Goal setting in exercise: 9 key things to know for your Fitness Goals to stick

Everyone wants the ideal body.

So, at one point or the other in our lives, we all look to set fitness goals.

Goal setting in exercise is not only for good health (and a sense of well-being), it can be set to increase attractiveness.

But as much as everyone talks a good game about their fitness goals, it’s only a few that see their exercise goals through.

But I’m here to change that.

goal setting in exercise

9 keys things to know before your next goal setting in exercise and fitness

Here are the key insights I’ve learned over the years that have helped me set reasonable exercise goals and see those goals through.

  1. Why is getting fit important to you?

On a fateful day, my dad went for a doctor’s checkup because he was feeling funny.

And after the results of his tests came back, “You have type-2 diabetes”, the doctor said.

To maintain his health, he was advised on diets, drugs, and the doctor officially recommended a daily dose of exercise.

“It’s mandatory,” He said. “And your life depends on it”.

You can bet money that my dad never missed a day of exercise after that.

Setting fitness goals suddenly became IMPORTANT to him!!

But why did he wait till a life-threatening disease is diagnosed before he took exercising seriously?

Well, the answer’s simple:

Fitness and exercise goals are one of those goals that the negative side-effects of not setting them now is far off in the future1—and the benefits of sticking to these goals are also far off in the future.2

It’s because of this futuristic damage (and discounted benefits) that people find it difficult to stick to their fitness and exercise goals. No matter how motivated they were when they set the goals.

Do you remember the last exercise goal you set? How long did it last? 2 weeks? Or is it 2 days?

Be honest!

After all, you haven’t had the luck of being mandated to exercise by your doctor.

But that’s in the past.

Moving on, the new goal setting question to ask is how do you get out of this motivation pickle?

How do you attach so much importance to your exercise goals when it’s not yet life-threatening?

The answer: You’ll need to forget about the importance of sticking to your exercise goals altogether.

Forget about all you’ll gain when you achieve your fitness and exercise goals.

Forget about the end; and begin regardless.

  1. Don’t begin with the end in mind

fitness goal setting

To make things easy on yourself, it’s better to forget about the end.

Instead, focus on the processes involved in building the habit of a person that works out consistently.

Focus on the pain you’ll feel when you start working out.

Think of ways you can make this pain easier on yourself.

Because thinking about the outcome—having a ripped body, lasting longer in bed, or whatever messed up reason you’re exercising for—is very easy.

Everybody can do it!!

But it usually hinders progress. Because the outcome can only motivate you for 2 weeks or so.

And when the pain starts, and you start having a crisis of expectation3, you’ll likely give up.

But if you’re wise, you’ll be aware of all the obstacles you’ll encounter when you’re executing your fitness goals.

And more than that, you’ll plan for them ahead.

Speaking of obstacles to your fitness goals, let me introduce you to the worst of them; the resistance force.

  1. Be aware of the resistance force

goal setting in exercise

I’m assuming you know about the force of gravity, electrical force, and all the other forces of nature.

Well, there’s another force that no one talks about. And this force permeates your existence on every level.

This force is known as the resistance force.

What this force does is negate every good thing you try to achieve in life.

This force is responsible for all the failed goals you have under your belt.

The resistance force comes in many (unexpected) forms:

  • That friend that keeps telling you that you’re a sucker for paying for the gym membership,
  • That voice in your head that reminds you how tired you are when you’re about to take that walk in the evening,
  • That friend that always invites you to a late-night party when you need to get up early in the morning to work out,
  • The fear of the pain (soreness) you’ll feel when you start working out,
  • The fear of not getting the desired result after putting in the effort,
  • The late-night work you had to do at the office causing you to miss going to the gym that day,
  • Procrastination for whatever reason. Doesn’t matter how genuine that reason is, and so on.

But as devastating as the resistance force can be, there are ways you can defeat it for you to achieve your exercise goals.4

  1. Plan for the resistance force

The first step in defeating the resistance force is to be aware of it.

So, when you notice that you don’t want to exercise, pay attention to why.

It might be an external resistance; someone—like a family member that wants you to run an errand, or an external event—like having to work late.

Resistance can also be internal; maybe it’s a voice in your head telling you that if you don’t exercise today, the world won’t stop spinning.

So, listen for it. Whatever it is!

Once you identify the resistance force, know that it’s nothing but false messages.

It has no real power over you. Its only job is to stop you from being the best possible version of yourself.

