Many people kick off the New Year with a big fitness resolution, but lots have trouble making it stick past January. Why? Whether you don’t have an accountability system or life just gets in the way, committing to long-term fitness goals can be difficult.
However, whether it’s January 1, the middle of summer, or the leaves are starting to turn, any time is a great time to commit to goals and make them stick.
Grab a sheet of paper and a pen and complete the following exercise to craft a game plan that helps you successfully reach your goals. I’ll walk you through the whole process, breaking down each step and sharing tips our members have found helpful when implementing this plan into their lives.
1. Uncover what you want and why
The first step is understanding what you want and why.
- “What is my fitness goal?”
- “And, why is this goal important to me?”
Then, we’ll go through an exercise called The 5 Whys. Most of the time, the answer to “Why is this goal important to me?” is really just scratching the surface of your deeper motivations. Continuing to ask yourself why will take you to the core motivation of your goals. Repeat this process three more times to uncover your truest desires for which these goals are actually addressing. Once you recognize the deepest catalyst to your goals, you can start harnessing that as your true motivator.
What is my fitness goal?
“To improve my health in the new year.”
Why is that goal important to me?
“I want to feel healthier and more confident.”
Why (do I want to feel healthier and more confident)?
“Because I constantly feel winded, my energy is low, and I don’t think I feel like myself anymore.”
Why (do I feel that way)?
“Ever since I became a parent and started taking on more responsibilities at work, it just doesn’t seem like there’s enough hours in the day to be able to focus on my physical health and well-being.”
“Because I spend as much time as I can focusing on being there for other people, my priorities have shifted to putting others’ needs over my own.”
“Because I’m nervous that if I don’t have a better balance, it won’t be sustainable for my health long-term. My dad had a heart attack when he was 45 years old. I’m turning 45 next year and my doctor has expressed her concerns with my high blood pressure. I don’t want to experience what I saw him go through, or put my loved ones through that, too.”
2. Weigh the cost of staying the same
When making a change in your life, it’s easy to focus on the immediate costs and obstacles required to implement that change. If the upfront cost seems too steep, we might decide to put changes off until next week, next month, or next year. What we often fail to realize is that staying the same also has a cost, and sometimes the cost of staying the same is even greater than the cost of changing.
“If I don’t reach my fitness goals and I stay the same, how would that affect my life? What consequences would occur?”
- Staying the same can have implications regarding your health and well-being overall, so try thinking through the ways it would affect your life.
“When I successfully reach my fitness goal(s), in what way(s) will my life be different? What benefits are most important to me?”
- You could mitigate the risk of a health catastrophe, you can finally get back your youthful energy and strength that’s been missing the past few years, or whatever outcome you envision!
3. Set your goal
Now it’s time to pinpoint fitness goals that are both measurable and will both fully realize your potential.
“If I could remove all the barriers in my life (money, time, knowledge, etc.) and anything were possible, how do I see my best self?”
- Envisioning this “ideal state” for yourself will act as your north star going forward. Don’t worry about feasibility just yet; if you introduce parameters too soon, you can actually create self-limiting beliefs that will get in the way of your success.
“What are my top priorities?”
- Since most of us are not professional athletes, we’ll likely have higher priorities in life that come ahead of fitness such as family, career, hobbies, travel, etc. Take an honest assessment about where your health/fitness fall in relation to the other priorities in your life. Depending on how many things take priority over fitness for you, this may limit the amount of time and energy you have to dedicate to health-related goals. However, being self-aware about your prioritization will help you set goals that are truly attainable.
“How often do I think I need to work out to reach my goals?”
- Don’t worry about feasibility yet either. Just focus on what you think you would need to do to reach your goals.
I commit to working out __ times per week.
- This is where feasibility starts to come into play. Knowing all the competing priorities in your life, what you want to achieve, and why it’s truly important to you — what do you think you can realistically commit to? We will use this as the starting point in an iterative process.
4. Plan it out
Congratulations — you just took a huge step by making a commitment towards change! However, if we stop there, it’s a toss up whether you will actually be successful. Let’s think through how this will actually work and then set up strategies to help you succeed. We’ll start by planning out how to structure your ideal week for you to be the most successful.
