What's the best way for me to decide what my fitness goals should be?

Dr. Mike Clark, DPT
Use the following goal-setting process, called SCAMPI, to not only help you decide what your fitness goals should be, but also increase your ability to stick to your program. SCAMPI stands for:

S: Specific
Set specific goals. This will result in much better performance than setting easy goals, no goals, or just saying that you want to lose weight. An example of a specific goal is “I want to lose 20 lbs in 12 weeks so that I can look and feel great while I’m on vacation with my family.”
C: Challenging
Set challenging, yet realistic goals. 20 pounds of weight loss in 12 weeks, while challenging is realistic; whereas 36 pounds in 12 weeks, while definitely challenging is not the most realistic outcome.
A: Approach
Set your goal with a positive mindset as opposed to a negative one. For example, losing weight because you will feel better about yourself and therefore be a better spouse/parent for your family when on vacation, and not because you hate the way you look.
M: Measurable
Keep track of your progress. If the goal is weight loss, be sure to track the important aspects of your weight loss along the way, such as logging your food intake and weighing weekly, to determine how you are progressing to your goal.
P: Proximal
Break down your bigger goal into smaller more manageable goals. Keeping with the goal of losing 20 pounds in 12 weeks, break that down into how much you need to lose each month, week, day, etc. Accomplishing the smaller goals as you work your way up to the larger goal will keep you motivated for your entire program.
I: Inspirational
Lastly, keep your goal(s) aligned with your own personal ideals and ambitions, doing the goal for yourself, and not others.
Fitness goals should be based on what impact you want exercise to have on your life and how you want to incorporate exercise into your life. What do you want to do and where do you want to be tomorrow, the next day, next week or next year? How much time are you willing to devote to your exercise plan? How much money are you willing to invest in exercise equipment or activities? These questions can help you understand the level of commitment you are willing to invest in your exercise goals. Once you gain clarity on your internal reasons and desires to exercise, it becomes easier to narrow down your exercise goals.
The best way for you to decide what your fitness goals should be is to identify the reasons why you want to participate in fitness activities. Do you want to lose weight, increase endurance, become stronger, improve your health or workout for another reason? Once you identify your reasons for wanting to engage in fitness activities you will have a better idea of what direction to head in when setting fitness goals. No matter what fitness goals you settle on remember that smaller, measurable goals will be a lot easier to work towards than broader, less specific ones.
To figure out what goals are important think about the psychological (able to think more clearly, able to sleep better, being more positive, better able to deal with stress and anxiety) and physical (able to climb stairs, healthy weight, looking good and feeling strong) areas of your exercise that are most important. On a scale of one to ten (one describing an area that needs work and ten describing an area as perfect) rate yourself on those areas and figure out where you want to be. The discrepancy is the region of growth you need to achieve your goals.

The number of exercise goals you should set is very personal. There are no set limits, however, it is important to start with a few realistic (realistic means doing enough exercise but not too much exercise) goals out of the gates. Initially it's good to start off with 2-3 goals and add as you go along and feel more comfortable and confident. Experience has shown starting off with a realistic number of attainable (you can see yourself reaching it) goals will help gain the momentum and confidence for adherence to exercise. Jumping in and doing too much leads to dropping out. 

I believe this is a personal question that can only be answered by YOU. However, sometimes to get to a solution you need to ask better questions that are more specific. It can be very overwhelming starting a fitness program so it can be helpful to simplify the goal setting process at first. Lastly, try to pick a few small goals to start off with. Many times people start off trying to change everything at once and end up frustrated or failing because they did not see any success because their attention was not focused. Please consider the following questions:

  • What one action will have the most impact on my overall health and fitness?
  • What EXACTLY is my desired outcome? (weight loss, muscle gain, tone up, etc.)
  • What does my doctor think? Ask your doctor for his input on your goals and readiness to participate in a fitness program.
  • What will motivate me? What goal excites me just thinking about it?
  • What am I capable of doing? Do you have any health restrictions? How much time can you dedicate to exercise per week? How much money are you willing to invest in a gym or home exercise equipment? Do you need assistance, like a trainer or a group exercise environment?
  • Why? Write down your desired goals/outcomes and ask yourself why after each. This could be the most important question you ask yourself. The answers will inspire you to take action, stay focused and disciplined, and keep you motivated even when you have occasional setbacks. Always keep in mind “WHY” you want these goals and you are much more likely to succeed.


That is simple to answer.  You have to first ask yourself what do you want.  If your wants are really big like you want to be a fitness model, than the timeline has to be adjusted based on the starting point.  Any goal can be possible, how successful you are as a fitness model will be predicated on many things including genetics, age etc. but the fitness level of a fitness model within your set of genetic parameters is not unrealistic for a large portion of the population (most of the population).  Set your goals high and then figure out a healthy way to achieve them.  

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.