Strategies to Set Ambitious Yet Attainable Physical Fitness Goals
Setting goals is a crucial step in achieving success in any endeavor, especially when it comes to physical fitness. As founder of SEALFIT and coach to elite athletes, I have developed a comprehensive goal-setting approach that has helped countless individuals reach their full potential. If you want to have a good life, taking care of your body is a must. Our mindset, emotions, awareness, and inner peace are all interconnected with the physical form. Each of us has unique physical skills and interests that can be achieved regardless of our life circumstances. Don’t let your current situation dictate your future. To be SEALFIT, we ask you to adopt the no-excuse attitude and get after it with all you have.
Here are my top three strategies to ensure success and help you set ambitious and attainable physical fitness goals.
- Define Your Vision
Defining your vision is the first step. What is it that you want to achieve? Is your vision to run a marathon, complete an obstacle course race, or simply improve your fitness? Those are objectives, not a vision. A vision is an internal view of what you have become and achieved in a future you envision. Perhaps that vision is to be a successful marathon or ultra runner. Great! Start there and imagine that as your current state. Then, reflect on how you will fulfill that vision. Write down ideas and strategies. Be as specific as possible, and include both short-term and long-term plans. By clearly defining your vision, you can develop clear targets to aim for.
- Break It Down and Chunk it Up
Once you have defined your vision and begun to visualize it, it’s time to break down the plan and strategy into smaller, more manageable goals. This step is crucial because it creates your roadmap for success. Start by asking the right questions, such as: What are the key milestones that will lead you toward your ultimate vision? Will you start with a few 10k runs, get a coach, dial in a training plan, and then ratchet up to a half marathon? What equipment do you need? Do you want to train alone or with a group? (I recommend you do both). The plan will be marked with milestones, such as completing that 10K, half marathon, and finally, the full marathon. Breaking your ideal outcome into smaller steps allows you to employ the ‘crawl, walk, run’ approach that the SEALs use in training. This helps you stay on track, see your progress, and most importantly, stay motivated.
- Set SMART-P Goals SEALFIT Style
SMART goal setting is not new, but we have a more nuanced approach. First, something is missing in that original formula. Goals must also be stated positively! That is why we say ‘SMART-P.’ There is also a second aspect to each of the acronym’s letters: Goals must be both specific and strategic, measurable and maintainable, attainable and actionable, relevant and realistic, time-bound and timely, and, yes, positive and productive. Let’s break these down:
- Specific/Strategic: (who, what, where, why?), Your goal should be carefully planned, clear, and well-defined. What is your strategy to reach your long-term goal? Be as straightforward as possible; instead of saying I want to get in shape, break it down to specifics: I want to run a 10-minute mile in three months.
- Measurable/Maintainable: Your goal should be quantifiable so that you can track your progress. For example, instead of saying, “I want to get stronger,” set a goal like “I want to increase my bench press by 20 pounds.” What micro-goals can you set along the way that will act as waypoints toward your success? How can you create a reasonable paradigm that manages progress? Is this process maintainable, or are you setting yourself up for failure by overtraining, burning out, or getting injured? Build in recovery and failure – reset opportunities into your plan.
- Attainable/Actionable: Your goal should be challenging but within reach. Consider your current fitness level and set goals that are realistic for you. With your current skill set and resources, can you achieve this goal simply by working towards it? If not, what skills do you need to develop, and what resources do you need beforehand? And are there obstacles that may make the goal non-actionable at the time you want, or within the time frame desired? This could be the needs of a significant other, time commitments you already made that you can’t renege on, and such. It’s impressive to push yourself beyond your comfort zone, but don’t set yourself up for failure
- Relevant/Realistic: Your goal should align with your overall vision and values, and be deeply meaningful to you. Revisit how the goal fits your vision and purpose. Then ponder whether it is realistic given your life situation. As a SEAL Lieutenant, I was inspired by the first SEAL astronaut to explore that path. But I had an undergraduate degree in economics and an MBA… while NASA required an MD or sciencey Ph.D. That would have taken me out of the SEALs and into ten more years of education— with a near zero % chance of getting into NASA. So, sad for me, but I had to ditch that goal as Unrealistic!
- Time-bound/Timely: Create a timeframe that finds a healthy balance between motivation and discipline. Your goal should have a deadline or target date. This will create a sense of urgency and help you stay focused on your progress. But before you embark on the journey and enact the processes, ensure it is still timely. Maybe conditions have changed (think Pandemic!), or you have suddenly shifted your vision as a result of your meditation. Perhaps the goal is simply not timely any longer. Let it go.
- Positively Stated/Productive: Be confident that your goal is charged only by positive words stated as if you have accomplished the goal. “By December 24, 2024, I have completed, x, y, z’… instead of “‘I want to, or I hope to.’ Also, ensure that all the energy and focus on this new goal will have a productive spill-over to other areas of your life. There are many ultra athletes or Navy SEALs who forsook their family time for hours on the road or trail.. and they regret it now.
So, bottom line up front: By establishing a solid vision and strategy, breaking the strategy into chunks, and setting SMART-P goals, you will ensure that your physical goals are both ambitious and attainable. This approach yields no excuses, and training daily with a positive attitude becomes the norm. Focus on what you can do, and get support and training in the areas you need to grow. Stay motivated with daily tracking, periodic recovery and reward, and an accountability buddy or team. At SEALFIT, we train with a swim buddy who holds us accountable and has our back. And finally, energize your goals in your morning rituals.
That is goal setting the SEALFIT way. Now go get busy.