If you want to make progress with your fitness or weight loss, you need to have a goal. Otherwise, how will you measure your progress and know that you've succeeded? We take a look at how to set fitness goals and importantly, how to achieve them.
What is a SMART goal for fitness?
The most common and successful way to set a goal for fitness (or for anything for that matter) is to create a SMART goal. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and with a Time frame. By creating a SMART goal, you will avoid making unrealistic and unspecific goals which may not be achievable, and will help you to create an excellent goal that will get you where you want to be. By creating a SMART goal you are almost guaranteeing yourself success and you will be able to better assess your progress as you go.
What is an example of a long term fitness goal?
There are two types of goal: long term and short term. A short term goal is one which you aim to achieve in a relatively short space of time, perhaps within 3 months. A long term fitness goal is one which you will continue to tweak and work on progressively for an extended period of time, such as 1-3 years.
An example of a long term fitness goal would be to go from being overweight to completing a marathon in 3 years. You would need lots of short term goals in between, such as completing a couch to 5k programme, successfully completing a 10k, a half marathon, losing an amount of weight, eating better etc. By creating short term goals, you break down the long term goal and make it far more manageable. This will aid your chances of success and keep you focused and motivated the entire time.
SMART goals for weight loss examples
Having the goal to 'lose weight' is far too broad and you are very unlikely to succeed in it. There is no time frame so you won't know when you've achieved it, and there is no measurement so it could go on indefinitely as your weight fluctuates up and down. An example of a SMART goal for weight loss would be:
"I will lose 10kg in 6 months by running 3 times a week and going to the gym twice a week. Once I have achieved this goal, I will treat myself to a new set of activewear in a smaller size."
This is an example of a SMART goal as it is very specific, it is measurable because you can weigh yourself each month to make sure you're on track, it is achievable as that is a healthy amount of weight to lose in that time, it is realistic, and it has a time frame of 6 months. It even includes a reward at the end for extra motivation.
Examples of SMART goals for strength training
Another example of a bad goal is to say 'I want to tone up'. This is extremely vague and ambiguous and you are unlikely to ever achieve it. An example of a SMART goal for strength training would be:
"I will increase my squat weight from 30kg to 50kg in 3 months by following a strength training programme and lifting 4 times a week."
This SMART goal is specific as it includes specific weights, it is measurable as you can measure the weights you use and keep track by writing down your progress each week, it is achievable, it is realistic as that is not a crazy amount of weight to increase by in the time, and it has a time frame of 3 months. You will know for sure if and when you have achieved your goal and can therefore be proud of yourself once you have accomplished it.
How can I achieve my fitness goals?
Staying motivated can be tough, especially for those who have made a fitness goal as a new year resolution. One of the most important things when trying to achieve a fitness goal is consistency. If you start going for a run every morning but then can't maintain it and stop after 2 weeks, you will never achieve your goal. You need to start gradually and make fitness a part of your every day lifestyle. By adding an exercise regime into your daily routine, you will be able to stay consistent and have a better chance of succeeding. Sometime it just takes sheer willpower and determination, so remember why you started and have an end goal and incentive in mind. Perhaps it's buying yourself new fitness clothing or taking yourself on a spa day, whatever it is, it could help you to stay on track and stay focused.
If you've been training hard since the new year but not sure whether you're getting fitter, you need to do a fitness test. But there are so many out there, which one is best? We take a look at 3 different fitness tests as a way to track your fitness.
The Astrand Treadmill VO2 Max Test
This test is fairly advanced and is good for people who are already fit and active and would like a quantitative assessment of their fitness that they can compare to others. This VO2 Max Test is a universal test, so you could have all your friends or club members do it and compare your results.
For this test, you will be jogging on a treadmill. Start with the treadmill at a gradient of 0% and a speed of 8km/h. After three minutes, increase the incline to 2.5% (keep the speed the same throughout the entire test). After another 2 minutes, increase the incline by another 2.5% and repeat every 2 minutes until you cannot run anymore. Write down the time you finish.
In order to get your results, input your time into the following equation:
(Time x 1.44) + 14.99
For example, say you are a 35 year-old male and you make it to 15 minutes and 15 seconds. That is 15.25 minutes, so you would calculate:
15.25 x 1.44 = 21.96
21.96 + 14.99 = 36.95
Therefore, your VO2 Max would be 36.95
To find out how your score stacks up, use the following charts:
So our example 35 year-old male who got a score of 36.95 is at a 'fair' level of fitness. He could follow a training regime for a number of weeks and then repeat the test to see in clear numbers if his fitness has increased or not.
This test is fairly advanced and is not suitable for pregnant women, those who cannot run, or those with health conditions.
