As we approach the end of December, this will be a time when many people are making their new year’s resolutions. You have gone the whole year with bad habits, and you are finally deciding to make a change. Your body doesn’t know the difference between December 31st and January 1st, but hey, no judgement here. I'm just glad to hear you’re doing something about it!
In this blog I will teach you how to make sure you set yourself up for long-term positive results, what to do if you fall short of a goal and tips for boosting success. Turn yourself from a January gym newbie into the person that gets annoyed with all the fresh meat at the beginning of the year.
Effective changes come from clear goals combined with adherence. If a goal is well thought out and designed, then the chance of reaching it increases exponentially. Anyone can say they want to do something, but unless you really sit down to lay out precisely what it is you want to do and when you want to do it, you don’t have much accountability. Without accountability, you will lack the drive to adhere to the goal and will end up falling off in February like 80% of people.
The best way to go about setting a goal is via a SMART goal. The facets of a smart goal are:
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound
Once you understand how to set a goal that meets all these parameters, you will have a much more solid foundation to build and achieve a goal from.
As a personal trainer, many of my goal setting meetings revolve around exercise so those are the examples I will be using, but this system applies to any type of goal or behavior change you are looking to make.
Be as clear and straightforward with what you are trying to achieve. What exactly do you want to accomplish? Clarity breeds mastery. The goals you set drive the actions you’ll take. It’s the first step so please don’t fuck this one up.
Not Specific: I want to get stronger.
Specific: I want to increase my 1 rep max on bench press and back squat.
This makes it easier to track your progress along the way and will help you avoid failure. Seeing results boosts adherence unlike anything else. You can then expand on the example above to see how measurability makes tracking easier.
Not Measurable: I want to increase my 1 rep max on bench press and squat.
Measurable: I want to increase my 1 rep max on bench press and back squat by 10%.
Time to be realistic. The more far-fetched a goal is the less likely you are to succeed. And in doing so you will just get frustrated in the process. The more you goals you reach, the more confidence you build in yourself to set and achieve loftier goals in the future.
Not Achievable: I want to increase my bench press 1 rep max from 185 lbs. to 275lbs (almost 50%) this summer.
Achievable: I want to increase my 1 rep max from 185 lbs. to 205 lbs. (~11%).
Why is this goal something you want to accomplish? Is it the appropriate thing to be focusing on? Be sure it is something that is worthwhile for you to commit the time and energy to. Go back to the “Specific” portion of the goal and double check you actually want to focus on this exact item and that it makes sense given your current state.
Not Relevant: You have a marathon coming up in 6 months and you want to try and increase your 1 rep max in the next 12 weeks.
Relevant: You just finished 6 months of endurance training for a marathon and after you run it you want to put focus back on strength training and increasing your 1 rep max.
Set a target date and stick to it. This will introduce more accountability and will prevent you from putting off work to the last minute and will ensure you are pushing yourself gradually throughout the goal period. You also want to make sure that the time period fits the goal. Smaller goals accomplished frequently will boost adherence in the pursuit of a longer-term goal.
Not Time-bound: I want to increase my 1 rep max on bench press and back squat by 10% within the next year. Way too long, no pressure.
Time-bound: I want to increase my 1 rep max on bench press and back squat by 10% in the next 12 weeks. Creates a focused period of work.
Original Goal: I want to get stronger.
SMART Goal: I want to increase my 1 rep max on bench press and back squat by 10% in the next 12 weeks.
You could know nothing about working out or strength training, but if I presented you with those 2 goals from 2 different people, it would be pretty easy to determine who would have the higher likelihood of succeeding. The first person is vague and you’re not really sure what defines “stronger”. It doesn’t seem like they even know exactly what it is they want to accomplish.
The second person has outlined a clear adaptation they are looking to achieve. On top of that they have a manageable percentage in a set time frame. You can tell they put more thought into what it is they wanted to accomplish and that shows they are serious about reaching their goal.
This will inevitably happen. It is not the end of the world. What you need to make sure you do, is recap exactly how and where you failed to reach your goal. Use this failure as a learning experience that will allow you to set a more accurate and attainable goal in the future. Also, you will have the knowledge of where pitfalls may appear so that you can be better prepared when they arrive next time. If you don’t learn from your failures, then what was the point of going through all that?
The more time and effort you can put into setting an appropriate goal the better. It is important to have that clear plan ahead of you and to avoid switching too frequently. If you are constantly changing a goal before completing it, they will lose their value. Accomplishing a goal, no matter how small, will boost adherence and self-confidence in hitting higher and more difficult goals.
When setting a goal, try to not make the time frame too long. There is a reason people choose to do sober January. One month sounds super manageable. However, if you are able to hit that month then maybe you say to yourself “that wasn’t so bad” let me do a couple more weeks. Then a few more. Next thing you know, you have made a complete behavior and lifestyle change because you set frequent, small, achievable goals. One day, week and month at a time.
Also, if you slip up a day or two, don’t just throw the towel in. One of the biggest things I have learned is that no matter what the goal is, you still need to live and enjoy your life. A vacation isn’t as enjoyable if you are tracking every single macro while you’re out to dinner or preventing yourself from having that beer because you are so strict with your goal. If you are able to not stress short-term goals as much, the long-term goals become much more attainable. Consistency will outweigh intensity over time.
The last and maybe most helpful tip about setting a goal. WRITE IT DOWN. Write down your goal and put it somewhere you will see it every day. If you want to stop snacking before bed, put it where all your junk food is. If you want to commit to going to the gym in the morning. Write that down and put it where you charge your phone. I know it’s the first thing you’re doing when you wake up so have that reminder to keep yourself in check. Unless you have a trainer/coach on your ass (I have client openings) then, more than likely, the only person keeping you accountable is yourself. Don’t just talk about it. Be about it.
Setting a goal gives you the appropriate foundation for building the rest of your program. If you are looking for assistance in setting and accomplishing SMART goals for yourself in any area of health and wellness, I can always be reached for assistance on Instagram. Get better next year and every year after.