What’s the reason you train? Why do you turn up at the gym every week and push yourself beyond your normal comfort levels? Whatever the reason it’s hopefully a long-term thing.

Then think about your goals. What do you hope to achieve this year from your training and how do you plan to do it?

Now most of us have a rough idea of why we train, even if that reason is because you enjoy it. But far too few of us set goals to train towards or have an established method of achieving those goals.

Goal setting is important for many reasons. It can help us focus on the present and future, it can provide structure and direction for our training and it can help us stay motivated. So how do we set goals, how do we work towards them and how do we monitor our progress?

I am no expert! I have absolutely zero expertise in goal setting beyond my own experience. I have however set many personal goals and achieved quite a few of them. I have also set goals that I have failed to achieve for many reasons and have learnt the hard way how difficult it is to accept defeat on a goal.

With that in mind here are a few steps I have found that help me work towards a goal. (Obviously this is geared towards exercise goals but the same principals will work for most things in life where your actions can directly influence the outcome.)

1. Identify your purpose. You need to know the driving force behind your goal and make sure that that goal is in line with your purpose. It shouldn’t detract from your overall reason to train but should support it and lead you down a positive road.

Imagine your purpose to train is to have a well rounded and balanced level of fitness into old age. You set a goal to run a sub 4 hour marathon. To achieve this goal you run more and train less in other areas. Your gymnastics suffers, your weightlifting goes downhill, you start picking up running related injuries because you are doing too much. Now you might be working towards that running goal but you are massively detracting from your training purpose, to be well rounded and balanced. Therefore, in my opinion, this isn’t a good goal.

Always pick a goal that supports your purpose.

2. Identify what your goal really is, be specific. Saying you want to be better at gymnastics is a hard to quantify goal: what does better at gymnastics look like? Identify what you really mean by that statement, what do you actually want? It can be hard to pin down a specific goal but its worth putting the time in. Once you know, set your goal.

3. Share your goal. Put it on Boxmate, tell a coach, tell your partner, tell anyone and write it down. Make it real. Saying a goal in your head is almost worthless as you will change it to fit your current mood and effort levels and will ultimately bin it off. Sharing your goal keeps you accountable and helps others help you towards it.

4. Give it some numbers. Once we hone in on that goal and we know exactly what we want to achieve lets put some time frames and amounts on it. When do you want to achieve the goal by and what will you have had to do to consider the goal achieved? Speak to a coach and make a realistic timeline of when you could achieve the goal and then focus on that time frame.

5. Now the hard part. How. How are you going to achieve this goal? What steps are you going to take, what are you going to commit to and what time are you going to dedicate to achieving this goal? Write it down, again make it real and commit to it. Are you going to come in early 3 days a week and work on it? Are you going to do open gym on Fridays and work on it? Are you going to up your training sessions each week and commit to tracking certain numbers weekly? Speak to a coach, do some research and make a plan and then stick to it, regardless of life.

6. Get some support. Achieving goals is hard. They take time, commitment and perseverance and I guarantee you’ll want to fall short a few times along the road. Having friends / family / coaches on hand to keep you on track will help no end. They can hold you accountable, keep you motivated and celebrate the small victories along the way with you.

As well as establishing a support group its also good to identify people who detract from your goals. You might not realise it but there will be people who, consciously or not, will pull you away from your goals. Identify them and keep them apart from your goal.

Hopefully you’ve read this and are considering setting a goal? Do it. Find your purpose, find a goal and make a plan. Speak to the coaches, speak to your family and friends. Achieve the goal and celebrate.