Chair Sit Test
Dr Michael Mosley has been making waves recently with his BBC programme 'The Truth About Getting Fit'. In his programme, Dr Mosley showed one way you can easily test your fitness in the comfort of your own home and it's suitable for people of all ages. The test simply asks how long it takes you to sit down in a chair and get back up again 10 times. Men under 35 should be able to do it in under 10 seconds, with women under 35 aiming for under 12 seconds. Men aged 35-55 should be able to do it in 13 seconds with women aiming for 15, and people over 55 should be able to do it in under 19 seconds.
This is obviously a very broad and unspecific test, but if you live a sedentary lifestyle and are looking for somewhere to start, this is an easy test to give you an idea of where you stand.
Vertical Jump Test
Our final test is different yet again. This time, we are testing the power in the legs, which is another great way to test fitness. If you want to be fit all-round, you need to have strength, power, and stamina. The vertical jump test is very easy and you only need one thing: a measuring tape.
Stand next to a wall, and jump as high as you can while reaching upwards. Have a friend mark the wall where you managed to touch, and then measure the height. This is your score.
Why is it important to do fitness testing?
There are several reasons why you may want to do a fitness test. You may feel like you live a healthy lifestyle, but there is no way for you to know for sure until you do a fitness test. If you live a largely sedentary lifestyle, your health could be at risk, so doing a fitness test could help to determine whether you need to get more active.
For those who are already very active, doing a fitness test is a great way to see if your training and hard work is paying off and you are actually progressing. If you see that you are not, you will know to change up your exercise regime so that you do get fitter.
Of course, it always depends on your goals, so make sure you set some goals first before you embark upon a fitness journey.
When it comes to running, there's more to it than just pounding the pavement. In order to avoid injury and stay strong, you need to cross train to keep your muscles and joints healthy. Follow our runner's winter workout to give you the base you need to succeed.
Indoor Winter Workout For Runners
Hold onto a wall or bar for support, and swing one leg in front and behind you 10 times. Repeat on the other leg. Make sure you feel the stretch in the hamstring as the leg comes forward, and the stretch in the hip as it goes behind you.
Lateral Leg Swings
This is the same thing, but now you swing the leg from side to side in front of you. Feel the stretch in the inner thigh (adductor) as the leg swings out to the side.
For this warm up, you imagine you are stepping over invisible hurdles. Lift up your left leg and step it sideways over an invisible hurdle, making sure as the right leg comes over it steps over too. Do 3-4 steps one way and repeat going back the other.
Banded Back Squats
Back squats are a great exercise for runners as they target all of the muscle groups in the legs. By using a resistance band round your knees, you will train your hips to stay open and encourage perfect form. This will also help to strengthen your IT band which is a common cause of injury for runners.
Place the resistance band just above your knees and keep your knees pushing outwards for the duration of the lift. Place a bar on your back and drop into a squat. Make sure your hips drop below your knees and then use your glutes to squeeze you back up. Complete 3 sets of 10 on a fairly light weight.
Banded Front Squats
Front squats also work all of the muscles in the legs, but they also encourage you to keep your chest up because the bar is on your front. Front squats will work your glutes harder as you can't cheat!
Place the resistance band just above your knees again but this time place the bar on your front, supporting it with your hands. Keep your elbows high. Keep your chest proud and drop into a squat. Make sure you really squeeze your glutes so that you can shoot back up without leaning forwards and dropping the bar. Complete 3 sets of 10 on a light weight.
Deadlifts are another important exercise for runners as they will strengthen your back and core so that you can stay strong throughout the race and not suffer from any aches as the miles rack up.
With the bar on the floor, place your feet under the bar so that it touches your shins and bend your knees so that you can grab the bar. Keep your bum down and your chest high, squeeze your shoulder blades together and pick the bar up off the floor. Lock out at the top by pushing your hips slightly forward and then bend back down to place the bar back on the floor. Do 3 sets of 10 on a fairly heavy weight. Make sure you keep your back dead straight throughout the lift and squeeze your core tight to protect your spine.
KB Single Leg Deadlifts
This is a fantastic exercise, especially if you suffer with pain in your feet and ankles when you run. It will correct any strength imbalances between your legs and help with your balance as well as leg strength.
Start with the right side: Find your balance on your right leg and hold the kettlebell in your right hand. Slow lean forward so that the kettlebell lowers to the floor while simultaneously lifting your left leg behind you. Squeeze your glutes so that your left leg lifts nice and high and see if you can lean all the way forward so that the kettlebell touches the floor. Slowly pivot back to centre. Repeat 10 times then switch to the other side.
KB Side Leans
Time to target the abs. Hold the kettlebell in your right hand and keep it by your side. Lean to the right, moving only your waist. Slide the kettlebell down your right leg and then squeeze your abs to come back up. Repeat 10 times then swap to the left side.