“Which days of the week do I feel most confident in getting my workout in?”
- Identify where your best chances to be successful are. If you have certain days that you already know will be a “no-go,” just cross those out or label them as rest days. Process of elimination can help on more than just multiple-choice tests.
For each workout day you listed, ask yourself “What time of day do I feel most confident in getting my workout in?”
- Planning out your workouts is more than just which days of the week; also think through your daily routine to pick a time that works for you.
“What lifestyle event is going to take place immediately before my workout that can act as a trigger to remind me to workout?”
- You already have routines in your life, so rather than building a new habit from scratch, we can piggyback on an existing routine or shape your environment to trigger the desired action, such as working out.
Here are a few examples from real Ergatta members
- “I leave my workout clothes at the foot of my bedroom door the night before. That way when I get up in the morning, I have to pick up my workout clothes before I can get on with my day.”
- “After I take care of my baby in the morning, I need to fold my Ergatta down and get into the workout right away before I do anything else. I know that if I check my email or anything else then I will get distracted and exercise will not happen.”
- “I need to schedule a meeting with myself on my work calendar, otherwise it won’t happen. I have a hectic work schedule that fills up quickly, so I need to block time off the week before.”
“Which types of workouts should I do each day?”
- For those who incorporate multiple workout modalities, this weekly schedule can help you plan out the cadence of various fitness methods, so you get sufficient recovery.
5. Check in with your confidence
Before you get going, let’s evaluate how you feel about your commitments and game plan.
“What obstacles do I see getting in my way of consistently achieving this plan?”
- Not every week will go your way, so when life happens, what is that going to look like? If we can identify the things that are going to get in the way, we can use that as an avenue for troubleshooting strategies later.
- “On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident do I feel in being able to achieve this plan, knowing the obstacles I mentioned and acknowledging that life just gets crazy?”
How did you rate yourself?
If you rated your confidence level a 10 out of 10, chances are you are setting the bar too low or you aren’t taking into account all the things that could get in your way.
- Try making a slightly more ambitious goal or thinking a little deeper on the things that might steer you off your path (e.g. work travel, children home sick, etc).
If you rated your confidence level between 1-8 out of 10, then you may have identified a fair amount of obstacles that could cause you to fall off track.
- What would it take to bring that rating up to a 9? Think about: lowering the bar, managing an obstacle you identified, or rearranging your schedule. Then, head back to step 3 in this exercise and reiterate on this process until you get to a 9 out of 10.
We want to get to a 9 out of 10 confidence level so we know the change you’re trying to make is big enough to mean something to you, but attainable enough that you can confidently tackle it.
Habit formation is very momentum driven, like experiencing the snowball effect. Start off small to get quick wins that will provide short term gratification and boost your motivation. Then, build on that momentum little by little, scaling things up along the way until you have a giant snowball with a ton of momentum behind it. It will be much easier to stay on target once you have momentum working with you rather than against you.
6. Stay accountable
After you have your plan and start implementing your new goals into your life, having an accountability system is crucial to ensure you remain on track for the long haul. There are many different forms of accountability that you can implement, so now is time to think through what resources will work best for you.
Some ways to stay accountable include to:
Find a Community of Accountability
Find Rivals and workout buddies in the Ergatta Facebook or Reddit communities, and push each other’s potential in races and private challenges. Workout buddies can also provide support via regular check-ins that add some positive peer pressure to stay on track.
One member said: “I created a shared Google Sheet for a friend and myself to track which days we got our respective workouts in. It’s been very helpful getting a text from her when I’m behind on my workouts or we can text why it hasn’t happened this week.”
Use Accountability Tools
Make a checklist to help hold yourself accountable. This can be done in digital form, on paper, or even on a whiteboard.
Participate in an Ergatta monthly challenge to put you on a set track to accomplishing new milestones in your fitness.
No matter your goals are, I hope you find this tool useful as you commit to and accomplish your goals. And remember: At any time, you can always come back to this guide to recalibrate and refocus your endeavors. Cheers to all the milestones we’ll achieve together!