Deciding on your personal fitness goals when you begin your exercise programme will make an enormous difference to your progress. If you have specific fitness goals, you will see specific results, so you’ll be motivated to keep going, and set yourself even higher targets.
Unfocused general fitness goals such as ‘I want to get in shape’ are so hard to quantify that you’ll be unable to measure your progress, and may be tempted to quit. Instead, set yourself more immediately achievable targets, and then, when you have reached them, continuously update your training plan to aim for new targets. The key to success is to choose exercise targets that are "SMART":
Make sure your targets address the W questions – who, what, when, where, why. “Losing weight” is not specific, but “losing 3 pounds in time for my summer holiday” is.
Use numbers when you set your targets. “Run faster” is not a measurable target. Instead, choose a target such as “run a mile in under 7 minutes”.
Setting yourself a target you can’t reach is only going to leave you feeling demoralised. Break down your target into the steps involved to reach it, and you’ll be able to work out if your aim is attainable.
Work towards a target you genuinely want to reach; and it must be something you are both willing and able to work for. For some that might be training up for next year’s London marathon. For others it might be participating in a five mile fun-run.
Giving yourself a time limit will keep you a lot more focused on your target. There’s nothing like a ticking clock to keep your mind on the task, so this final step in planning your targets is a vital one.