It is easy to get carried away by lofty fitness goals. After all, who really wants to aim low — particularly when they are looking to change their lives? However, experts agree that one of the biggest impediments to achieving your fitness goals is setting the bar too high. Why are smaller goals more beneficial to long-term fitness success, and how can you start setting SMART goals of your own? Here’s a closer look.
The 411 on SMART Goals
You may already be familiar with the concept of SMART goals. This systems uses a mnemonic device to break fitness success into five components: Specificity; measurability; attainability; relevance; and time-orientedness. Setting mini goals instead of massive ones can help you position yourself for achieving your SMART goals and staying on track.
But Why Small?
Suppose you want to run a marathon, but your current level of fitness is more entry-level than elite. The reality is that 26.2 miles is a long way to go — both literally and figuratively. And unfortunately, there are many ways to detour from the finish line along the route. Take on too much too fast, for example, and you risk injury and a potentially lengthy recovery. While it is always possible to pick yourself up and recover after a stumble or setback, you may end up giving up out of frustration with the process.
By starting with a smaller goal like a 5K, however, you not only set yourself up for short-term success, but also set yourself on the path to long-term results. This does not mean giving up on your goal of running a marathon some day, but instead, simply pacing yourself along the way. In addition to reducing your risk of injury, mini goals also offer you something else much sooner in your fitness journey – an inspiring sense of fulfillment. While slogging through the intensive training for a marathon can at times be demoralizing, progressively running a 5K, 10K, and half-marathon builds your strength and endurance while simultaneously boosting your confidence levels.
Weight loss is another example. Whether you have five or 50 pounds to lose, the weight loss process is not always linear. While a large or far-off goal weight will sometimes feel unimaginable and irrelevant, a smaller, nearer-term goal is very real and within your reach.
Explains Lauren Whitt, Ph.D., director of Employee Wellness at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, “If we set lofty weight loss goals, like 10, 20, or 30-plus pounds, and we don’t make progress quickly enough, it’s too easy to get distracted and have our emotions convince us that the goal is not achievable.” Better chances of success, she says, lie in setting smaller, more manageable goals: “Once those first one or two pounds are lost, you can celebrate. Then the next mini-goal can become the focus.”
(One caveat when it comes to celebrating? Refrain from rewarding yourself with food to avoid undoing your recent progress. These 12 Healthy Dessert Recipes offer tasty middle ground.)
Bounce Back Better
Smaller goals are also a key part of supporting a pivotal resiliency mindset. After all, with a mini goal, failures will be minor as well. Says Whitt, “If you put forth effort to achieve a goal and fall short, you still have accomplished a great amount, so be encouraged. Take a moment to be happy with your progress and remember that you still have the opportunity to set a new goal to achieve.”
Luckily, the possibilities are nearly endless when it comes to setting mini fitness goals, and they can include everything from reducing your intake of processed foods to decreasing your body fat by five percent. A personal trainer can play a vital role in helping you identify and implement small, SMART goals of your own. To get started today, sign up for a personal trainer session.