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How to Set and Accomplish Smart Fitness Goals (for Men and Women)

Last updated on April 23, 2023


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Smart Fitness Goals for Men and Women: How to Set and Accomplish

Ambitious beginners and gym rats, we all have our ups and downs when it comes to shaping our bodies, men and women alike, but setting smart short-term and long-term fitness goals before we start training will make the difference between actually reaching our targets and giving up after the first days of sweating.

In other words, if you properly set your goals, these will act as a personal North Star which will guide you on the road to your healthiest self.

Remember: being as fit as possible is crucial if you wish to live a better and longer life.

“...one of the keys to legendary is longevity. Do not die. You can’t own your game and change the world if you’re pushing up daisies in a cemetery,”

Bestseller author Robin Sharma in "The 5 AM Club"

The first step of your fitness journey

Woman at the first step of her fitness journey: setting fitness goals

To all fit or less fit men and women out there, whether you are professional bodybuilders, gym enthusiasts, or just first-time dabblers in the world of fitness, setting smart goals is the first step you need to take to successfully set sail in the journey to your dream physique.

So, with this blog post, we aim to equip you with a bulletproof plan consisting of short-term and long-term goals that will work together to make you chase your fitness dreams day in and day out.

Read on:

  • The 7 most common fitness goals of men and women;
  • How to use short-term and long-term goals to accomplish your main fitness objective;
  • How to set your fitness goals (bonus: a super-efficient and free Fitness Goals Worksheet for beginners and training addicts);
  • Which is my fitness goal (Claudiu Pop’s) and the process I used to set it;
  • Motivational quotes to keep you on the right track whenever you don’t feel like going for that run or hitting the gym.

The 7 most common fitness goals of men and women

Man and woman achieving their fitness goals in the gym

Fitness goals are targets we want our bodies to aim for and, ultimately, to achieve.

Moreover, know that there are 7 holy grails people race for in the quest to improve their physical shape, whether we’re talking about men, women, or even couples who decided to sit down and brainstorm ideas for fitness goals that they could share.

Your current tasks: 

  • Figure out what is your main fitness goal. How do you want to improve your body and why?
  • Then, match it with one of the next 7 common fitness goals and take the smart approach by following the assigned instructions;
  • Download the Fitness Goals Worksheet attached to this blog post and use it.
Choose your main fitness goal
Sub Item 1 (H3)

1. Lose weight (fat)

Woman wanting to lose weight to achieve her fitness goal and a counter

Maybe the most sought-after fitness goal is losing weight, more precisely fat. No wonder since over 40% of adults around the world are overweight or obese. 

Let’s be honest here. From silhouette-obsessed college students and women who never felt the same after their first childbirth, to the middle-aged men who woke up with 20 extra pounds out of the blue, nobody likes having a big belly.

So, losing weight is definitely one of the most popular fitness goals out there.

Even high-class men and women, Hollywood celebrities, and TV stars put outstanding amounts of effort into achieving their fitness goals, which are more often than not related to losing fat – see Melissa McCarthy or Jonah Hill.

In the end, if you’re lean, you look better, feel healthier, and you have way more energy.

How to accomplish?

Contrary to public opinion, it’s not hard to lose weight. You just need to become more active during your wake-up time and adjust your eating habits.

Strictly speaking, you should follow these simple instructions:

  1. Take care of your nutrition
    • Eat fewer calories;
    • Reduce sugar;
    • Say no to poor carbs.
  2. Exercise
    • Start training consistently;
    • Move more and always take the stairs.

Unfortunately, many people fail at respecting the directions above, and that’s mainly due to the lack of discipline and motivation.

But luckily, we can make sure you’ll have both these qualities in the journey to your fittest self. How do we do that?

First, use our list of 95 low-calorie foods specially created to give you ideas for your next weight-loss-friendly meals. These will help you immensely in dropping pounds.

