Tips for Setting Goals
Updated: Apr 15
Now is a time when a lot of us are setting goals for 2022, and that’s great! Sure, it’s a completely arbitrary line in the calendar, but if it’s an arbitrary line that's helpful for framing your training and life goals, then use it!
Good goal setting is an important part of training, and of life. The simple reason is, if you can set and track their progress, you'll make achieve them quicker and easier. Spending a bit of time thinking about your goals helps to both get a long-term view of where you want to go, and keep up motivation in the short term.
Goal setting should never be about hating the person you are. No matter what goals you pursue make sure they aren't tearing down the person you are. Cause lets face it, you're great! Goals should be about adding notches to your belt, achievements that can be unlocked, learning new things and enjoying the people and environments around you that help along the way.
Make sure you know and always remember why you want to achieve your goal. If it’s doing a pull-up, your reason isn’t actually just to do a pull up (usually). It’s might be to open up more options for your parkour training, or improve a strength imbalance in your back that's causing problems, or because you value functional movement and strength. If you do have an arbitrary goal without a ‘why’, it’ll be harder to stick to your plan when it gets difficult. Be sure to frame your ‘why’ positively. If you’re framing your goals around ‘fixing’ things you don’t like about yourself, you’re already making it harder to engage with and stick to your goal. Find the joy and fun in what you’re doing and focus on that.
Here are a few things to remember about goal setting:
KEEP IT SIMPLE
It can be very tempting to make a giant spreadsheet with 700 goals. But it's not the best way to take action in the short term, and can be confusing. So, even if you've got several (hundred) goals, always limit your focus.
Aim to focus on a single goal for each area, and only up to 5 at a time. So for example, within training you could have a Strength goal, a Cardio/ endurance goal, a Skill goal.
(and we know training isn't the only thing in your life! You could have reading/ language learning/ dancing/ writing/ professional/ family goals as well. The key is to make sure you're managing your focus, and prioritising what's most important to you)
KEEP IT SMART
You might have encountered the SMART goal setting system before, but just in case you haven't:
If your goals are vague and ill-defined, how will you know if you have achieved them? So, rather than "Get good at push ups", have a goal like "Do a full push up." In this case, you'd specific about form: Elbows in, straight line from shoulders to ankles, chest close to the floor, etc.'
Some goals will be measurable in the binary sense: Did I do a pushup? If yes, success! Others will be measurable using numbers: Can I do 10 pushups? Can I run 2km in 10 minutes?
This is vital. You could have a long-term strength goal like "Do an inverted Maltese cross." But considered that that was long thought to be an impossible move, is it realistic to aim for? Ambition is great, but if you aim for things that are too far out of reach, your motivation will likely suffer. You want to find a sweet spot, where your goals are challenging, but not impossible.
Does this goal fit with your lifestyle and current training routines? If the goal needs significant investment (in time or equipment) that you can't afford right now, reframe it to be more relevant. Does this goal align with your values? (CN for weight loss mention here) Some people have goals like "Lose 5 kilos". But if you value body-positivity or anti-diet-culture, is that the best goal for you? Perhaps reframe that goal around your values (even if that makes it harder to measure or specify).
Set yourself a deadline! The deadline should be achievable too. If you miss the deadline, that's okay! But we all know how important deadlines are for motivation and achievement.
Keep it organised
Once you've identified your goal(s), you need a plan. How are you going to approach the goal? Do you know what you need to improve achieve it? A good way to start is to break the goal down into smaller, easier chunks. Depending on the goal, there are several ways to approach this.
MAKE A TIMETABLE
Most goals will involve spending more time doing the thing (as well as relevant accessory work and recovery) So, If your goal is to run 5kms without stopping, you can start with committing to going for a run 3 or 4 times a week, for example.
A lot of strength, endurance or other fitness goals will require you to build up strength, cardiovascular capacity or mobility. Identify what you need to improve to progress towards your goal and avoid injury in the process.
Remember that any training or fitness goal will have effects on the whole body. If your goal is to get your first pull up, you could get there just by doing hundreds of (assisted or negative) pull ups. HOWEVER, that increases your risk of overtraining a few specific muscles, and of overuse injuries. Be sure to include in your plan exercises that contribute to all aspects of the goal (like, say by improving grip strength), and ones that address any imbalances or weaknesses that might arise as you get stronger in a particular range, and to include focus on mobility and flexibility as well!
Whatever your goal is, someone else has probably already gone through a process to achieve it, or something similar. You don't need to reinvent the wheel - just do a quick google and get some examples. (Remember there are always several ways to achieve any particular goal. Once you choose or make plan, it's best to stick with it for at least four to six weeks, rather than bounce between programs.)
If you find someone who can do the thing you're aiming to do, ask how they got there. Ask what program they followed, or how long it took them. If you can, ask several people. (Don't expect them to write you a personalised program for free though!)
PLAN TO REST
If you are coming up with a new training plan, or increasing the amount of exercise you’re doing, always remember rest. Adequate rest is just as important as the active parts of your training. Without it, you’ll never get stronger not matter how much you train or workout. Make sure to increase your training load gradually, listen to your body, and be aware of the symptoms of overtraining.
You've made your goal time-bound, and that's wonderful. You can now work backward from your end goal, and set some smaller deadlines. The easiest one is to have a half-way check in. If your deadline is six weeks away, make a note of the three-week point. On that day, check in! If you're aiming for a 5km run, can you run 2.5 kms now? If not, you now know that you have to either a) change your deadline, or b) change your approach to the goal.
Make sure to check in with your values and motivations too. Sometimes, after working on a goal for a while, it becomes apparent that it's not as important to you as you thought. Do you need to change or reframe your goal? You can set as many smaller deadlines or sub-goals as you like! Again, though, aim for a 'sweet spot'. You want to get the feedback and sense of achievement that helps you, without making too much boring paperwork for yourself.
Always make sure to celebrate your achievements. Be proud! Tell your friends! Take a video or a selfie and post it on Insta! Jump up and down and dance about!
Always remember, your progress is just as important, amazing and worthy of celebration as anyone else's. You might feel shy about celebrating your first push-up or 5km when others are doing handstand push ups or marathons or whatever.
Don't be! Every one of those people will remember how hard it was to get to that first milestone, and will do a celebration dance with you! (If they don't, they're jerks. Immediately email Kel directly and she'll send you a celebration dance vid.)
Melbourne in Motion is not for profit and this blog is written on an entirely voluntary basis. If you’ve learnt something from this article and you'd like to support us, any contribution is appreciated