If this knowingness isn’t enough to overcome the resistance, then you need to get down to the nitty-gritty details of actual battle plans.

  1. Start small

fitness goal setting

There’s nothing that the resistance force likes more than difficult tasks.

This is because it’s easy for the resistance force to persuade you not to do something—if you already find the thing difficult to do.

So, your first task for goal setting in exercise is to not complicate things for yourself.

Don’t start with complicated workout routines. Leave those to the pros.

And aside from the over-complicated workout routines, don’t exercise till exhaustion.

If you want to be lifting, start with the small weights.

If you’re planning on running every evening, start with the smallest mile that won’t exhaust you.

At the start of your fitness and exercise goals, go for volume. Not for intensity.

If you can’t do volume yet, go for showing up and just warming up.

  1. Make starting easy

The bulk of the resistance you feel when you need to exercise is the resistance to start.

You’ll notice that once you start, you gain momentum and the resistance disappears.

So, the logical thing to do when you’re setting your fitness goals is to make starting very easy.

Make sure you bring the resistance to start exercising down to the barest minimum.

The ways you can make starting easy include;

  • Optimizing your environment for your fitness goals: because how hard it is for you to start your fitness habit determines if you’ll stick to it. And this often boils down to your environment. For instance, the proximity of your gym to your house can serve as resistance. Sleeping in your gym gear might be what lowers resistance to work out when you wake up.
  • Using the 2-minute rule: this is the rule popularized by David Allen. The rule is that you should break down your habit to its 2 minutes version. In this context, if you want to go running, it’ll only take 2 minutes to wear your running shoes and go outside. If you want to go workout in the gym, it only takes 2 minutes to get dressed, go outside, and hail a cab.
  1. Make the little things a habit first

At the end of it all, it’s the little things—the 2 minutes activities—that you want to be a master of.

Be a master at showing up and warming up, and before you know it, you’re a master at working out consistently.

Do you want to run every day?

Then you need to make a ritual out of getting into your running gears and running for a small mile.

Afterward, you can graduate to mastering running for longer miles and doing it consistently.

You want the little things to become a ritual.

  1. Track your efforts: Don’t under-estimate them

Most people undermine the efforts they’ve put into their exercise goals—especially if the expected results aren’t forthcoming.

When they execute the fitness goals for a couple of weeks, they conclude that since they’re not seeing the results yet, it’s a waste of time.

If you appreciate yourself for the consistent efforts you’re putting in, you’ll see that the efforts start motivating you to keep going.

You can appreciate your efforts Jerry Seinfeld’s style:

Get a calendar and start marking the days you were able to work on your fitness goals with a big X—instead of journaling the results.

As this X becomes a chain, you won’t want to break that chain. This, in turn, increases your motivation to keep going.5

And it also keeps the resistance force at bay for the time being.

Goal setting in exercise: How do you get back when you lose motivation?

For some freak reason, if you’re doing it all—focusing on putting in the efforts—and you still manage to lose momentum and motivation, how do you get back on the wagon?

  1. The 2-day rule

The 2-day rule states that you should not miss an exercise routine twice in a row.

So, if you miss a day of workout, make sure you don’t miss the workout the next day.

As simple as this rule seems on the surface, it can be what stands between you missing a day of workout, and never revisiting that workout goal.

The 2-day rule is beneficial because it relieves you of the psychological pressure you’ll put on yourself if you miss a day of workout.

And it also allows you to purposefully have guilt-free rest days in-between your fitness goals.

So, if the chain of your Seinfeld’s method of sustained efforts breaks, the 2-day rule allows you to pick it up the next day—guilt-free.

  1. You won’t likely develop that diabetes and cardiovascular disease now. It’s so far off in the future that your brain will rationalize that you can always start exercising next year. And next year will come around, and you’ll procrastinate again
  2. Although, 15 minutes of daily exercise will make you live longer, you can’t go to the gym today, and start seeing the result tomorrow. It doesn’t work like that!
  3. A crisis of expectation is when you’re too focused on the outcome of your goals—and you lose motivation when you aren’t getting the result you were expecting.
  4. I first learned about the concept of the resistance force in the war of art by Steven Pressfield. It’s a good book and I’ll recommend you listen to it for free on audible.
  5. The Don’t break the chain productivity model by Jerry Seinfeld has helped a lot of people achieve their exercise and fitness goals.