Beginner’s Guide to Setting Fitness Goals

Very excited to bring you a guest post from The Jerd today!!!  Here you go:

Very often the first catalysts for re-examining your overall health/fitness is that unpleasant moment where you step on the scale for the first time in ages, or you get caught in the rain and realize you are out of breath after running 500 ft to find shelter. Whatever it is that brings about the realization that you are in need of a tune-up, use it to help define your goals.

See, I am a firm believer in the trifecta of “Thought-Word-Deed”.  Once you have the thought “I need to get my ass in gear” then you need to put that into words to keep the ball rolling.  I find it best to write them down in the form of a goal list, but of course you get extra points for making that public on your blog or Facebook wall or even better by telling some friends verbally.  Added pressure to keep your word is always a good thing in my book!

If this is your first rodeo, and you need some tips for setting your fitness goals, here are some of my thoughts on the subject:

  • Set no more than three goals
  • Make sure they are reasonably achievable within three months
  • Make sure they are quantifiable
  • Make sure they are positive, not negative

Allow me to expand on that for a minute for you.  Setting more than three goals can be a bit overwhelming if you are just starting out.  We want to stack the deck for success, so I recommend a diet goal, a strength goal and a cardio goal.

We want these goals to be realistic for you (you have to be honest with yourself for this to work), and to be achievable with moderate work within three months.  These are short-term goals; enough time to make a worthwhile positive change but not so long as to get boring.  Once you have reached these goals make a new list and start the process over!

Don’t use nebulous or vague language.  Make sure everything is quantifiable with concrete results you wish to achieve.  Don’t write “I will run more”, instead define what your cardio plan is by stating “I will run 2 miles, 3x per week” or “I will run an 8 minute mile”.  No saying “I will do more pushups and situps”, instead make sure to set a measurable goal like “I will do 30 pushups and 50 situps every other day”.  That way there is no question whether or not you are doing what you said you would.  There are no gray areas.

Make sure that you are structuring your goals to validate a positive choice.  Saying “I will eat a home cooked meal 5 nights a week” is much better than saying “I will eat less fast food.”  Not only is it once again, quantifiable in nature, but it reminds you of what you should do, not what you shouldn’t do.  A small distinction, but one that makes a big psychological difference.

Once you have your words on paper all that is left is doing the deed!  Get out there and don’t cheat yourself… once you find success over a couple iterations of your goal lists you will start enjoying the challenge it provides.  Don’t be ashamed if you don’t always meet your goals every single time, we are setting more than one at a time for a reason.  If you are being too cavalier and over-reaching you capabilities just dial it back a little next go round and if you find you are meeting your goals in a month or two, make them a little tougher next go round!  Remember this is an iterative process.

So to recap, for our first list we want:

  • One Diet Goal – When I say diet, I mean what you eat not a weight loss goal.  Set a goal to improve the quality of what you eat.
  • One Cardio Goal – Set a cardiovascular goal.  Be it some form of swimming, running, biking, or whatever… whatever it is, get that heart rate up regularly!
  • One Strength Goal – Set a goal to get stronger.  Strength training is one of the lynchpins of any fitness program.  Whether it is something as simple as defining the number of pushups, crunches or lunges you are going to do or defining how many lbs. you are going to improve your bench-press; make sure you stick to it!

Notice nowhere in this article did I mention losing weight.  Losing weight is a byproduct of eating right and exercising, so if you want to lose weight then focus on those activities and the weight will start to come off over time.  Don’t focus on the scale!





About the Author:  The Jerd has been running fitness and martial arts programs for over 25 years in the Washington D.C. area. When not training and competing in Brazilian & Japanese Jiu Jitsu he spends his time reading comics and obsessing over movies.


17 Responses to “Beginner’s Guide to Setting Fitness Goals”

  1. Great guest post, Jerd! Consider yourself PINNED.

    Completely unrelated note, I appreciate your pointy eyebrow picture. 🙂

  2. Most people make such unrealistic goals which don’t even last for a week. For making goal it is important to make some realistic goals which a person can stick to it for long. As fitness is all about discipline and your post describes very well how to make and stick with fitness routine.

    • Agreed. In order to succeed you have to be honest with yourself, and that first step is realistic goals. Thanks for giving it a read!

  3. Just ran across this blog post, though I know it’s over a year old. I love it… informative and motivational. I have a FB page and a blog (that I don’t update very often – shame on me!) but I still count myself very much a beginner. I’m in no better shape/fitness/health than I was 20 years ago. Sad, yes. I’m committing to setting realist health goals with the belief that I will lose weight and lower my blood pressure if I quit trying to lose weight and start trying to get fit and healthy.


    • Good luck with your goals! I will be posting my ONE 2014 goal this week. Did 13 in 2013 and that was just too many.