fitness goals

Tips for Setting (and Achieving) Your Fitness Goals in 2021

Although millions of people make New Year’s resolutions every January, studies have shown that only 12% of these people actually achieve their goals in the long run. Once the initial excitement of starting something new has worn off and motivation starts to dwindle, people start falling off the wagon and back into their old habits. If you’re ready to finally break the cycle and achieve your fitness goals in 2021, it’s time to reassess the way you’re setting goals for yourself and how you can stay motivated despite inevitable setbacks and challenges. 

Set SMART Goals

One of the most common reasons that people fail to stick to their New Year’s resolutions is that their goals are too vague or unrealistic. For example, many people want to “lose weight” or “get in shape” when the new year rolls around each January. However, these resolutions don’t really define what success will look like, making it difficult for people to assess whether or not they’re making progress. 

To help avoid the cycle of setting and failing to meet your resolutions, strive to develop SMART goals. Personal trainer and fitness nutritionist specialist Christine Luff explains that SMART goals are:

  • Specific. Setting a simple and specific goal makes it easier for you to track your progress and create a system to hold yourself accountable to your resolution. For example, instead of vaguely saying that you want to lose weight, choose the number of pounds you’d like to use instead. 
  • Measurable. If you don’t create a way to measure and track your progress, it can be easy to give up before you begin to see the real results and benefits of your hard work. You might decide to record how long it takes for you to run a mile once or twice a week if your goal is to run a 5K in under 45 minutes, for instance.
  • Achievable. While it’s good to challenge yourself, you should still be reasonable when it comes to making resolutions. ”The best goals require you to push yourself outside of your comfort zone but aren’t so extreme that they are intimidating,” writes Luff. “If a goal is too far out of reach, you are far more likely to give up easily because deep down you know that it is not achievable.” 
  • Relevant. People might choose to set a fitness goal for a variety of reasons, from lowering their BMI to participating in a half-marathon to improving their social lives. The key is to identify a goal you’re passionate about and one that’s relevant to your own life. For instance, you might want to run a 5K that benefits a specific cause you care about or meet up with a running group once a week to become more socially active.
  • Time-bound. After setting a goal that meets the other 4 characteristics, it’s key to choose a deadline for reaching your goal. This will help you stay motivated from week to week and keep you from skimping on your workouts.

Create a Schedule

Setting SMART fitness goals requires you to be proactive in developing a schedule for yourself. “Most runners have a general idea of what they want to accomplish with their running,” writes Jason Fitzgerald, a USATF-certified running coach and the founder of Strength Running. “Unfortunately, many runners don’t always set effective racing and performance goals and, as a result, they fail.” 

Gus Arias, a formerly sedentary sales engineer who transformed into a marathoner and running coach, says that lots of people tend to push themselves too hard at the beginning, which can often prevent them from achieving their resolutions. He suggests creating smaller, non-negotiable goals to work towards during the first few weeks and then increasing the difficulty of your workout from there. For example, a total newbie might commit to taking a brisk 15-minute walk 3 times a week to begin building their routine and then add in some light jogging or weight training exercises after they’ve built up some endurance. 

Identify Your Obstacles

Everyone has specific obstacles that might tempt them to skip their run for the day, such as the prospect of working out in cold weather or working up the motivation to run after a tough day at work. By recognizing your particular vices before they occur, you can prepare for these circumstances and minimize the effects they have on your routine. Having a trusted accountability partner can be highly beneficial if you start to lose motivation or are tempted to skip a workout.

Running coach Sarah Silber also recommends making small changes to make it as easy as possible to stick to your schedule. “Wearing your gym clothes under your work clothes and/or going straight to the gym after the workday without stopping home are two options to make your routine easier to stick to,” says Silber. 

Reward Yourself

As you work towards your ultimate goal, keep track of small achievements and milestones you reach. “Once you’ve logged your first week’s workouts, get a pair of new running shoes, schedule a pedicure, or sign up for a fun event,” suggests Kelly Bastone, a writer for Runner’s World. By incorporating small rewards into your schedule, it will be easier to stick to your routine and remember your ultimate goal from week to week.

Sign Up for a Race

Signing up for a race gives you a specific deadline to work towards, and setting aside some time and money for the event can provide additional motivation for you to succeed. If you need a time-bound commitment to reach your fitness goals in 2021, consider signing up for the 5K Big Dam Run, which will be taking place virtually from April 10-17. This race is great for runners of all different skill levels, from seasoned runners to exercise newbies, and there’s still plenty of time to make a resolution to run this race in the new year!





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