With so much hyper-specific advice out there on different styles of training and areas of fitness, it's easy to lose sight of the big picture. Everyone has different fitness goals, ranging from generally trying to stay active to viewing fitness as a lifestyle. We talked to three experienced trainers on what some of the most important fitness goals should be for just about anybody. These goals will keep you grounded and force you to look at the big picture in your approach to incorporating physical activity within your life.
1. Be in it for the long run
Right now, you might be hitting the gym pretty hard, getting yourself into the best shape of your life. Of course, it won’t always be that way, so just realize that fitness should be a part of your life for decades to come. A number of athletes refuse to ease off the gas pedal, going all out and then quitting exercise cold turkey. Obviously, there are others who never take up healthy exercise habits in the first place. “I have seen too many extremely successful people pass away in their early 50s because they never took care of themselves,” says trainer Mike Duffy, who owns his own personal training company in New Jersey. “They end up leaving their beautiful children, wonderful wives and the enjoyment of their financial success because nutrition and fitness were never incorporated into their lifestyles.” Realize that fitness should be a lifetime commitment with ever-changing goals and expectations, and it should help you live a longer, healthier life.
2. Get onto a healthy nutrition plan
“Nutrition goals are usually pretty crucial [in order] to achieve success,” says Steve Ettinger, a fitness expert, speaker and certified strength and conditioning specialist. Picking out an effective nutrition plan depends on what your fitness/health goals are, but the general idea of getting more fruits and vegetables in your diet, along with plenty of protein and complex carbohydrates is something most people will agree on. Working out how much to consume of each will depend on your specific fitness goals. Do your best to limit junk food and other sources of empty calories.
3. Monitor your vital statistics and keep them in check
This is in reference to your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and resting heart rate. A lot of guys don’t keep these numbers in mind, and it is difficult to monitor all of these on a very consistent basis. However, these vital statistics become especially important as you get older, and it’s in your best interest to make sure your numbers are good now so nothing sneaks up on you some day. “Health and longevity are extremely important and should be everyone’s priority,” says Duffy.
4. Have a consistent approach
Having a set workout routine is integral to optimizing your results and should be one of your main fitness goals. Once you establish a program that works for you, you’ll become more efficient, and making tweaks to your routine shouldn’t be too difficult as you make progress. If you aren’t sure where to begin, know that just showing up to work out is more than half the battle – you can hash out a more specific schedule as you move ahead. “Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or haven’t trained for the last several years, getting into a serious rhythm always makes things more successful than if you constantly start and stop,” Ettinger says.
5. Improve your flexibility and balance
“Many people lose flexibility and balance with age,” Duffy says. “When your flexibility decreases the integrity of your joints are compromised leading to joint injuries, muscle tears, broken bones, etc.” Flexibility and balance aren’t normally at the top of the list for guys as they try to improve their fitness, but it’s something that certainly comes into play as a person ages. Robins notes that this is a tougher goal to attain because it’s hard to quantify, but there are times when your next fitness goal will require a stronger base of flexibility and/or balance than your body can handle. Make sure all parts of your body are on the same page.
6. Improve our immune system
In a lot of ways, this one could be a goal that flanks a lot of your other goals. Part of the reason you work out is to feel better, so naturally, exercise can work to improve your body’s resistance to a number of diseases. Various studies have found that physical activity boosts your immune system, which obviously helps you now, and maybe even more as you get older.
7. Get out of your comfort zone
As important as it is to stick to a certain routine, it’s great to take a stab at something new every once in a while. “Once a month, I try to do something that puts me outside of my comfort zone,” says Robins. “It’s great to try something that you makes you a little suspect or afraid.” This could be any activity you’ve wanted to try, as long as there’s a certain level of exercise involved. This concept could also apply to the exercises you do during your routine if you want a more consistent challenge. Go running more often if you’ve always been a lifter, or vice versa. “Accomplishing something that you’re not already successful at is the best way to challenge yourself,” Ettinger says.
8. Take a proper amount of time to achieve your goals
We all have friends who burn themselves out quickly – going on crazy diets only to go back to eating junk food within a month, or getting to the gym every day for a couple weeks before giving it up. Be reasonable when you set goals. It’s nearly impossible to make a sudden, drastic change in lifestyle that will stick, and it’s pretty much impossible to get noticeably stronger and faster every day. Both of these concepts apply nicely to anyone’s fitness regimen, so bare in mind that any one day’s workout won’t make the big difference – it’s the accumulation of many of them.
9. Make your fitness goals specific, measurable, attainable and time-bound
When setting fitness goals in the short-term, make sure they’re not too ambitious, while having a set timetable along with achievable numbers. “Having something that you can measure and that is a little bit more tangible makes it easier to continue to work towards your end-goal,” Ettinger says. There may always be an overarching goal, but if it’s something that requires a significant change in your body, you’ll need to have a number of bite-size goals along the way. Making goals with the above criteria in mind will help you make progress in a timely manner.
10. Focus more on establishing healthy habits than on results
You’ve probably seen other doing the exercises you want to complete, exhibiting the exact body type you want to achieve. It’s easy to get caught up in results and what’s going on in front of your eyes, but it’s more beneficial to focus on what sort of habits bring about the results you want. “Don’t look at the numbers involved with someone who has achieved what you want to achieve,” Robins says. “Look at the habits that that person goes through. Habits lead to the achievement of other overarching goals.”