Written by Lee Boyce | Photo by Ahmani Vidal/istockphoto.com

At the turn of every year, it’s become a habit to set new goals. And for many, this means getting back to the gym. In fact, a study conducted by NPR found that committing to exercise was the top new year’s resolution in America (followed closely by losing weight and eating healthier). But as a trainer, if one more client approaches me totally gung-ho about losing x amount of weight this year without any game plan to get them there or itching to run a marathon when they’ve never once laced up a pair of sneakers, I might lose it. I’m committed to supporting you to stick to your goals well past February, but that might require a methodical goal-setting approach on your end. To help fill that gap, and unapologetically send you my personal wish list for the goals I want my clients to set so we can get those gains together, here are the top five goals that your trainer no doubt wants you to set.


1. Moderate habit changes.

Swearing an oath and signing in blood to cut all sugar, train six days per week, and get eight hours of sleep per night starting in January is a pretty noble move. But if these changes aren’t conducive to a routine you’re already following, it’s likely going to be impossible to follow—especially long term. Even if you’re 80 percent there with your goals, it can still be a big ask to adhere to new changes to your routine. 

Instead, start with one habit change and make it moderate and legit. Sleep and water consumption are real foundational habits for better energy, overall health, and gain amplification. Aiming for an extra three hours of sleep per week would mean going to bed half an hour earlier each day. Changing 90 percent of the beverages you drink to water is another fairly simple habit change that can drastically reduce daily sugar intake. Though it may seem like less of a commitment towards those fitness goals you’ve been manifesting, these small habit changes will be far more valuable long term.


2. Focus on the long-term vision instead of short-term gratification. 

Instagram and TikTok have us all drinking the Kool-Aid to some degree. Though we know deep down that these platforms are sometimes riddled with misinformation, the daily promise our news feeds provide us of a certain body type in a short time frame can weigh us down in terms of goal setting.

Instead of looking to transform in the first few weeks of the year, it’s important to set goals that will allow you to sustain and attain your fitness goals for not only the entire year, but for a lifetime. 

Instead of looking to transform in the first few weeks of the year, it’s important to set goals that will allow you to sustain and attain your fitness goals for not only the entire year, but for a lifetime. 

Nothing sustainable is built or attained in a few short weeks. And if your goals involve body re-composition, keep the following metrics in mind:

  • Losing body fat: About 2 lbs per week can be considered safe. That means a 12-lb weight loss in six weeks.
  • Adding muscle: About 1 lb per month, safely. That means 12 lbs of extra lean muscle in a year.

Keep in mind these examples also come with the prerequisite of following your plan to a T—suffice to say, that likely won’t be the case for most of us. Realistically, your goals need to take extra time into account for life. Missing a workout or enjoying yourself at a friend’s birthday should be expected and more importantly, accepted. Your health is a lifelong journey. We need to be okay with that and tune out the online chatter.


3. End every workout on a high note. 

Keeping good form and technique at the forefront of your fitness goals is incredibly important. Not only does proper performance mean fewer injuries and better recovery, but it also helps with your mindset. When we get stuck in the rep or max rabbit hole (where we put more weight on the bar and finish the set regardless of form), our mindset also suffers.

Can we collectively agree on a goal to feel good after every workout? Meaning, if you need to end a workout early or swap out an exercise altogether, don’t consider that action as “cheating yourself” or “making excuses,” but instead, smarter training.

Can we collectively agree on a goal to feel good after every workout? Meaning, if you need to end a workout early or swap out an exercise altogether, don’t consider that action as “cheating yourself” or “making excuses,” but instead, smarter training.

Every set performed in the gym should feel good. Training through pain is a real inexcusable part of fitness, and the idea of pushing harder with no exceptions is a way to live a life of injury. Let’s look forward to each workout, shall we? And that means, not pushing ourselves to the brink of our limits every session.


4. Trust your intuition.          

When you work with a good trainer, their goal is to arm you with a toolbox packed with knowledge, confidence, and skill to eventually put together your own effective workouts. While trainers can be invaluable to a certain extent, your job as a client is to learn to listen to your own body and intuition. You should feel empowered to let your trainer know what works for you, and what doesn’t. If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve hired a trainer and you feel apprehensive to tell them how you really feel, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Set a goal to trust yourself and feel confident enough to speak up when needed.


5. Compete against yourself.         

Whether it’s on social media or in the gym, competing with anyone other than yourself puts you at risk to become intimidated, discouraged and possibly give up on your fitness goals altogether. The truth is, there will always be a more experienced lifter than you, or a woman running beside you that doesn’t seem to ever be out of breath. But when you can look inward for your competitive edge, the outside factors of your workout won’t impact your success.

By making it a goal to avoid comparing your results to the results or rate of change of others, you reaffirm one important thing to both yourself and your trainer: You’ve got this.

Looking for more inspiration for your new year goals?
Click here for Five Health Goals That Have Nothing To Do With Losing Weight.
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