We often read about living a healthy lifestyle and there are countless 'lifestyle bloggers' making a fortune from advocating this way of life. But what actually is a healthy lifestyle? And how can you live a healthy lifestyle?
Why is having a healthy lifestyle important?
A healthy lifestyle is all about the choices you make regarding your daily habits. Do you slump on the sofa and eat an entire packet of biscuits when you get home from work or do you go for a run and eat a healthy dinner? These daily choices determine whether you're healthy or not, and can affect nearly every aspect of your life. Not only will you feel better mentally, living a healthy lifestyle will lower your risk of developing chronic illnesses and diseases meaning you are physically healthier too.
The benefits of living a healthy lifestyle
- Reduced risk of developing chronic illnesses and diseases
- Improved mood and brain function
- Improved work performance and concentration
- Better self-confidence and happiness
- Improved appearance due to better quality skin and hair
- Improved relationships
- Reduced frequency of minor illnesses such as common cold
- Improved immune system
How can I change to a healthy lifestyle?
Probably the most obvious thing to address when changing to a healthy lifestyle is improving your diet. For a lot of people, the first thought is to make a complete overhaul and take extreme measures such as doing a detox or following an extreme diet. However, this is not a viable or sustainable way of changing to a healthy lifestyle. Consistency is key, so you need to make your changes for life and make sure you get into daily healthy habits that you can stick with long term. Take control of your diet by learning about macronutrients and how counting them can help you achieve your weight loss goals.
Eating a snack or a treat every now and then is also part of living a healthy lifestyle, as a restricted diet is not healthy and not sustainable. Balance is important, so make sure you don't remove entire food groups from your diet.
One way to improve your diet is by going vegan. This can be fairly extreme, so make sure you do your research first, and it certainly isn't suitable for everyone. Find a healthy diet that works best for you and your unique needs and you'll be well on your way to having a healthy lifestyle.
- Eat plenty of protein
- Limit unhealthy foods but still allow a treat from time to time
- Limit processed foods
- Cook from scratch wherever possible
- Do not take extreme measures to lose weight
When changing to a healthier diet, many people tend to neglect what they drink and focus only on what they eat. You could be drinking lots of sugar in your drinks if you enjoy branded soft drinks, and there are even worse health effects associated with drinking large volumes of alcohol. If your lifestyle currently consists of going out drinking with friends every weekend, or drinking regularly as part of your daily routine, this is not healthy. In order to change to a healthy lifestyle, you will need to reduce or even eliminate altogether the amount of alcohol you drink. There are many benefits of giving up alcohol or even just drinking less, such as better skin, reduced risk of cancer, and improved mood. Not to mention no more hangovers!
- Limit sugar drinks
- Limit energy drinks
- Reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption
- Drink more water
Third in the pecking order of living a healthy lifestyle after diet and drinks is sleep. If you have poor quality sleep or do not get enough each night, your health will deteriorate quickly and you will have a poor quality of life. The average healthy adult should aim for an absolute minimum of 6 hours each night, but 8-10 hours is optimum for healthy brain function and performance.
Not only is it important for your daily functions, sleep is important for recovery too. If you do a great workout at the gym or go for a long run or cycle, having a good night's sleep is vital for recovery so that your muscles can grow and your tissue and immune system can stay healthy.
Not getting enough sleep is not the only unhealthy habit you may have; the quality of your sleep is important too. If you sleep with a television or music on, this is not conducive to a good night's sleep and it will mean your hormones are negatively affected. If you are continuously awoken throughout the night by loud noises, a baby crying, or a snoring partner, you will definitely suffer from bad moods and lack of concentration the next day. You can track your sleep using a fitness tracker or wearable to analyse the quality of your sleep and see if you are constantly being disturbed throughout the night. Getting a good 10 hours of high quality sleep every night is key to living a healthy lifestyle. Additionally, you cannot 'catch up on sleep' at the weekend - you have to be consistent!
- Try to get 8-10 hours sleep every night
- Don't try to catch up on sleep at the weekend
- Get into a consistent sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time 7 days a week
- Eliminate disruptions to your sleep by not sleeping with television or music on
We spend a lot of our time at work, so your healthy lifestyle needs to translate into the office as well as at home. If you can, try to work out while at work, as working out at work can help prevent health issues such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. If you sit at a desk all day, try to get up and walk around every hour and if you have a manual job where you are on your feet all day, make sure you take rests.
There is lots of advice out there on how to workout at work and it is easier than you think. By following healthy work habits, you will greatly improve your chances of benefiting from a healthy lifestyle.Try to avoid snacking and avoid the temptation of all the unhealthy food in your workplace! Bring a homemade lunch with you each day so that you can control your portions and know exactly what you're eating.
