Training consistently and dieting regularly without a set goal tends to produce less results that those who put in the same effort but strive for a specific goal. What are the top 3 so-called fitness goals that I hear from clients, and potential clients:
- I want to lose fat
- I need to tone up/gain muscle
- Wanting to get in shape
Every time somebody tells me this I die a little on the inside. These are the most ambiguous goals that you could possibly have. For that reason, I decided to create a guide for everyone on how to set a proper goal, as long as the how important having a goal is.
The Importance Of Having A Goal ALL OF THE TIME!
Some people train and some people exercise. You might think these are the same…they aren’t. If you are training, you are working towards your goals little by little with every session in the gym. If you are exercising, you are dicking around in the gym and doing stuff that doesn’t put you out of your comfort zone, which is obviously needed when you have a specific goal to work towards.
Some people do conditioning and some people do cardio. Conditioning is working your endurance energy systems to further your progress in the gym and get closer to your goal. Cardio is getting your heart rate up for the sake of your health and hopefully burn fat (which is stupid, cardio is very overrated for fat loss, weight training is much better – another topic completely).
I think you are getting the picture here. You are either working towards something or you are wasting your time…it’s that simple. People without goals are those that jump from program to program, or even worse, don’t follow a program at all and just train what they feel like doing for the day. They don’t take nutrition very seriously, and it shows with their lack of results. These people tend to give up a lot faster than those that actually set goals to keep themselves accountable. Honestly, it’s very easy to spot the difference in those with goals and those with bullshit desires with my experience training/coaching people over the years.
This is my experience: if you have a goal, you tend to achieve it, or come very close; if you don’t have a goal, you won’t achieve much.
Creating Fitness Goals The Right Way
Goals need to be specific, measurable, achievable, relative to you and not someone you hope to be, and time constrained. Yes, you you probably caught that: your goals need to be SMART!
- Time Constrained
For your goal’s specificity, you need something better than wanting to lose fat or wanting to bulk up. Lets just make up a client avatar real quick and I’ll run you through the process of creating a goal for that person.
This client is a male, 30 years old. He currently weighs 230 lbs. and is around 20% body fat. He has a few years of training experience, but never took the process serious enough to reach his goal physique. Lets name him Bob. Bob comes to me to help him create a goal. Lets go through the process I would help him through.
Creating A SMART Goal
Bob tells me he wants to have a visible 6 pack when flexing. He tries to tell me that is his goal. I calmly tell him about SMART and we work on making his goal more specific. Here is what we come up with:
Bob wants to achieve a body fat percentage of 9%.
Next, we need to tackle the memorability of his ultimate goal. Since we already make the specifics of the goal in body fat percentage, it will be easy to measure along the way. Here is how we decide to measure his progress:
Bob wants to achieve 9% body fat, verified by a DEXA scan (the most accurate way to test BF%)
This goal isn’t out of any male’s reach naturally. With the proper training and diet plan, all he will need is time to hit his goal physique. His goal is relative to himself only. He told me earlier about a few guys that he wants to look like, but those physiques aren’t relative to him, since he doesn’t have their genetics, experience, etc.
The last thing to tackle is the time constraint. Since he is 20% body fat right now and he wants to reach 9%, we are going to give him a pretty long time frame to achieve this. Again, he has never shown 100% dedication to his diet or training before, so there will be bumps in the road. This is what we come up with in the end:
Bob wants to achieve 9% body fat, verified by a DEXA scan, within the next 8 months.
This goal is specific, measurable, achievable, relative to Bob, and time constrained. In other words, this goal is SMART.
You can follow this exact process to create your SMART goal. Just make sure to check all the 5 boxes and you are on your way.
With our ultimate goal already made, we need to make some changes to our lifestyle to ensure that we are taking all the small steps that equate to miles traveled in the end. You don’t get from point A to point B right away. For that reason, we create Behavior Goals that lend themselves wonderfully to your ultimate goal.
Lets go back to Bob. To achieve his goal, he needs to train hard and eat the right way to reach his goal. He needs to consistently be in a calorie deficit to lower his body fat. Lifestyle changes will also help him along the way, since his time frame is pretty long.
Here is the first Behavior Goal he needs to set:
Bob needs to track his calorie intake daily to ensure he stays in a calorie deficit.
To tackle training, here is a good Behavior Goal:
Bob needs to follow a specific fitness plan with heavy lifting and high intensity conditioning sessions.
To end it, here are a few lifestyle changes as well:
Bob needs to get 8 hours of sleep every night
Bob needs to manage stress and find ways to relax, since stress can hinder fat loss
He also will stretch twice a week to enhance flexibility and keep his body healthy so he can continue to hit the gym.
With these Behavior Goals in place, Bob will be set up for success. Instead of constantly analyzing numbers as he lowers his body fat, he can be assured that he is on the right track as long as he sticks to his Behavior Goals.
Behavior Goals need to lend themselves to your ultimate goal. So, Bob wouldn’t set a Behavior Goal to play video games more, since that won’t help him make progress towards his goal. Make them specific to your ultimate goal.
Create Your SMART Goal & Behavior Goals
Remember to make your goal SMART. It’s easy to give up on a goal like wanting to lose fat. It’s hard to give up on a goal like Bob’s. It is very personal and keeps you more motivated, since there is a defined light at the end of the tunnel.
Make your Behavior Goals specific to your end goal and make sure they are achievable. For most fitness goals, 3-5 things need to be addressed by your Behavior Goals:
- Dietary Habits
- Training Habits
- Physical Activity Outside The Gym (Active Rest/NEAT)
If you make a SMART goal and Behavior Goals, you will be ready to achieve them! Don’t be the person that comes up and tells me some vague-ass “goal” just to have me shake my head at it and tell you to re-read this article!