Also, if you want to fill up and not feel hungry when you’re trying to lose weight, make sure to include high-volume low-calorie foods in your diet.

Second, you need to set realistic long-term and short-term fitness goals.

To do that, follow the steps below.

Step 1: set a long-term goal related to your ideal weight

Setting fitness goals for the long run will keep you motivated and accountable, even if you come from beginners’ camp.

Think about it, without one such long-term objective, chances are you’re going to get lost and discouraged because you won’t be able to see how many pounds you’re burning off and your overall improvement.

It’s like running a race without a finish line.

Answer these questions to find your long-term fitness goal:

  • What’s your ideal weight or body fat percentage?
  • How much thinner do you want to get?

Then, make sure you keep the answers on sight.

Step 2: set smart short-term goals to make shredding fat a breeze

Short-term goals should make long-term goals easier to achieve.

So, the best approach is to set weekly and monthly (short-term) fitness goals and make sure the goals are smart, sorry, I meant S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-oriented).

Here are a few smart short-term fitness goals examples for beginners in the art of losing weight:

  • Lose 5 pounds (2.25kg) in the next 30 days;
  • Walk every day during your commute next week;
  • Train at least 30 minutes a day for the next three months;
  • Replace liquid calorie bombs at your favorite coffee shop with healthy Starbucks drinks;
  • Give up at sugary snacks for greens in the next 7 days.

Bonus: funny fitness goals for losing fat

  • Jump rope 20 minutes a day for two months in an attempt to get to skip like Rocky Balboa;
  • Schedule your training sessions with a friend who wants to lose weight as well and make it competitive;
  • Volunteer to causes that necessitate physical work every weekend this month;
  • Take a 4-weeks-long dance class.

2. Build muscle and get stronger

Man and woman building muscle by following their short-term and long-term fitness goals

Besides losing weight, one of the most common fitness goals among men and women is building muscle.

And even though this goal is more popular among male gym rats who can’t get enough of measuring their biceps’ size, more and more women can be found deadlifting or right in front of the dumbbell rack.

After all, muscles help your body achieve feats you’ve never thought possible before, let you open those tight pickle jars, and save you from body shaming, leaving you feeling unbeatable.

Hence, to look and feel good when you start losing weight, you want to replace that gooey fat with some shiny-looking beef.

How to accomplish?

So, how can you build muscle? Simple. You need to:

  • Set a strength training routine;
  • Eat nutritious food and enough calories to facilitate muscle growth;
  • Improve your diet before workouts with pre-workout meals for muscle gain;
  • Make sure you record your progress to keep your motivation at the highest levels (our Fitness Goals Worksheet will help you with that).

For hard gainers: if you struggle to eat enough food to build muscle mass or you don’t have too much money to spend on this, then make sure to check out our carefully researched list of 45 cheap high-calorie foods.

If you still find yourself struggling to gain weight, boost the calories in your diet with:

Tip for beginners: achieving fitness goals is not a race. You don’t have to go to the gym or buy weights to increase your muscle size. Therefore, I recommend you start with bodyweight exercises and slowly build your way up to the weight-lifting room.

Now, with the above instructions in mind, follow the next steps to make sure you keep yourself on the right track to a herculean body.

Step 1: set a long-term goal related to building muscle

There will be times when you’ll hit a plateau and feel like whatever you do your muscles can’t push through. In these cases, you need to go back and remind yourself why you’ve wanted to get stronger, and that’s when your long-term fitness goal steps forward.

Here are a few questions to help you set it.

  • Why do you want to get physically stronger?
  • What parts of your life will improve if you build more muscle?
  • How much stronger do you want to get?
  • Do you frequent dangerous places?
  • Is there anybody you want to end up looking like? Whether you want to get big and shredded like The Rock, or you strive for Jennifer Lopez’s chiseled abs, the choice is yours.

Again, make sure you jot down the answers.

