How to Get Fit: Goal Setting and Measurement

It’s one thing to say you want to get fit, but doing it is another thing altogether. What you need are SMART goals and a way of accurately measuring your progress.

How many times has ‘get fit’ appeared at the top of your list of New Year’s resolutions, only to be ditched by the time Australia Day rolls around?

Well, it’s time to dust off your training shoes. We’re going to help you plan and achieve your ‘get fit’ goal so you’ll never have to include it in your resolutions again!

It’s all very well to be aware that exercise is good for you. But if you’re serious about wanting to get fit, there are a few vital steps you need to take to ensure you reach your end goal. The first thing you need to do is be strategic. It’s common for people to give up on goals because they haven’t put a practical plan in place to achieve them.

If you really want to get fit, being vague won’t get you anywhere.

You need a plan of attack that is:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-based

This is what we call SMART goal setting. So grab a pen and some paper (or your phone, tablet or computer!) and let’s talk about how you can get SMART and get fit. What exactly does SMART stand for?

Specific

When we’re specific about what we want to achieve, we’re more likely to make it happen.

Ambiguous plans are easier to ignore when they don’t come to pass. Sound familiar? Do you think Beyoncé’s as successful as she is today by being fluffy with her goals? You’d better believe she has her personal and professional ambitions nailed down.

When it comes to getting fit, be crystal clear about what you want to achieve. ‘Getting fit’ is too vague. More specific examples could be that you want to run 3km without stopping or be able to do 50 sit-ups.

Measurable

If you can measure it, you can manage it.

Set goals that can be measured with cold, hard numbers. Start by assessing where your health is now. Get on the scales, take tests or measurements, and check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels with your doctor. Then work out where you want to be.

By setting a goal which involves progress that you can measure, you’ll be able to see change occur week by week or month by month. Never underestimate the exhilaration of achievement – it will spur you on to reach your final goal!

Achievable

Your goals should be honest and attainable. Taking your job, family commitments and current fitness level into consideration, set a goal that you know you’re capable of achieving.

Saying “I’m going to lose 15 kilos in three weeks” is beyond optimistic. Setting a goal to lose 8 kilos over 12 weeks is more achievable.

Realistic

Having a realistic goal is about all tactics.

Realistic goals are sustainable, well-informed and practically achievable over your assigned time period. You might set yourself an achievable weight loss goal, but your methods for reaching that might be impractical, making the goal unrealistic.

For example, if your goal is to lose eight kilos in 12 weeks that’s great – but if you’re planning on reaching this goal by just doing yoga twice a week, that’s probably an unrealistic goal.

Be honest with yourself about what you can achieve in order to get fit, and find out what it will take to make it happen. There are 24 hours in a day and, while two hours of exercise might be doable if you have nothing else on, how will it realistically fit in with your day? Is it sustainable? An hour a day is more realistic for most people.

Time-based

Time is of the essence! That doesn’t mean you have to rush at your goal like a bull at a gate - but it does mean your goal needs to be time-based. Set a date by which you want to achieve your goal, and then draw up a day-by-day, week-by-week plan to get fit.

Without a time limit, there’s no urgency to start taking action now, and without a time-based plan there’s not enough structure to maintain steady momentum. What are you going to do each week to burn those calories, increase your muscle mass or finish that marathon?

Depending on your goal, you’ll probably need a combination of well-planned exercise and nutrition, like the plans offered on 12WBT’s fitness programs. If you’re going it alone, you’ll need to map out what you’ll be doing each day and remember to keep it fresh.

The best cardio exercises are the ones that you can do daily, so choose fitness exercises that you enjoy doing and don’t be afraid to mix things up.

Get Started and Get Fit

Now that you know the theory behind setting goals, you’ll need to work out the ‘get fit’ program that best suits you.

Knowing where to start is one of the most important parts of getting fit.

Here are some quick and easy benchmarks to help you figure out your current state of fitness. All you’ll need is a 30-centimetre ruler, a stopwatch (most smartphones have one) and your local running oval or a large area in which you can measure out a distance.

Document your results on a computer, in your phone or in an exercise book, and keep them somewhere you’ll be able to find them easily.

Measuring Strength

A push-up test is a great way to assess your strength.

Just count how many push-ups you can do on your knees without a pause. This exercise tracks your upper-body strength and must be executed with perfect technique. You need to make sure you pull in your abs, elongate your neck by tucking in your chin and are looking down as your chest lowers to 10 centimetres off the ground.

