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How to Set Realistic Fitness Goals

FITNESS

ASK ANYONE EMBARKING ON A NEW FITNESS ROUTINE AND, REGARDLESS OF THEIR GOALS, THEY WANT TO SEE QUICK PROGRESS.

BY JEFF ARCHER

But what if the results don’t come as fast as you’d like? There’s a danger that your motivation will start to wane and that dedicated routine you had followed so faithfully will come grinding to a halt. This is not only disheartening at the time – leaving you feeling as though you made a big effort for very little return – but might also make it more difficult to want to get going again in future. That’s why it is absolutely crucial to be realistic about how long it will take you to reach your workout goals, and also to be flexible with your approach.

There are so many factors wrapped up with getting good results with your training schedule that it’s virtually impossible to put an accurate timeframe on it. The key is to experiment with various approaches, then refine your routine based on what you know will ensure you not only achieve your perfect body in good time, but can maintain it. Here are a few things to consider…

  • How much time you have to train. How many days per week will you exercise, and for how long per training session?
  • How hard are you prepared to work during training sessions? Do you like to keep a bit in reserve or are you a “go big or go home” kind of guy?
  • What’s your workout personality? Are you a creature of habit when it comes to the exercises you like to spend your time on, or do you prefer to regularly try out new styles of training?
  • Are you a lone wolf, or do you respond best to a bit of friendly competition?
  • Do you like routine, or do you prefer spontaneity and frequently mixing things up? Answering these questions will help you scope out how your workout weeks and months might look, so you can take into account the logistics. If you’re motivated by exercising with others, you’ll need to plan ahead to make sure your training partners are available when you need them. If you’re planning to train to your limits during every session, you’ll need to build in recovery time between workouts. And if you like familiar workout patterns, it may take you longer to achieve results than if you’re happy to regularly mix up your training.

WORK WITH WHAT YOU’VE GOT

Before you get really stuck into your training schedule, it’s a good idea to sit down and have a think about everything that’s going on in your life, so you can be realistic about the amount of time you can commit to your training.

Firstly, write down how much time you currently spend training each week. Now write down everything else you do in a week. This might sound like a daunting task, but when people take the time to do this, they’re usually surprised by how few things actually go on the list. Your week will probably consist of sleep, work, travel, eating, hobbies and socialising. It might help to map out your time visually using a format similar to the table below, so you can see exactly how you spend your time.

Once you’ve assessed where your time goes now, think about how much time you’d ideally like to spend on exercise over the coming weeks. Is this the same as currently? Or a little bit more? Or a dramatic increase? Whatever your situation, the easiest way to see exactly where this time will feature is to repeat the time management activity for how you’ll be spending your days in the future. Writing all of this out will ensure you can manage your expectations of how quickly you’ll experience results and guarantee that you’re not setting yourself up for disappointment.

To ensure your best results, aim for a balance of complex carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats and plenty of fresh produce throughout each day.

ACT YOUR AGE

Does being older slow down your progress with getting in great shape? It’s true that muscle mass can decline with age, and that can certainly have an impact on getting results from your training, but this isn’t really a major consideration until you’re in your late 30s, or you’re fairly inactive.

The speed of your progress will also depend on your previous training history and this may be slowed down if you’ve never really been into working out, but age and its associated wisdom can also be an advantage when it comes to planning and achieving desirable results.

If you’re a little older, you’ll possibly have less patience when it comes to wasting your time, which will mean that you make clearer plans and make the best use of the times that you set aside to work out. Being more organised might also be a benefit when you’re a little older, as you’ll need to allow yourself a little longer recovery time between training sessions. That’s not to say, however, that you need to follow a training session with days of lying around doing nothing.

Whatever your situation, with proper thought and consideration, good planning and regular review, your ideal shape is not only possible, but could become a reality sooner than you imagined.