Step 2: set smart short-term goals to ensure you’re getting stronger

Here are a few smart short-term fitness goals examples for beginner men and women looking to build muscle:

  • Top your personal record of push-ups by at least 10 reps every week of the next month;
  • Manage to do 1 pull-up in 30 days;
  • Acquire the ability to climb a rope after two weeks of training;
  • Achieve the feat of bench pressing your body weight in 3 months;
  • Follow our ultimate at-home biceps workout for the next 8 weeks;
  • Drink a protein shake four times a week for the next month.

Bonus: funny fitness goals for building muscle

  • Go on hikes every weekend or do some rock climbing;
  • Take some martial arts classes. Consider karate (get a black belt), kung fu, capoeira, boxing, and its younger brother, kickboxing;
  • Train your handstand technique at least once a day for the next 30 days;
  • Swap the gym for a park training session twice a week during the next month;
  • Climb two trees every weekend, one on Saturday and one on Sunday – share the views on social media.

3. Increase endurance

A group of men and women following their smart fitness goals to increase endurance

In this ultra-digitalized era we live in, it’s become a burden for many of us to leave the car in the garage and commence to work on foot.  Just the idea of participating in a marathon makes a terrible amount of people say “Hell, no!”

And if this is you, don’t worry. You can always increase your endurance but you need to get up from the couch and overcome some limits.

Believe me, improving your stamina is going to bring incredible benefits to your everyday life. You will be more energized, wake up easier, be more agile, and what seemed physically demanding before would have transformed into a piece of cake.

How to accomplish?

I’m not going to sugarcoat you here. Improving endurance may seem the hardest among the 7 main fitness goals, especially if you count among the beginners who have rarely tried to develop their stamina.

Let’s have look at what it takes to increase your endurance.

  • Cardio workouts;
  • Do high-intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions or Tabata-style workouts;
  • Always push your limits.

Even if the above may look intimidating, remember, nothing is hard if you break it down in tiny steps.
NOTE: our Fitness Goals Worksheet will help you do this.

Step 1: set a long-term goal related to increasing your endurance

Imagine that you’re running, your breath starts to get uncontrollable, your muscles are tired, you sweated all over, and you feel like giving up.

  • What’s going to take you by the hand and keep you pushing further?
  • How much endurance do you wish to have and what do you want to achieve with it?

Step 2: set smart short-term goals to keep boosting your stamina

You shouldn’t go for that killer sprinting session right off the bat. Instead, build your way up by accomplishing small goals.
As an inspiration, here are a few smart short-term fitness goals for beginners eager to follow Usain Bolt’s footsteps.

  • Build your way to running a 10K marathon by starting from 1K runs and adding 1000 meters more every week;
  • Schedule ten 100-meters sprints every other day for a month;
  • Do 3 planks every day until you can hold up a 1-minute long plank;
  • Add 2 HIIT workouts to your weekly training routine for the next 3 months.

Bonus: funny fitness goals for increasing endurance

  • Do stair running like Rocky Balboa above every weekend and diversify your galloping environment every now or then;
  • Go run with your dog every morning instead of just walking him in the park;
  • Swap your runs for a swimming session once or twice a week.

4. Improve sports skills

Man chasing a good fitness goal: improving football skills

Let’s be honest, almost all of us have a favorite sport that we like to watch, practice, and get better at it.

For example, if you love Cristiano Ronaldo’s style, you may want to be able to jump as high as he does or do the tricks he can do with the ball.

If your idol is Roger Federer, you definitely want to hit a backhand as flawlessly as he does.

And if you’re into Simone Biles, you definitely wish to own her strength-athleticism combo.

However, all of these things are not easily achievable. You need tens and hundreds of hours of specific training to pull these feats off.

But with a strong will and a proper approach, you can learn anything in this world.

How to accomplish?

As I’ve mentioned above, the key to getting better at a sport is to do specific training.

And you know the drill, always use long-term and short-term goals.

