How to Set Fitness Goals You’ll Actually Achieve, According to Top Trainers

Fitness goals are important on several counts. They hold us accountable, expand our definition of possible, and encourage us to push through temporary discomfort for longer-lasting change. But figuring out how to set fitness goals you’ll actually want to attain can be part art, part science.

Mark DiSalvo, NYC-based certified strength and conditioning specialist, explains it this way: A good fitness goal can be “your North Star when you have bad days,” he tells SELF. In other words, a goal, if thoughtful and well structured, can give you the extra incentive to keep going when motivation wanes, or when life otherwise gets in the way.

The problem is that during this time of year, it’s easy to get caught up in the rush of New Year’s resolutions and set goals that are too lofty, unsustainable, and otherwise unrealistic. We then fail to achieve them and feel worse about ourselves than before we started. This year, to avoid that detrimental downward spiral altogether, we asked DiSalvo and four other top trainers to share their advice for doing fitness goal setting right. Here, 11 of their tips for enacting real, positive change.

1. Focus on one goal at a time.

When it comes to setting a fitness goal, “one of the biggest mistakes is that people try to do too much at one time,” Kellen Scantlebury, D.P.T., certified strength and conditioning specialist and founder of Fit Club NY, tells SELF. Perhaps you want to hit the gym every day, cut out added sugar, and get at least eight hours of sleep a night. Trying to tackle that much at once is essentially just setting yourself up for failure. With so many things to achieve, “people get anxious, and if they didn’t do one thing, they feel like a failure,” says Scantlebury. This can lead to negative self-talk that lowers your chances of achieving any of the goals.

Instead, pick one thing you want to crush—like, doing a pull-up, or completing your first-ever 5K—and channel your efforts into achieving that before exploring another goal.

2. Make it your own.

It can be easy to scroll through the ‘gram and feel inspired-yet-envious by images of the super fit. Yet basing your own goals off of what you see others achieving is neither productive nor practical.

“When we are bombarded by images of what fitness should look like and how we should do XYZ, it can be hard to identify what’s good for you,” Tony Vidal, NYC-based certified strength and conditioning specialist and master trainer with fitness app POPiN, tells SELF. Certain things that top athletes can do—run a marathon, do 100 push-ups, master the most challenging yoga poses—“may be great for them, but it’s not metric that everyone should be measured by,” says Vidal. In other words, your goal should be your goal—something that you personally are excited about and realistically able to achieve—not someone else’s.

3. Make it measurable, specific, and time-bound.

Having a measurable goal allows your to track your progress, says

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How are Fitbit Users Finding New Ways to Achieve Their Fitness Goals?

Shelter-in-place orders have changed much of Fitbit users’ everyday lives. We’ve been staying home, getting more quality rest (a happy surprise), cooking more, and finding new ways to stay active, given that our step counts are down. But, our resting heart rates have improved across the board, which is great news for heart health.  

When it comes to staying active, we’ve had to get creative—and Fitbit users have risen to the challenge. In fact, data from mid-April shows that more users exercised one to two times a week in April 2020 than in April 2019. (Exercises were either auto-detected or manually logged on users’ Fitbit devices, and lasted for a duration of at least 15 minutes.) This rings true across major American cities including San Francisco, Denver, and New York, as well as global cities including Paris, Seoul, and Tokyo—with Madrid being one notable exception.  

Note that week 15 is the week ending April 14 and April 12 in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Additionally, we’re seeing more users exercising more than five times a week, with some cities posting as much as an impressive 10 percent increase. 

We love that so many of you are getting creative with your workouts outside of the gym, and wanted to dig into specific exercises logged to see exactly what’s changed. One big takeaway from our findings? While not having access to a treadmill, weights, or elliptical machine means that exercises that would be typically performed in a gym are down, the frequency of most exercises went up. For example, among those who still have access to a treadmill, we’ve seen the frequency of use increase by more than 30 percent.

That said, other exercises that can be performed at home or outside are on the rise! Walk exercises, or brisk walks that last for at least 15 minutes, are up, and walks still constitute a large portion of user exercises. We’ve also seen substantial increases in the popularity of biking, yoga, and aerobic workouts. Among users who exercised at least once per week, yoga and biking have seen an increase of over 40 percent, while aerobic workouts have increased by more than 20 percent—meaning that users are taking this time to switch up their fitness routines. 

The one category of exercise that saw a decrease in frequency is sport, which typically engages a group of people. As this isn’t possible at the moment, we’ve observed a nearly 18 percent decrease in frequency. 

Another fun fact: the timing of exercise has also shifted. Now that users are less bound to a typical workday schedule, we’ve seen fewer lunchtime walks or early morning runs that used to be squeezed in before a commute. And now that the weekend is less packed with social activities, we’ve seen an increase in Friday evening runs. 

While the timing of exercise has shifted around the world, changes have not been consistent from region to region. In San Francisco, California, we’re seeing a concentration of runs in the late afternoon

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