5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Committing to New Goals

Melissa Thomas is an NASM-CES,PES Certified Personal Trainer, a STOTT PILATES® Certified Instructor; and is Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certified. 


Goals: we are hardwired to set and pursue them. This is especially true in fitness--it seems like everywhere you look there’s a program for “Get your best __ in __ number of days!” As a fitness professional, I encourage my clients to instead look internally and ask themselves (not social media or midnight infomercials) five key questions to gauge whether a goal is right for them.

“What am I excited about?”

When I ask new clients about their goals, most initially answer with fitness platitudes like “I want to lose weight” or “I want to build muscle.” While these are fine goals, I find that clients tend to be much more successful when they focus on a performance-based goal that excites them. Doesn’t it sound like more fun to train for an upcoming race or hit a new deadlift PR?! Spoiler alert: adherence tends to be better, too. 

“How long am I giving myself to achieve this goal?”

If your goal already has an external timeline, this is easier to answer. For example, if you sign up for a race in September, you have until September to prepare. Other goals may have a more fluid timeline, like working toward your first unassisted pull-up. Putting a timeline on a goal isn’t meant to stress you out—it’s intended to help break down your goal into more manageable chunks so you can continue to progress. 

“Is this goal attainable for me?”

There’s a difference between setting a stretch goal and setting yourself up for failure. For example, if you’re not comfortable running a mile without stopping, signing up for a marathon 16 weeks away is not realistic. In this scenario, setting a goal to run a 5K in the same amount of time is way more reasonable--which is a precursor to ‘attainable'. If you aren’t sure if a goal is attainable for you, ask your trainer or another qualified fitness professional! It’s their job to partner with you in the goal-setting process.

“What do I need to change about my current fitness regimen to achieve this goal?”

If you’ve always loved cardio but your goal this year is to deadlift your body weight, you’ll need to prioritize your weightlifting program over an endurance plan. In the health and fitness space, this is referred to as the SAID principle or the “Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands.” Basically, the idea is that your body adapts to the stressors that are placed on it. So, if you want to improve your deadlifting skills, you have to deadlift.

That said, there may be other components to your goal that aren’t as easy to figure out. For example, a key piece of a successful deadlift is the ability to brace your core musculature so that you aren’t overusing your back to lift the barbell. This is where a knowledgeable trainer can help. Consulting a trainer is especially important if you’re interested in working on a new skill or technique.

“What happens if I fail?”

Before you start a journey to a new goal, spend some time thinking about how you’ll feel if you don’t achieve it in the timeframe you wanted to. Now, here’s the secret: Your worth isn’t defined by whether or not you achieve this goal. Goals are meant to challenge us to work toward something specific for a period of time. They should never dictate your value and worth as a person or an athlete. 

If you don’t achieve a goal on your original timeline, ask yourself: “How did I grow during this process?”  “What did I learn about myself?” “Am I better at this skill now vs when I started?” 

True, sometimes you’ll fail to reach your goals. But regardless of your ‘failure’ or ‘success’ in a specific aspiration, you’ll always be moving forward. Fitness is a lifelong process, not a finish line.

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