Setting realistic fitness goals (and sticking to them)

Six days in to the New Year, and how’s everyone’s resolutions doing?

Hm?

Yeah, I thought so. I heard somewhere that it’s actually the second Friday of January when most people say ‘sod it’ and give up on their resolutions, but speaking from personal experience, I’m an early quitter, I’m not the only one, and I know several people who have already bailed on their New Years fitness resolutions.

I think I know what the problem is, because it’s a trap I’ve seen so many people fall into and before I really got my head together, one I fell into.

If the results aren’t instant, people won’t stick it out.

There’s always crap in the magazines at this time of year saying ‘get fit in a week’ or ‘get shredded in ten days’ and that’s absolute bollocks, pardon my language. Unless you’re already a freakin’ athlete you won’t get fit in a week, and shredding? Unless it’s shredding a sick riff on a guitar, a week won’t do much for you.

You can’t quick fix fitness. You have to commit to it. Starting slowly with a nice regular exercise routine that’s not going to destroy you either physically or mentally is the best way to begin any fitness journey.

As for setting goals, those need to be realistic. For instance if you’ve never run before, but have decided that 2023 is going to be the year you run the London Marathon… mate, I’ve got some news for you. You should have started training two years ago. Not only do you need to be fit enough, you need to have a fuelling strategy in place and also do some work in the gym to help with the running. Sorry, not going to happen. Push that goal to 2025 and start now if you’re serious.

However, if you’ve never run before, then definitely get started. But know your limits and don’t expect to be smashing out the miles within a week. I also would not recommend one of the Couch to 5k programs because they assume you have some base level of fitness already. If you do, fine, if you don’t, steer clear and have a look online for absolute beginner running programs. They are out there – I have one for cycling, and it’s pretty good.

As the year goes on, you may have to adjust your fitness goals depending on what life decides to throw at you. Last year I had plans to ride the British Heart Foundation off road London to Brighton. Instead I had a hysterectomy and spent most of the year recovering from that, and I know I still won’t be fit enough to ride that event this year. My body isn’t ready, so I’ve switched out the BHF ride goal with ‘try and ride the Downs Link as just a casual ride’ instead. That’s about 60km, I’ve set myself a date in September to do it, and if I manage it, then we can talk about entering the BHF ride in 2024.

The important thing when setting fitness goals is to not get disheartened when things don’t go the way you planned. I’ve often had to go and have a sob in my car after a gym session where my body said ‘oh hell no’ to a new exercise or to an increase in intensity. Mentally, I was ready for it, but physically, clearly not. Listen to your body. It tells you things for a reason.

So in conclusion, when you’re setting fitness goals, I would say the three most important things to consider are:

  • Be realistic with your goals
  • Listen to your body
  • Don’t get disheartened if you have to adjust or quit on a goal

Good luck everyone, and I hope you achieve everything you set out to do this year.

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