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Ready, Set, Action

How to Create Effective Fitness Goals

Exercise is a part of many of our lives, whether we love it, or like most of us, not. Because most of us don’t truly like exercising, there's got to be a reason to do it (a goal some might say), and I’m not talking about a post-workout high. I’m talking about the underlying reason. Whether it’s for a healthier lifestyle, or achieving specific performance or aesthetic goals. Regardless of your motivation, setting effective, action-based, goals can be a game-changer, ensuring your efforts are purposeful to help you get to your destination.

Setting Goals:

Before you dive into your fitness journey, take the time to understand your “why”, and have a clear destination in mind. For instance, imagine you need a new pair of running shoes, if you hop in your car and drive aimlessly without directions, you may never find a shoe store, or even more, the right shoe store. Similarly, entering a gym without a well-defined goal can turn you into a hamster on a wheel, working hard to no true end. However, the good news is, that exercise is good for you, so don’t ever give it up even if you feel you’re not hitting your goals.

If you’re currently working out, or thinking of starting, take the time to understand why you're committing to it. Be honest with yourself, these are your goals, your fitness journey should align with what you want, not someone else's expectations.

Once you know your reason, use the SMART acronym for your goals, and remember

“A goal without a plan is a dream”


”A dream written down becomes a goal, a goal broken into steps becomes a plan, a plan backed by action makes your DREAMS come true.”


  • Specific: Clearly define what you want to achieve.

  • Measurable: Determine how you'll track your progress.

  • Achievable: Ensure your goals are realistic.

  • Relevant: Make sure your goals align with your broader aspirations.

  • Time-Based: Set a timeline for achieving your goals.

Once you’ve done this, I want you to switch your thinking from results to actions. Your goals start out as the result you’re looking for, but focusing on the actions, and making them our goals, will be the best way to achieve them. Most of us are told to “Keep your eye on the prize.” This is a nice idiom, but I prefer, “Keep your eyes on the road.” because, like the roads, actions will lead you to your destination.

Let's explore four major fitness goal categories:

Maintenance/Lifestyle Goals:

If your aim is to maintain your current fitness level or lead a healthy lifestyle, setting SMART goals can be challenging. However, adopting SMART to action-based goals can keep you motivated. Prioritize staying active by committing to:

  • Three to five days of 30 to 60 minutes of exercise per week with variety in your workouts, including, lifting, cardio (includes walking), yoga, pilates, or HIIT.

  • A goal of walking for 4,000+ steps, four to six days per week.

Therapeutic Goals:

For those seeking mental well-being through exercise, it can be difficult to establish concrete goals. Focus on actions that make you feel good:

  • Aim for two to five days of any enjoyable exercise type. Maybe things like lifting, cardio, yoga, or dancing.

  • Integrate meditation, gratitude practices, or journaling two to three times a week, or even daily.

Performance Goals:

If improving performance or mastering a skill is what you're looking to do, your actions must align with your goal. For instance, if you want to deadlift a specific weight, you need a more detailed plan, broken up into a few actions:

  • Dedicate one to two days per week to deadlifting as your primary focus.

    • Rep ranges will be low, where you will lift close to your maximum amount of weight.

    • Vary your rep ranges to target strength, growth, and endurance.

  • Include another one to two days focused on total body, with exercises that target muscles used to support your deadlift.

    • Vary your rep ranges to target strength, growth, and endurance.

  • Allocate time for mobility and self-care work in any and/or all of these workouts

  • Schedule testing days every four to six weeks to track progress.

Aesthetic Goals:

There can be many approaches to seeing specific changes in your physique, and this can vary whether you’re looking to get bigger or smaller. The most important thing here will be sticking to this plan.

  • Give yourself a goal of exercising 30 to 60 minutes three to six times a week.

  • For those looking to lose weight, or better yet, body fat, also use a walking goal of 5,000 plus steps per day, four to seven days a week.

Setting effective fitness goals is essential for your workout journey. Be specific, track your progress, stay realistic, and set deadlines. Remember that the path to achieving your goals is as important as the destination itself. By focusing on the right actions and staying committed, you can turn your fitness dreams into reality.

Author: Jim O'Brien

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