Tips to set and achieve your exercise goals
Published: 4 May, 2018
Based on the research behind goal setting, this article provides some helpful hints to lock in your exercise goals and follow through with them while building up your mental fitness at the same time.
Setting exercise goals is pretty common– we come up with an end goal to challenge ourselves and promise to make it happen. The thing is, sticking to that promise can be testing at times, particularly when other life factors get in the way.
But research shows that people who have a genuine interest in achieving their goals are able to put in a higher performance than if they hadn’t set a goal at all (Strecher V.J., et. al.). And if that goal is specific and not vague, they are even more likely to reach their target (Strecher V.J., et. al.).
For example, a vague exercise goal would be something like:
“I want to sign up for a running event.”
A specific version of this (and first stepping stone to success) would be:
“I am going to run in the City 2 Surf in August this year.”
In the second example there is a specific action (run in the City 2 Surf), timeline (this will happen in August) and motivation (I am going to do this).
Of course, goals should be set based on your own interests and abilities to achieve the most satisfaction and boost your mood. So we have put together some tips to help you lock in your goals and see them through:
Write it down
It’s important to actualise your goals and one way to do that is to see it visually. Literally written on a piece of paper in front of you. You can then post it somewhere that you will see on a daily basis and train yourself into thinking that it can and will happen.
Break it up
Once you have your big goal locked in, look at it and consider the smaller goals that will bridge the gap between now and then. You want to run the City2Surf in August but you haven’t been running in 3 years? Set yourself doable in-between goals – e.g.next week you’ll go for two 20-minute runsand then build up from there.
Answer the big questions
Why is it important? What will it achieve? How will you achieve it? Having a clear idea about the answers to these questions from the outset can be a great driver through your entire journey.
Address the barriers
Of course there are going to be some barriers that stand in your way but they are all manageable. If time is a big constraint in your mind, think about ways that you can create more time. Ask a friend or family member to mind the kids for 2 hours twice a week or take on one of your small goals instead of watching an episode of a TV show.
You can use this sheet to write down barriers and solutions to overcome them.
Bring someone into your goal by telling them about each part from concept to progress and right until completion. It can be a friend, family member, colleague or mentor.
Set reasonable and achievable goals
You know yourself and your capabilities better than anyone else. So while you want to challenge yourself a bit, don't set yourself up for failure. Instead, choose a goal that suits your interests and abilities.
Prioritise and diarise
Once you have your goals set take out your calendar and write in your key activities that you need to do on a daily and weekly basis to achieve your goals. Planning ahead takes the think work out of the actual training period making the path to that goal much clearer.
This sheet helps you to set out your exercise plan so you can really hit your stride.
Exercise Your Mood week is a great time to lock in those big, hairy, audacious goals. There are so many ways to skin it, and if you are looking for a challenge we would encourage you to take yours on with a bit of extra purpose.
Add a fundraising element to your goal – the thought that you are doing something for yourself as well as others can be an incredible motivator. And when 1 in 5 Australians experience mental illness each year, doing it as part of Team Black Dog, who are raising funds for mental health research and suicide prevention, could be one of the best motivations you can find.
To take on a fundraising challenge, follow these steps:
- Set your goal
- Join an event or create your own challenge
- Determine what needs to happen before the challenge
- Make yourself accountable and let your family/friends/colleagues know
- Keep yourself motivated – remember why you have taken up this challenge
- Lock your sights on the finish line
- Make it happen
Best of luck with your goal setting! For more tips and resources, head to our Exercise Your Mood page
Reference: Strecher, V.J., et. al. 1995, 'Goal Setting as a Strategy for Health Behavior Change', Health Education Quarterly, Volume: 22 issue: 2, page(s): 190-200
Free Vector Graphics by www.Vecteezy.com
If you or someone you know is in crisis please call one of the following national helplines:
LIFELINE COUNSELLING SERVICE - 13 11 14
SUICIDE CALL BACK SERVICE 1300 659 467 (cost of a local call)