Do Fitness Goals Help You or Hurt You? A Trainer Shares His Experience

By Weston Titus | Fitness

Apr 13

How Goals Have Helped Me

Goals have been a major tool for me to get to where I am in life today. Setting proper goals is one of the most important steps in achieving the things you want to improve on. They are the only way to create an actionable forward plan that will lead you to the things you want. 

In 2019 I set a goal of completing 4 Spartan Trifectas, including an Ultra distance race. So that means I ran 12 obstacle course races all over the South West United States including one race that was 30+ miles long. In total, I ran over 110 miles and completed over 330 obstacles. Setting a big goal like this takes dedication and attention to detail, I will explain how I did it that and help you do it as well. 

Me during my Spartan Ultra on an obstacle called bender.

How Goals Can Hurt You

Goals can be unreachable due to forces you can not control. This can feel like a defeat even though the lack of success was nothing to do with your personal effort or will power. Starting in 2018 I have wanted to complete Spartan’s “Perfect Delta” which included completing 9 different things, and as of writing this, only 50 people in the entire world have done it. I have completed 8 of the 9 requirements with the last uncompleted event being the Spartan Agoge. The Agoge is a 60+ hour ultra-endurance event, but it is only hosted a maximum of 2 weekends a year and usually on the other side of the world. Sometimes Spartan will only announce the destination a month or two in advance. I have not been able to make it to the Agoge in the last 3 years because of timing or financial conflicts. This feels like a “failure” to me even though it is not, and has nothing to do with my lack of fitness or determination. 

If you have similar goals that just can not be reached, make sure you do not let it beat you down. Keep your head up and working towards what you want. 

The SMART Way to Set Your Fitness Goal

Goals can and should be made and adjusted year-round, you do not need to wait until New Years to start, working on a new achievement. Today is the best day to start!

So spend a few minutes thinking about things you would like to start working towards. Make sure your goal(s) are audacious. They should somewhat scare you when talking about them. Do not be afraid of the time it will take you to accomplish your goals because the time will pass either way if you are working on them or not. 

Me in the kinesiology lab doing a VO2 max test.

I like using the acronym SMART when setting or adjusting my goals. 

S stands for Specific, meaning your goals should be detailed. 

Creating vague goals makes accomplishing them uncertain. A vague goal would be “To become better at Krav Maga” which leads to ambiguity on when you reached that goal. It would be better to change that goal, and make it more specific as “Earn my blue belt in Krav Maga” this allows you to accomplish your goal. 

M stands for Measurable, meaning you have a way to measure your progress towards your goal.

This can also let you set smaller stepping stone goals of increments. If your goal is to be able to do 30 push-ups in a row, you can measure your progress each time you do push-ups. Your smaller stepping stones goals could be increases of 5 push-ups at a time, leading to a continual sense of improvement without being overwhelmed by a huge improvement all at once.  

A stands for Attainable, meaning your goal is achievable or possible.

While I spoke of setting audacious goals, I want you to set goals that are possible so that eventually you can be successful. If you currently can not do a single pull-up, setting a goal to set the world record number of pull-up completed in 24 hours is not wise. Goals should be challenging but realistic.

R stands for Relevant and is the most abstract and difficult to understand.

Relevant means that the goal aligns with your major life aims. Another way to think about it is, will achieving this goal help you move forward to something large you are proud of. The example I use in my classes is that if one of your goals is to limit eating processed grains and another goal is to open a bakery, it will be difficult to be successful at both goals. Make sure that the result from your time and effort in working towards a goal is worth it. 

T stands for Timely, meaning that every goal should have a deadline or due date.

While at first, this seems like a time limit will add unnecessary stress, it is prudent to create a sense of urgency for progressing to your goal. Deadlines will help keep you accountable for working towards what you want. With no timeline, it is easy to always start working tomorrow. 

Me during a burpee mile event at the beach.

A Few SMART Fitness Goal Examples to Use as a Guide

Being able to do 10 push-ups in a row from my toes by my birthday.

Walking 10,000 steps 7 days a week all year. 

Eat at least one veggie with lunch and dinner this month. 

Drink less than 2 cans of soda a week until my anniversary. 

Advance 2 belt levels in my GMAU course by October 1st. 

Let Your Willpower Bring You to the Finish Line

While exploring your goals, it is important to think about what obstacles may come up to hinder your progress. Coming up with ways to overcome these problems early on will help you continue towards your goals. 

If your goals are big and life-changing, you will literally have to change your life habits. While it can be hard to say no to invitations from friends and family, but if those events will hinder your progress towards your goal it is important to say no. If your goal is to lose weight and a friend wants to go to an all you can eat buffet, politely saying no is an important skill to learn.

Building a support network of those closest to you will greatly improve your chances of reaching your goals. Explaining to them how and why you want to make changes, and asking them for their support and understanding is a massive boost. 

My last tip for reaching your goals is to write them out and place them somewhere you will see them several times a day.

Set some big goals and get after it! -Coach Weston

Train with Coach Weston in the GMAU’s 12 Week Fitness Bootcamp: Combat Strong.

About the Author

Coach Weston is a Kinesiology College Professor and a fitness fanatic. He enjoys pushing himself mentally and physically in extreme endurance events.

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