Your test results will improve with regular training. Here’s a good rule of thumb for push-ups:

  • Beginner: 20 push-ups or less
  • Intermediate: 21–30 push-ups
  • Advanced: 31+ push-ups

If you can do 31 or more on your knees, you should be doing push-ups (and planks) on your toes!

Testing Cardio Fitness

To assess your cardiovascular fitness, a one-kilometre running trial will do the trick.

You can either do two and a half laps of your typical 400-metre oval or you can mark out a one-kilometre stretch of road with your car and retrace the route back to the beginning.

Here are some benchmarks for you:

  • Beginner: 1km in over 8 minutes
  • Intermediate: 1km in 5.5 to 8 minutes
  • Advanced: 1km in under 5.5 minutes

Measuring Flexibility

For flexibility, the universal measure is the sit and reach test. It’s best if you get a friend or partner to help you with this.

Sit on the ground or floor, with your legs extended and your feet against a step or bench. Place a ruler sticking out towards you between your feet on the bench, with the soles of your feet level with the 10cm mark on the ruler. That is, 10cm of the ruler should extend out towards you between your feet.

Then see how far you can reach towards your toes or if you can go past them. This exercise accurately assesses lower-back and hamstring flexibility. If you rate well on this scale, chances are you won’t have lower-back problems.

Using the 10cm mark as your zero point, 12WBT categorises the sit and reach like this:

  • Beginner: –5cm or lower (ie: 5cm from your toes)
  • Intermediate: –4cm to +5cm (ie: 4cm from your toes to 5cm beyond your toes)
  • Advanced: +6cm or higher (ie: 6cm or more beyond your toes)

Get Fit Goals: Knowing What Works for You!

Now that you have your benchmarks and your personal starting point, what are you going to aim for? Remember, you want it to be both realistic and achievable. A good way to set a fitness goal is to aim to do double what you do now. And remember, if you achieve your goal early, you’re on a roll - it gives a great incentive to set another, harder goal after that.

An example of keeping it SMART

Ok, so let’s choose what might seem like a really huge goal, but it’s a great way to illustrate how SMART goals can be broken down and become something quite achievable.

Goal: To run a marathon in 12 months’ time.

Is it Specific?

Yes, running a marathon is a clearly defined and specific goal.

Is it Measurable?

Yes, a marathon is 42km long, so that’s a distance that can clearly be measured.

Is it Achievable?

Well, this would depend on things like your own life circumstances (can you devote the time to training, given your child-care or work responsibilities, for example?) or whether you have any pre-existing injuries. However, assuming you’re injury-free and can set aside an hour or so each day to train (plus extra time on a Saturday for a good long run), then yes, it should be achievable.

Is it Realistic?

Again, this depends on the individual, and you need to be honest with yourself. The answer will be different for someone who’s already quite fit compared with someone who’s starting from scratch.

If you feel unsure, you have a few options:

  • a) Extend the time period for reaching your goal to 18 months or even two years.
  • b) Change the goal to running a half-marathon in 12 months’ time.
  • c) Decide to go for it - you can always readjust your goal as time goes on. And who knows? You might reach it anyway!

Is it Time-based?

Yes, 12 months is a clearly defined time period. It’s also easy to break this down to time-based sub-goals. For example, in order to run a marathon in 12 months’ time, that means you’d need to be able to run a half-marathon (21km) in six months’ time, a 10km fun run in three months’ time and 4km without stopping in a month’s time. Those are all great SMART sub-goals and will give you a fantastic sense of achievement as you tick them off.

See how even an apparently massive challenge might become quite simple and more achievable when you set a SMART goal and break it down into sub-goals? You can do the same for losing weight, learning to run, improving your running speed, lifting a certain amount of kilos in the gym, or taking part in a fitness class or sport.

The less conditioned you are, the more you’re going to improve. So if you’re out of shape, you might see an 800 percent improvement in three months. If you’re in good shape and you really push it, chances are you’ll only double or triple your existing benchmarks.

Make sure you don’t lose the momentum after three months. Once you’ve seen what you can achieve in this time frame, continue to plan and revise your six, 12 and 18-month goals, adjusting them as you go along. Chances are, you’ll smash your three-month goal and will have to revise your goals upwards!

When New Year’s Eve comes around next year, you’ll already have your plan in place. Sound smart?

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