As warm weather approaches, most people want to start getting more active, but don’t always know where to start. With a bit of guidance, though, you can be confident in setting goals that not only you can achieve, but will help you feel healthier in the process. Here are 7 realistic fitness goals for the new year, regardless of your age or activity level.
An excellent approach to keep in mind when creating your goals is the SMART method.
- Specific: Make your goal defined and clear. For instance, instead of “workout more,” choose something like “exercise 2 times a week.”
- Measurable: Keep track of your progress in your phone or a journal. This could look like logging the distance you walked each week or the weights you lifted.
- Attainable: Your goals should be reasonable and achievable within the chosen time frame. It’s not practical to train only 2 weeks for a marathon. A few months, on the other hand, is totally doable.
- Relevant: Think about what’s driving you to reach your goal. What’s the motivation? Maybe you want to be stronger, or be able to play with your grandkids.
- Timely: Set a deadline for your goals. Whether it’s four weeks or four months, it’s important to have an end date in mind.
If you still need an extra bit of spark behind your goals, think about the emotions that go into each goal. In other words, how will you feel when you achieve your goal? Will you feel empowered? More confident? These emotions will be your driving force and make them feel more real.
1. Exercise 12 Days In One Month
It’s a tale as old as time. You’re feeling ready to hit the gym on January 1st, but that fighting spirit starts fading come February. Staying motivated can be difficult, especially if you haven’t been very active. But consistency is key for building good habits and seeing your hard work pay off. That’s why starting off small can really help you stick with it, especially in the long term.
You can easily achieve this goal by blocking off time in your planner for your sweat sessions. Mark off 12 days throughout the month so you know you won’t have to worry about finding the time. Scheduling your workouts in advance also acts as a reminder to set aside your gym shoes or whatever equipment you may need.
Take it a step further by staying accountable with a workout buddy. Better yet, make a challenge to see who can finish their 12 workouts first. After the first month, reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Maybe you’ll adjust your goal to 15 workouts a month.
2. Try 1 New Workout A Month Until You Find One You Enjoy
There’s nothing worse than doing a workout that you absolutely dread. Counting down the seconds until it’s over and wishing you were anywhere else doing literally anything else is a surefire sign that that program isn’t going to last. While the thought of loving a workout may seem a bit far-fetched, there are still plenty of activities you can do that you will actually enjoy doing. You just have to find them.
Start by making a list of different workouts you’d like to try. Maybe you’ve always wanted to see what yoga was all about, or if kickboxing would unleash your inner warrior. Test out different programs each month until you find one that really ignites your spark. You may discover you work harder in a group class, or that you prefer to exercise in the comfort of your own home.
Switching up your workouts each month actually has another benefit as well. Each new exercise will challenge your body in a different way. You’ll build skills and work new muscles, which means you’ll likely see more results too.
3. Get 10,000 Steps Everyday For A Month
Counting steps is a great goal to shoot for outside of the gym. Simply doing everyday activities gets you one step closer (pun intended!) Hitting 10,000 steps a day might feel like a tall order, especially on days when you’re carting kids all around town to their different activities, or if your schedule is filled with wall-to-wall meetings. That’s why focusing on an average for the entire month is a smart approach. Some days you’re just not going to hit your mark, and that’s ok!
Your steps are going to vary from day to day, so try scheduling longer walks on the weekends, or days that you’re not as busy. Keep your walking shoes in your car or at the office so you’re always ready to squeeze in a nice stroll no matter what. Then, record your totals to track your progress.
Look to add more steps to your day wherever you can. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, and park further away than you normally do. Every step counts. You’ll start seeing some awesome health benefits, like better immune function and reduced stress. And let’s be honest, we all could use both of those things right now.
4. Do 10 Push-Ups Straight In 6 Weeks
Classic pushups engage your arms, chest, shoulders, and abs all in one movement. Part of their beauty is that you can do them anywhere, any time, and without any fancy equipment. They’re one of the most beneficial exercises you can do.
You’d have a hard time finding an exercise that increases your upper body strength better than pushups. That’s why they’re an excellent exercise to create a goal around. Shoot for completing 10 consecutive pushups after 6 weeks, regardless if they’re traditional or modified pushups.
Beginners should start with a modified version of pushups. Instead of pushing against the ground, try doing an incline push-up against a stable chair or counter. The movement will feel harder as you become more parallel to the ground. You can advance to doing regular pushups but with your knees on the floor at a 45° angle. Then work on a combo push-up where you lower yourself to the ground in classic pushup form, then use your knees to push yourself back up. Start with the first variation, working to complete three sets of 10 reps. Then, challenge yourself by switching to the next version.
5. Plank For 1 Minute In 4 Weeks
Similar to pushups, planks are an excellent exercise that you can do anywhere without needing any equipment. They’re famously known for working your core (your back and abs), while also engaging your arms, chest, and legs at the same time. Keeping a strong core goes far beyond just aesthetics, though. Your core is what allows you to maintain proper posture, which can prevent injuries and reduce back pain.
Setting a goal to plank for 1 full minute may seem daunting, but the payoff will be worth it in the end. To make things easier, you can break up your training into two categories: the length of time holding the plank and the form you use. Work your way up to your end goal by practicing your planks 2-3 times a week. Start by holding for 20 seconds and work your way up in 5-second increments as you become stronger.
Another way to work toward your goal is by modifying your form. Start by planking on your knees instead of your toes. As your arms get used to supporting your body, you can lift your knees off the ground. It’s important to keep your back straight during both variations and make sure the area you’re practicing in is clear of any hazards. If you are still a little nervous, stack pillows underneath your body so you can gently rest in between sets.
6. Drink 3 Liters Of Water Every Day For A Month
Staying hydrated is one of those things that you know is really important, but is easy to forget about unless you’re constantly thinking about it all the time. Drinking enough water helps prevent dehydration, which can cause dizziness, fatigue, and other serious health concerns. It’s especially imperative to stay hydrated throughout the day, so you’re ready when you start sweating during your workout. Click here to learn more about dehydration and how to combat it.
The amount of water you should drink each day varies on your activity level, body weight, and diet. It’s recommended that women aim for about 12 cups of water per day, and 16 cups for men. On more strenuous or active days, you’ll want to drink even more in order to replace the fluids you already lost.
There are many different ways to help you hit your hydration goals. For starters, bring a reusable water bottle with you wherever you go and fill it up throughout your day. You can also add some flavor enhancers to your water to mix things up. Try setting a mini goal for yourself to finish at least 1 liter of water by a certain time so you’re not chugging it all down before you go to bed.
7. Stretch After Workouts For 15 Minutes
While stretching may not seem nearly as fun as lifting weights or hitting the elliptical, it’s still a huge part of fitness. Stretching improves your range of motion, increases your flexibility and balance, and reduces inflammation- all of which will help keep you healthy and prevent injuries.
Ideally, you should stretch after your body is loosened and warmed up from your workout. A good rule of thumb is to spend 25% of your time recovering. So, if you’ve spent an hour in the gym, you should allot at least 15 minutes toward stretching afterward. It’s especially important to focus on the muscles you just exercised, and hold each stretch for 30-45 seconds.
If you just finished up on the treadmill, you’ll want to make sure you give your hamstrings the love they deserve. This can be done, for instance, by reaching for your toes. On the other hand, if you had a pilates class that heavily targeted your abs, make some time after the class to do stretches that lengthen your abdominal muscles, like a cobra pose. Just take deep breaths and don’t push yourself to the point that your stretching becomes painful.