How would you feel if you’d achieved your fitness and health goals?
Imagine having a lean and muscular body that is flexible, pain-free, and moves quickly. Imagine receiving compliments for your athletic physique and healthy lifestyle. Imagine accomplishing significant athletic feats – finishing that marathon or standing on that bodybuilding stage.
If you are like most people, you, too, have fitness goals you want to achieve. And if you are like most people, you have repeatedly failed to achieve them.
But don’t worry. You don’t have to give up on becoming your fitter, healthier self.
All you need is a plan and guidance on committing to your goals.
The five-step framework outlined in this article gives you this guidance.
Step 1: Choose the right goals.
Before setting fitness goals, you need to ask yourself what you want. Most people choose goals based on other people’s opinions and viewpoints. That’s a terrible foundation for success.
If you want to achieve your fitness and health goals, you need to ensure that these goals are what you truly desire.
Maybe you don’t want to finish a marathon, even though your running friends seem to be obsessed with it. Perhaps you don’t want to have a six-pack or lift huge weights.
Maybe all you want is to get up a flight of stairs without huffing and puffing and sleep soundly through the night again.
I am all for setting big and audacious goals. In fact, I encourage my clients to think big.
However, we must remember that we are all on different journeys and honor our unique passions and interests. Just because your best friend has turned into a gym rat doesn’t mean you have to turn into a bodybuilder as well.
Step 2: Adopt a growth mindset.
When I started running in my 20s, I hated it passionately. I was never athletic and was bullied in school because I sucked at PE.
I barely managed to run for 10 minutes the first couple of runs. My face felt hot, and my legs were aching.
Running was hard. And you know what? I made it even harder by telling myself how much I hated running, how hard it was and how badly I sucked at it. However, I did stick with it, and as my fitness improved, I began to enjoy running more and more.
Why do I tell you this story? Because I want you to start your fitness journey with the right mindset.
Realize that it is normal to not be good at first, that your movements will feel awkward, and that you will huff and puff your way through your first exercise class. However, realize also that you will see improvements if you stick with it.
Talking down on yourself and telling yourself how much you hate to exercise will make it much harder to establish a routine and reach your goals.
Step 3: Schedule it.
What is the easiest way to get into a fitness routine? Schedule it. Take out your calendar and find time slots in your week where you can work out.
Be realistic and be kind to yourself.
Blocking out five time slots for exercise and then needing to cancel four because you have too many other responsibilities is not getting you closer to your goal—quite the opposite.
By not sticking to your commitment to exercise during these pre-planned time slots, you teach yourself that it is ok to abandon your goals.
It is better to do too little and ramp up your exercise time later.
Establishing the habit of consistently showing up is more important than filling your schedule with so many activities that you sacrifice sleep and mental health.
Once you have scheduled your exercise times, stick to them. Do not reschedule except in the case of an actual emergency.
You want to train yourself to commit to yourself and your goals. Establish boundaries with yourself and others and learn how to enforce them.
Step 4: Hold yourself accountable.
One of the reasons many people give up before reaching their fitness goals is that progress takes time. Yes, you might achieve quick results with drastic diets and insane workout challenges. Still, you won’t develop the mindset and learn the tools you need to achieve lifelong fitness and health.
And don’t rely on motivation either to achieve your fitness goals. You won’t feel motivated daily to eat healthily or get out for that scheduled run.
On those days when you’d rather say, “screw it,” you need to show up anyway. Otherwise, your fitness goals will forever remain a fantasy.
To make long-lasting changes, you must implement systems and habits to keep yourself accountable.
One such practice is to keep a training log. If you decide to start going to the gym and get strong, note down the exercises you did and the weights you used. If you took up running, write down how far or long you ran.
I keep a mixed training log, where I keep track of my runs, hikes, and strength training sessions all at once.
Another way to keep yourself accountable is to find a buddy or enlist the help of a personal trainer. Having a second person you can report to or reach out to when you feel demotivated helps keep you going when you want to quit.
Step 5: Celebrate small wins.
Most people live for the big win. The day they finally achieve the goal they have been working for so hard.
That day when you finally finish college.
That day you get married.
That day you get promoted at work.
And, of course, the day you finally reach your ideal body composition, finish that race or win that competition.
However, if you postpone your happiness until you’ve reached your final goal, you miss the point of life.
Enjoying the journey and celebrating the small wins you accumulate is far better.
Why? Because you feel more motivated and you build your self-confidence and self-belief.
Recognizing your small successes daily, you train your mind to focus on the positive. If, on the other hand, you focus on how hard it is to be disciplined to achieve your goals and the obstacles standing in your way, you can quickly lose motivation and feel defeated.
So go ahead and celebrate. No win is too small.
Did you go for that run even though it was cold and it rained? Congratulate yourself. Did you say no to that second cookie your co-worker offered you? Acknowledge it and feel proud for a moment.
Praise yourself often for your effort to achieve your goals, and you will feel more motivated to continue your journey.