There is nothing more important than setting fitness goals if you want to see changes when you look in the mirror. The problem is that, instead of doing this so many of us start to take our small gains for granted. And before we know it we’re right back to where we started. To manage your progress over the long term, you need to embrace the art of goal setting.

What constitutes a goal?

A goal is anything that you want to achieve. It could be to drop 3 dress sizes, run a marathon, or set a personal best for press ups. The important thing is that it doesn’t really matter what you choose as long as it motivates you.

What if my goals are super ambitious?

Break them up. It’s amazing to stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself that you want to run a marathon, but if you can only jog 2 miles that’s a long way off. There’s nothing wrong with this, but you need to create some intermediate goals to help bridge the gap. Let’s stick with the marathon example. Perhaps you could aim to run alternate days without feeling tired by the weekend. Then you could start training for a 5K, then a 10K, then 6 months later sign up for your first half marathon. You see how it works? By setting these intermediate goals you’ve already mapped out a process to get yourself halfway to the marathon finishing line.

Short term, medium term, and long term goals

Your short term goals could be that you want to increase your maximum distance from 2 miles to 3 miles. The medium term goal would then be to complete a 10K. And of course your long term goal is to complete the marathon distance in its entirety. The great thing about breaking things up like this is that you can start to see what you need to do on a daily basis to make each of them come to fruition. You’ll also have the added motivational boost that comes from feeling like you’ve achieved something.

Make your goals prominent

When he was 10 years old Frank Bruno wrote that he would be heavyweight champion of the world above his kitchen door. The rest is history, but it wouldn’t have been had he not had the goal in the first place. Displaying your goals somewhere that you’ll see them everyday is a great way to keep yourself focused on the task at hand. Even the most distant goals are achieved by a steady accumulation of effort and application. Not by a big bang approach where you suddenly get to where you want to go in a couple of training sessions.

Tell someone what you’re trying to do

When you set out on a long term training plan, it really does help to tell you partner, your friends, or your training buddies what you’re aiming to do. They’ll be able to check in with you and ask how things are going. Ideal if the motivation of being able to tell someone that you’re still working hard will help drive you on day after day.