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Three Strategies for Evaluating Your Fitness Goals

January 8, 2018
AUTHOR: Emilie
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Reading Time: 8 minutes

At this time of year, it seems like everyone is setting fitness goals and, frankly, I’m no different. I set one fitness goal this year: to get into AND sustain the best shape of my life. Last year, my goal was to get into the best shape of my life- and I did. In July/August, I really was in the best shape of my life. Since August of the previous year, I had been going to the gym 4-5 times per week, barring work travel. Even when I was traveling for work, I aimed for a 20 minute sweat session. In fact, I even got my first set of pull-ups when I was traveling for work!

The thing is that [insert my series of excuses here- traveling, traveling for work, expense of an additional gym membership while traveling, etc.] kept me from getting to the gym, or better, gave me an excuse to not to go. So I didn’t. I’m certainly far from “out of shape” in the “two-thirds of Americans are obese” way, but I’m out of shape compared to where I was in July.

I definitely hit my goal- I got into the best shape of my life- but being a goal-oriented person, without a goal to continue to work towards over the seance half of the year I lost my motivation to go to the gym at all. I recognized this at some point in the middle of year, but when I shared it with some people, I often heard things like “Well, you should just want to be better.” or “You just must not want it bad enough.” No, I’M JUST THE KIND OF PERSON THAT NEEDS GOALS TO WORK TOWARDS. Trust me, I know myself. I know the kind of person I am.

RELATED: Want to learn more about your personality type? Check out Gretchen Rubin’s The Four Tendencies.

That’s why this time of year I never poo-poo the goal setters. Whatever you’ve set, if setting that goal is what you need to get back into your fitness routine, do it. Let me know about it in the comments and I’ll be cheering you on! If you want an accountability buddy, shoot me an email and I’ll be that for you. We can conquer this year together!

Not all goals are created equal, though. Yes, you read that correctly. This is because some goals are goals, and some goals are pretty sentences we like to tell ourselves are goals. I’m going to use myself as an example

Get into the best shape of my life.

WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?! Exactly the problem. Now, in my goal setting process I got really granular with it. Since Crossfit is my primary form of physical activity, I’ll be using the measurements that are prominent in this form of training to measure my progress and my success. In July last year, I hit a 245 lb deadlift. In 2018, I would like to hit a 300 lb deadlift. (Over 210% of my bodyweight so, you know, not an ambitious goal at all.)

In October 2014, in much worse shape than I have been at any point since graduating college in June 2015, I ran the Tower of Terror Ten Miler at Disney World with my cousins. To that point, that was the longest distance I had every run. I’m bummed, though, that in the last 3+ years, I haven’t 1. done anymore running or 2. run a half marathon. In 2018, I would like to run a half marathon and, while I don’t have a speed number in mind, I’d like my speed to reflect all the time that I do spend in the gym.

The third and final way that I’m going to be measuring my progress towards the best shape of my life is the much elusive Double Unders. A double under (DU or DUs when plural) is a movement that occurs when jumping rope where the rope rotates around your body twice in one jump. If you’re doing 10 DUs, you only jump 10 times, but the rope goes around your body 20 times. For nearly a year, I have been working on getting these double unders. Since February 2017, I can comfortably string together a high volume of single-single-double (high volume being limited only by my cardio ability). For some reason, though, I can’t seem to get past that. I have gotten the occassional series of 3 or 4 double unders. My form has gotten better and I’ve stopped piking, but double unders are still outside of my reach. By the end of 2018, I will be able to comfortable pick up a rope and knock out 10 double unders whenever I want.

Hopefully, you can see three transitions there from a meaningless sentence- “Get into the best shape of my life”- to three useful and clear goals:

  1. Do a 300 lb deadlift.
  2. Run a half marathon.
  3. Knock out 10 double unders whenever I want.

We’ve all heard about SMART goals. Though I’m not crazy about marrying myself to an acronym when it comes to goal setting, these are a great way to think about setting your goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. My goals are all time-bound by nature of being yearly goals. They are relevant because I care about my fitness. They are achievable because I already have a fitness routine in place, though I don’t have a running routine in place, so that will require extra effort, but effort I am willing to put in!. They are measurable in that they are all quantified, and I’ve made them all very specific.

