Step 3: Set Your Fitness Goals

Setting goals is essential if you want to obtain optimum health and reach your fitness objectives. In today’s fast paced society our personal time is at a premium. Far too often our health and well being comes second to work, school, and family. The biggest challenge for many of us is making time for physical activity. Therefore, the time we spend in the gym is too valuable to waste. We need an action plan focusing our efforts. Setting goals is the first step of designing a systematic plan that will lead to success.

Types of Fitness Goals:

Physiological – Physiological goals comprise muscular strength increases, changes in body composition, and increased flexibility.

Behavioral – Behaviors that affect fitness and wellness include smoking, sleeping patterns, and television viewing habits. Behavioral goals are some of the most challenging to meet.

Nutritional – Refers to food intake. Never ignore the importance of diet when setting fitness and wellness goals.

Goals are most effective when they are:

Well Planned – Setting a goal is only the first step. Our goals form a picture of what the future will be, while a well conceived action plan is the road map that leads you there. An action plan will help you focus your efforts, and push you through the inevitable rough spots.

Prioritized – Start with only one or two long-term goals. Do not try to change everything at once.

Personalized – Research demonstrates that personalized goals are more motivational than goals set by others. Only YOU can set goals that are relevant to you. A fitness expert can help beginners set parameters.

Written – “A goal is only a wish until it is written down” (Hoeger and Hoeger, 1998. p.20). Once a goal is written down it becomes a personal contract. Use a small inexpensive notebook as a training log, and write your goals in it. Look at them regularly. Post your written goals in locations that you will see several times during the day (work desk, bathroom mirror, or the refrigerator). A young Tiger Woods posted his goals under a poster of Jack Nicklaus on his bedroom wall.

Realistic – Goals must be challenging without being unrealistic. Some research indicates that difficult goals lead to a better outcome. However, unattainable goals are often the cause of injury, frustration, and ultimately the discontinuation of exercise. During the early stages of a fitness program, it is important to design short-term goals that are attainable. A thorough self-assessment must be completed before realistic goals can be determined.

Evaluate – Revisit and evaluate your goals periodically. If you find that a goal is unattainable, adjust it. The same should be done with goals that are too easy.

Measurable – Establish goals with specific objectives in mind. “I want to lose weight” or “I want to get bigger” are not specific goals. A better example is: “I will increase my lean body mass by 3%.”

Time-specific – Goals are useless without a specific target date of completion. Set a challenging but realistic target date. Falling a little short of your target date is O. K. (Long-term goals are between three and six months. Set short-term goals with a time-line of one week to one month. Immediate goals are set for each day or each workout.) Many fitness experts report that the completion of a short-term fitness goal is the greatest motivator for continued exercise.

Monitored – A workout journal (activity log) is one of the best tools for reinforcing behavior. Using a workout journal to monitor progress is motivational. Oftentimes the subtle changes that occur from one workout to the next are only visible when using a log to track progression. Every student in the Cañada College Fitness Center should use a log to monitor progress toward their specific fitness goals, even if that goal is only the maintenance of current fitness level.

Rewarded – Attach an appropriate reward for each of your goals. For example, if you drop 3 percent body fat over the next two months, buy yourself a fitness related gift. Research indicates that rewards for short-term goals are a very effective tool for reinforcing behavioral change.

Positive – Goals should be positive and optimistic. Design goals that identify behavior that you want to display. Do not focus on behavior that avoids failure. “I will not be lazy and miss another week of working out” is an example of a goal emphasizing the negative. A better example of a short term goal is: “I will make time this week for myself. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 5:30pm until 6:30pm I will enjoy an intense, focused training session at the Cañada College Fitness Center.”

Setting goals might be the most important exercise you perform in the Fitness Center. Do not waste your time this semester. Use the attached worksheet, or your fitness journal, to record your goals.


Hoeger, W A., and Hoeger, S. A. Lifetime Physical Fitness and Wellness - A Personalized Program (Englewood, CO: Morton Publishing Company, 1998), 17 - 21.

Dodd, S. L. and Powers, S. K. Total Fitness and Wellness 3rd; Brief Edition (San Francisco, CA: Benjamin Cummings, 2003), 67-68.