How to Set Realistic Fitness Goals

By Linda Kaban

Fitness goals can overwhelm you or inspire you. If your eagerness over-rides your common sense and you don't have a plan, you could exhaust yourself before you begin to see any results; and that could be a serious detriment to you wanting to continue. Whether your goals are to have more energy, become physically and mentally stronger, or to lose weight, you have to set your goals down. Make fitness goals based on your personality, lifestyle and current level of fitness. Above all, be adaptable.

  1. Keep a copy close at hand of the Centers for Disease Control's guidelines on the types and amount of activity a healthy adult should participate in. These guidelines can serve you throughout your life. They offer suggestions as to the kinds of activities you should be doing -- aerobic activities, resistance training, flexibility and stretching activities -- as well as the duration according to your fitness level and goals.

  2. Acquire a journal or notebook and keep it where you can see it clearly. Write down your short-term and long-term goals. Make the short-term goals doable. Don't aim for the half-marathon that's coming up in a month if you find it difficult to take a 15 minute brisk walk without huffing and puffing. If you haven't exercised for a long time, make weekly goals to begin with; and then when your fitness level has improved, write down your monthly goals. Save your highest aspirations for your long-term goals and work toward them one day at a time.

  3. Record your daily fitness activities in your notebook or with an online fitness tracker. Note the types and times of your activities. If you jog for 34 minutes, then be exact and record 34, not 30 or 35 minutes. Use your own achievements as inspiration. Make setting realistic goals the most solemn thing you do and then celebrate your accomplishments with inner glee and pride.

  4. Choose exercises and activities that you know you will enjoy or have been curious about. Your goals won't be worth the paper upon which they're written unless you're excited and inspired by what you do. If you'd rather be flowing through an Ashtanga yoga class than slogging through all kinds of inclement weather on a daily run, change your plan. If you're a night owl and getting up early to exercise wrecks your mood for the day, change your plan. The willingness to be flexible is the most realistic fitness goal worth making.

  5. Tip

    Being realistic about your fitness goals means that you probably won't see results as quickly as you want. You have to cultivate patience to keep the momentum going and embrace fitness as a lifelong goal.


    Check with your health-care provider before beginning an exercise program for the first time or if you have been away from fitness programs for a while, or if you have any chronic health issues.

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