- Get up and stay active while at work
- Avoid temptation by bringing your own food to work
External factors (family, friends, stress)
After all is said and done, there will always be external factors that you cannot control and which can undo all your hard work. If your home life is hectic and stressful, there is not much chance that you will be able to live a fully healthy lifestyle. Try to address the things that are causing you to have bad habits, such as grabbing a ready meal because you don't have time to make a healthy dinner or not getting enough sleep because of stress.
There are ways to manage depression which don't involve going to see a therapist, such as meditating, doing vigorous exercise, and finding a new hobby. All of these are very important for living a healthy lifestyle, and can make a huge difference to your well being. You can manage stress with exercise by going for a long run to clear your head or taking your frustrations out at the gym.
Having little ones at home can leave you feeling like you don't have a spare second in the day. Between rushing to and from school and picking the little ones up from activities and trying to squeeze in daily errands too, it's no wonder that the average mother only gets 17 minutes of 'me time' each day. So how can you fit in exercise when you have no time? We give you all the tips you need along with with a working mom workout routine for you to try.
How can I find time to workout with kids?
Finding time to exercise as a working parent can feel almost impossible, but it doesn't have to be! Try some of our ideas and see if you can fit exercise into your busy day.
1. Get a training buddy
One of the best ways to stay motivated is to partner up. Whether it's a work colleague, your husband/wife, a friend, or a family member, working out together can make things more fun and interesting. Not only this, but if you have someone to be accountable to and someone who you will let down if you skip your session, you'll be more motivated to get that training session done!
2. Utilise playtime
When it's your child's playtime, get involved and burn some calories! If you have an energetic toddler, run around with them by playing adrenaline-fuelled games that involve running or chasing. If your children are a little older, find games where you can both get active, especially in the garden if it's summer time as there are lots of benefits to training outdoors.
3. Try dancing
Dancing is something that burns a lot of calories, will get you up and active, and can be very fun! If your children are very energetic, put on some music and dance away. This will not only help them burn off that extra energy and get you moving, it can be a great bonding experience.
4. Swap your car for walking or cycling
By combining your errands with exercise, you can make the time to get active without compromising any of your daily activities. Try walking or cycling to the shops instead of driving, or walking your children to school. It may be easier than you think to get around without your car!
5. Exercise before you start your day
By getting up 30 minutes earlier than usual, you could fit in an entire workout and start your day right. There are lots of workouts you can do in under 30 minutes, like this 5-minute punchbag workout, 10-minute tabata workout, or this 20-minute home workout. Even a short workout is better than no workout at all, and it'll energise you for a productive day. If you don't want to get up earlier than you already do, try this lunchtime HIIT workout instead.
How can a stay at home mum lose weight?
There are lots of tips and tricks to losing weight if you are a stay-at-home parent. Follow these dos and don'ts to make sure you're staying healthy while at home with the little ones.
1. Don't eat anything you wouldn't feed to your kids
There are lots of things you wouldn't feed to your children because the salt or sugar content it too high, so why feed them to yourself? A good rule of thumb to follow is that if you wouldn't give it to your child because of the ingredients, you should avoid it yourself too. Stick to whole foods and try to avoid anything overly processed or pre-packaged.
2. Don't snack mindlessly
If you find yourself in a rare moment of calm when your child is playing happily alone or watching a television show, it can be tempting to mindlessly eat food that you don't really need. Avoid temptation by not having snacks in the house, and stick to eating at set times.
3. Do make mealtime an occasion
If mealtime is an occasion to look froward to when you eat together with your kids, you'll be less likely to have an unstructured day. Try to have at least one meal a day together as a family where you sit at a table and focus on what you're eating, rather than grabbing whatever is nearby because you're so rushed off your feet. This might mean deliberately making time for it in your day, but it will be worth it ultimately.
4. Don't eat through stress
Being at home on your own with the kids all day can get pretty stressful. If tempers raise and tantrums ensue, make sure you're not reaching for food as comfort. Comfort eating is something that many of us do without realising and can be an almost impossible habit to break. As above, not having any temptation in the house will help with this and always count slowly to 10 before you eat a snack so that you're not eating it out of a stressed panic.
5. Do make food fun and creative by getting the children involved
Getting your kids to help in the kitchen is a fantastic way to bond and to help them develop vital skills for later in life. Let them get creative by coming up with new recipes and help them with the cooking. If you really want sweet treats, bake cookies or cupcakes together so that you really feel you've earned them and can have fun in the process.
Working mom workout routine
If you have kids at home or are pregnant, try this working mom home workout routine by Sundried ambassador Carly Newson.