What SMART goals lack, though, is an emphasis on process. My friend Rana Campbell of the Dreams in Drive Podcast (must-listen!!) talks about how it’s not enough to just know your final destination, but that you must also use your GPS to plot out your route to get there. In other words, it’s not enough to say “I want to hit a 300 lb deadlift.” If I want to do that, what do I have to do to get there? Increasing my one rep max by nearly 25% isn’t going to happen on its own. What changes do I have to make in my life in order to get there? In my case, my process is going to be made up of the following steps:

  • Go to the gym every day that it is open (Monday through Saturday)
  • Spend 30 minutes on the assault bike on Sunday mornings
  • Push myself while in the gym
  • (At some point this year, though not right now) Start tracking my macros again flexibly

Those four things should help me build a sustainable lifestyle that should propel towards not just my deadlift goals but ALL of my fitness goals. If I find that I’m not make enough progress on my deadlift goal or if I’m not trending in the direction of getting stronger, I can add a corrective measure into my routine- an extra training session, extra movements focused on building those muscles specifically, etc. For now, though, I’m not looking to hit ONLY that goal, so I don’t want to focus on it too aggressively.

After you’ve finished setting your fitness goals, evaluated them for SMART-ness and for process in getting from where you are to where you want to be, I suggest you evaluate them with three additional criteria. This is because fitness goals are unique in a few different ways; from societal pressures to sheer vanity, from unhealthy habits that make us look healthy to being too focused on a number on a scale (or body fat percentage), fitness goals can seem good when they’re really quite destructive. When you’ve finished setting your fitness goals, sit down and ask yourself these questions.

Did I decide this?

Where did this goal come from? Is it something I want? Did someone else suggest this or pressure me into this? Is there an external factor at play here that might be shifting your sense of reality? For example, I’ve had a lot of people ask me if part of my motivation for getting into better shape is related to my wedding coming up later this year. While yes, I absolutely want to look great on my wedding day, I, more-so, want to build a sustainable lifestyle that is full of healthy habits, including a regular fitness routine and wholesome eating. Knowing where your goal comes from and your motivation for getting there makes it easier to work towards it.

What does success look like?

When I was originally thinking about my goals for the year, I wanted to just “get DUs.” I thought that when I got them, I’d know it, so I didn’t really need to quantify it any more than that. The problem with that mentality was that it would be very easy for me slip into settling for something less-than actually “getting” DUs, such as getting them for a video but not being able to regularly conjure them. Defining success will help you going beyond quantifying a goal and ensure you’re aligning your goal and your process with your motivations.

Does this get me closer to where I want to be?

I often hear people say that they can’t set yearly goals because they don’t know where they’ll be in a year. This is a load of if I ever heard it. Your goals are not the Rosetta Stone carved into rock and on display in a museum for forever. They can grow and change with you over the year. You can decide something is no longer relevant if that actually becomes the case.

I think that you NEED to set yearly goals. We all have some vision for our lives. We all dream about the future. Your yearly goals are your 1-year plan for getting closer to that future. You don’t need to know how or where your forever home is going to happen- with the Army, I certainly don’t know where ours will be- but that doesn’t keep me from dreaming about my luxurious master bathroom with the clawfoot tub or concrete countertops with a butcher block island. Maybe these things are trendy, and I won’t want them when we’re actually at that point in life, but you can see my point. I still know what my North Star is, even if I can’t map out every adventure between here and there. Goals should be taking you towards your North Star, whatever that might be for you.

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RELATED: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown is a great read!

Your turn:

  • Let me know your fitness goals in the comments!
  • Email me if you want me to be your fitness accountability buddy.
  • Have you evaluated your goals for their SMART-ness? Do you have a process plan?
  • Did you find my three new criteria helpful?

Whenever you’re reading this, right now is a great time to make a change. Let’s do it together!

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