comes to fitness, your goals will be personal. So, how do you get started to set and achieve your goals?

To find out, we spoke to Aaron de Jong. He’s a certified personal trainer and founder of the fitness app movr. He’s also founder of movement108, a boutique movement studio in Vancouver, Canada.

How to set fitness goals

De Jong says that a fitness goal relates in some way to health or body functionality. The goal must be:

  1. meaningful to you
  2. measurable
  3. have a timeline and an achievable path

De Jong is a big proponent of having fitness goals, so long as they have those three elements. And while people all have different goals, he has three tips for goal setting that can help everyone.

  1. Test whether it’s meaningful – focus on the outcome. When you think about the outcome of your goal, how do you feel? If the answer is “great” or “excited,” then that’s a goal worth pursuing. It might be losing weight or being strong enough to water-ski. Or it could be an everyday activity, like playing with your kids without pain or worry. Whatever your personal goal, if your anticipated outcome generates a positive vibe, you know it’s meaningful.
  1. Start small – look for sub-goals. Your goal must be measurable, so there will likely be milestones along the way. Try breaking your goals into smaller subsections, like losing those first 5 pounds, even if your goal is 20. Or hiking pain-free for 1 kilometer even if your goal is a much longer trek. Because you’ll reach these smaller goals faster, you’ll be encouraged to keep going. And your motivation to achieve your ultimate goal will remain high.
  1. Build a maintenance phase into your timeline. Your motivation will come and go, that’s human nature. Even a simple cold can set your energy and motivation back for days, or even weeks. So, be gentle with yourself. When you hit a low, think more about sustaining what you have rather than pushing for improvements. Trying to push through your low periods puts you in danger of burnout, fatigue or injury. Be patient – when your energy and motivation return, you can get back on track for pursuing your goal.

How to achieve your fitness goals

De Jong also says that it’s important to achieve your goals in a sustainable way. If you don’t, you’ll end up in a yo-yo cycle of achieving and then falling out of your goals.

“You may want to lose 20 pounds – but severely limiting food over four weeks isn’t sustainable,” say de Jong.  “You’ll enjoy it more and get lasting results if you make slow and steady progress, no matter the goal. It’s an important part of having an achievable path to success.”

And once you achieve your goal, you’ll have a choice between reaching higher, or just maintaining what you have.

“Many people just want to enjoy their success – and will happily enter a maintenance phase. But for others, success spurs them on. If they run a fast 5-kilometer race, they wonder how they’d do in a longer event. So, they begin training for that. There’s no right or wrong here. So long as you’re moving, excited, and enjoying life, it’s all good.”

It’s easy to find your next step to fitness

If you’re looking for some motivational help in setting and achieving your fitness goals, digital options abound. De Jong’s fitness app movr is a good example. Movr lets you create a fitness routine that matches your lifestyle. It’s got a personalized assessment tool that helps you determine what type of exercise makes the most sense for you. And it features short workouts that can be done in just five minutes.