Setting Fitness Goals

While there’s no need to wait for a new year to set fitness goals, January seems to be a popular time to reboot from the holidays and kick off healthy new habits. Goal-setting can be very powerful, but there are some pitfalls that can leave us feeling overwhelmed or defeated, which ultimately negates the therapeutic power of movement. So how can we set goals that keep us in the practice of MOVEMENT as MEDICINE


First things first: WRITE IT DOWN. There’s a lot of science behind why writing goals down increases the likelihood of meeting those goals, but I’ll keep it simple and leave it at the fact that writing goals down recruits both the right and left sides of the brain as well as the subconscious. It's that simple. 

Writing goals down also takes us down a path towards clarity and requires us to get SPECIFIC. If a goal is too nebulous to get onto paper, it’s likely going to be a bit difficult to monitor progress towards that goal. What does nebulous look like? “I want to get in shape.” Ok... what shape? Square? Rectangle? Honing in on something more specific might look like: “I will complete a 10k by August.”

There’s a degree of accountability that comes with writing goals down. Accountability and guilt are entirely different beasts. Accountability implies responsibility, and responsibility is the POWER to create changes or maintain consistency in this area of our lives. Guilt implies culpability and delinquency, and there’s really no room for guilt in goal-setting. 


PITFALL: massive goals and far-away deadlines. I’m not saying don’t reach for the stars - REACH! But in the spirit of creating goals that turn into self-fulfilling prophecy rather than self-defeat, break down BIG goals into smaller discrete steps along the way. One of my goals is to work towards a handstand press, so let’s use that as an example. Slapping a deadline on achieving a handstand press within the next 12-18 months is a recipe for disaster. First, I need to develop more core strength. So I’ll start there with a goal of working core-specific asanas 4 times this week. Yes, my goal is for this week. Danielle Radulski of Silver Lining Yoga reflected on her New Year’s Resolutions and goals and noticed a huge opportunity to shed a different light on year-long goals and resolutions: “I think it’s great to carry on things that WORK, but it’s also important to re-evaluate and re-think things. Maybe next week I won’t be feeling well, and my goal will be on self-care. Or maybe I’ll be feeling a little stressed and want to focus on meditating.” Which leads me to my next tip...

LEAVE SPACE FOR (what you will be tempted to interpret as) FAILURE. A delayed train can keep us from making it to the gym. It’s perfectly human to twist an ankle or to catch a cold. Setbacks can feel like hardcore failure, but they are part of the process. So how do we leave space for hiccups? First, see them for what they are. When we take on our setbacks as failure, we are more prone to disappointment and discouragement. When accepted as part of the process, setbacks lose their power to derail your progress!

Breaking down huge goals into smaller pieces also leaves space to work with setbacks instead of placing an entire goal on hold or abandoning it altogether. Let's say I’m sore in my wrists. I can focus on supine core work for a week or add supermans and prone rows into my workouts, which still keeps me on track but accounts for my setback. Working with setbacks is an OPPORTUNITY to flex the creative muscle: What assisted or modified exercises can be incorporated? What equipment (resistance bands, blocks, bolsters) can be used creatively? Be FLEXIBLE and FORGIVING without letting yourself off the hook. 

Now that you're ready for setbacks, PREPARE for success. Preparing for success helps to eliminate excuses. Buy the class pack, write your classes onto your calendar, untangle your boxing wraps (how killer are these Kali Active wraps and gloves?!), make sure your yoga mat is by the door, and do your laundry. BE READY NOW.


And arguably most important: GET TO THE WHY. Why do I want to achieve a handstand press? Certainly not just for the sake of doing it! But because the core, shoulder and back strength that will lead me to that handstand press are building blocks of a fully integrated way of movement. For me, it’s more about what I will have achieved by the time I arrive at my goal rather than the goal itself (which has me excited about the milestones along the way, to be honest!). 

Your WHY will become especially important on days when you’re not feeling motivated. Don't buy into over-curated social media that doesn’t believe in bad days and advocates exclusively for happiness. NEWSFLASH: you will have a bad day (at least one!) this year. The good news is that you’ve already survived 100% of your bad days, so your track record is phenomenal! Your WHY reveals your DETERMINATION. Determination will be there for you when motivation isn't

To recap:

  • WRITE IT DOWN! Get specific. Be accountable. 
  • BREAK IT DOWN. Identify milestones. Reevaluate and rethink often. 
  • EMBRACE SETBACKS. They are part of the process. Be flexible. 
  • PREPARE FOR SUCCESS. Eliminate excuses. 
  • GET TO THE WHY. Remember that determination will be there when motivation fails you.

What fitness goals are you setting this year? Comment below and let me know!