4 Key Steps When Setting a Fitness Goal – Rich Stead of Athletes Insight

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Rich Stead is a former professional athlete and CEO of Athletes Insight; a California based company who help aspiring individuals improve their performance.

Unsure where to start when it comes to setting a fitness goal? At Athletes Insight we take a very personal approach to helping people just like you achieve their goals every day. So in this post I am going to teach you how to plan and figure out what that goal might be.

This process is not specific only to fitness goals, but any goal setting in general and can be used for all aspects of the life you wish to create.

The Process

Step 1- Remove the ceiling

In my experience, a lot of individuals aren’t exactly sure what their goal is. In the fitness environment, they just want to get ‘fitter’, or lose some of their stomach paunch by doing some ab exercises. This is not tangible and is not easily defined, which are crucial elements of goal setting as you will see below. So how do we go about establishing a quality goal?

Take a piece a paper (you can do it electronically too but old-school pen and paper is a more immersive process), and a moment of quiet time. Imagine that there are no limits to what you can do- it really is essential to remove your perceived personal ceiling that so often limits what we are capable of. Start listing the most outlandish, larger-than-life possibilities of what you could do in this world. Forget your financials, home/work life situation, and any other restrictions at this stage. I dare you to think bigger than you imagined.

Step 2- The edge of current possibility

By this point, you should have a list of thoughts written down. Just looking at some of these phrases you have listed might make you question your sanity. But seeing this explosion of words should allow you to now pick out your favorites and pull them back just a little to what I call ‘the edge of current possibility’. This concept involves taking your initial idea and seeing just how far you can push the envelope towards it, whilst factoring in your life.

As an example, in step 1 let’s say I wrote “I want to run all the way around the world”. Now, in step 2 I can start to think about what is at the edge of possibility given my current circumstances. “Running all the way around the world is not feasible in my existing situation, but do you know what COULD be? Running my first ever marathon. Wouldn’t that be a huge personal achievement. But man, I have no idea how I would get there. I can barely run 5 miles.”

Whatever your personal circumstances, you can apply this same concept. Doing step 1 and 2 in this way forces you to think much bigger than you otherwise would, and allows you to be open to the idea of challenging yourself in a very real and achievable way.

Step 3- Locking it down

In step 2 we established our ideal, far-reaching objective. This is our long-term loosely-defined goal (in my example, running a marathon). Now we must remove any ambiguities to make this a solid, tangible goal for it to be effective, and something that will be adhered to. To do this we are going to refine our idea using SMARTER principles. The acronym varies slightly depending on the area of application, but we will be adapting the principles for sporting context.

Specific

The goal must be explicitly defined without any ambiguity. (Be as specific as possible with your goal.)

Measurable

The completion criteria must be clearly defined. (How do I measure whether I achieved it or not?)

Attainable

The objective set must be one that is challenging for you but nonetheless reachable within existing constraints. (Realistic and achievable, but challenging.)

Relevant

Is reaching your goal relevant to you? Why do you want to reach this specific goal? What is the objective behind the goal, and will this goal really achieve that? (Does this goal fit into a bigger picture of yourself and life?)

Time

What is the deadline for this goal? (Set the end date.)

Ecological/Empowering

Consider your whole self. This is one reason why some people don’t achieve a particular goal – there is a part of them that doesn’t really want it to happen, and so it sabotages their performance. Give yourself permission to achieve your goal, and believe that you are capable of it- often enlarging your self-concept and perception is necessary to realize your capabilities. (Do you believe you can achieve it and are you fully-committed to achieving it?)

Recorded

The goal and the process towards it is recorded and documented. (Track your progress.)

Step 4- Short-Term Goals

The last point of the SMARTER acronym (Recorded) is particularly important. In order to establish how we are going to get to our large goal, which can seem like an overwhelming and huge task, we can record our progress and break it down into smaller short-term goals or milestones. To stick with the marathon example, following the SMARTER principles above let’s say my goal was to run a Marathon on December 20th.

Now, I need to set my smaller, short-term goals. This could be to:

  • Run a 5k by February 10th
  • 10k by May 15th
  • Half Marathon by August 20th
  • …And finally a Marathon on December 20th

Short term goals are often seen as smaller steps along the pathway to achieving the larger overall goal. They provide a framework for achievement. Personal preference may be to use specific deadlines with short-term goals, or not. For some individuals it can really help to provide motivation by having specific timescales to work to, ensuring that they are bang on track. But for others, falling behind an arbitrary milestone slightly can be hugely demotivating. So, the personal choice is yours on that one.

To Recap

  1. Remove the ceiling, and list huge goals.
  2. Use the edge of possibility to refine and find what will really stretch you whilst being feasible.
  3. Lock it down using the SMARTER principles.
  4. Use short-term goals to outline your path to success.

Need help achieving your goals?

Should you need assistance with your goal setting do reach out to us and we can totally help you. Just use the Athletes Insight Mentoring form to get help. We have already helped hundreds of individuals towards their goals and are happy to assist.

Additionally, we also offer 1-1 online support services and interactive workshop sessions for individuals who want regular accountability and guidance. See AthletesInsight.com for more information.

Thanks for making it this far! If you enjoyed this article and found it useful, please share it with someone who would benefit and I hope to hear from you soon!

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About Author

Rich is the CEO of Athletes Insight, a high-quality resource for athletes and weekend warriors looking to improve their performance, as well as Editor-in-Chief of the Athletes Insight Magazine. Rich trains athletes, mentors, enjoys burritos, and has a passion for creative design.

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