Step 1: set a long-term goal related to your sports skills

Answer these questions:

  • Which athlete inspires you?
  • What skill do you want to learn?

Step 2: set smart short-term fitness goals for that skill

Study the move you want to learn and observe all the motions needed to pull it off. As a result, you will have a clear picture of what part of your body you need to train for that specific skill.

To clarify, let’s take Ronaldo’s high jump technique. First of all, he pushes through his legs to take off from the ground.

Takeaway no. 1: train your calves, hamstring, and quads. Also, it’s a good idea to add some box jumps to your training routines.

Second, you need abs and neck strength to be able to hit the ball from the air as hard as Ronaldo does.

Takeaway no. 2: incorporate moves that train your neck and abs in your workout routines.

See? This is what I meant by telling you to break a skill you want to learn into tiny parts. Baby steps!

5. Improve flexibility

Yoga master showing beginners to chase their flexibility fitness goals

Besides elderly people, nowadays, young adults have begun to complain about their lack of flexibility as well. Bad news!

Is this because most of our work takes place in an office with us tied to a chair? I strongly think so.

Wouldn’t you want to be able to do everything freely, without pain, reach for everything you want on the top shelf, and keep your balance even in the harshest conditions?

Well, having great flexibility allows you to do all of that and a whole lot more.

How to accomplish?

The most effective ways to improve your flexibility are:

  • Stretch as much as you can: before and after your workouts, every now or then at work, before bedtime, in the morning, etc.
  • Start doing yoga poses;
  • Work on mastering moves that require great flexibility: box jumps, backflips, splits, etc.

Alas, reading the above is not enough. Thus, you need to actually apply these tips, and you can make sure about that by following the steps below.

Step 1: set a long-term goal related to flexibility improvement

  • Why do you want to be more agile and have better mobility?
  • What would you wish to be able to do but you can’t because of your stiffness and poor flexibility?

Step 2: set smart fitness goals to make sure you keep working on your flexibility

Here are a few smart short-term fitness goals examples for beginners looking to increase their flexibility:

  • Follow set stretching sessions before and after all your workouts for the next 30 days;
  • Exercise 10 basic yoga poses every day for the next two weeks;
  • Follow Jean Claude Van Damme’s warm-up and stretching routine every day before your workout sessions for the next 3 months (extra benefit: you’ll likely end up with the ability to pull off the famous actor’s epic split).

Bonus: funny fitness goals for improving your flexibility

  • Start doing tai-chi in the park on weekends for the next month;
  • Organize twist nights every week (the dance or the game, it’s your choice).

6. Have a toned up body

Fitness beginners following their smart fitness goals

Many people crave a toned body, but they don’t know what that actually means.

Therefore, if you’re looking to have a body with “firm” muscles, just follow the instructions from the first two most common fitness goals among men and women – losing fat and building muscle. That’s what toning up means.

7. Boost your mental health

Woman on a beach using yoga poses to improve her mental health

Besides the physical advantages of working out on a consistent basis, there are numerous benefits to your mental health.

As proof, more and more people start to acknowledge these bonus perks of sweating out and even make them the main goal of their fitness efforts.

According to science, the mental benefits of working out include:

  1. Improved sleep;
  2. Stress relief;
  3. Improvement in mood;
  4. Increased energy and stamina;
  5. Reduced tiredness that can increase mental alertness;

And when science isn’t convincing enough, let’s hear the testimonial of the highest-paid Hollywood actor of 2020, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

I always talk about the importance of “anchoring” our day. Even if it means I’ve flown around the world and working non-stop. Wherever I land, regardless of what time it is - I’ll get to the hotel, shower, eat, meditate, caffeine, and hit the gym.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson

How to accomplish?

Luckily, your mental health always improves after sweating a little bit. So, take this fitness goal as being a by-product of chasing any of the other 6 featured on our list.

I think this is called… killing two birds with one stone?

Another great "two for one" approach is to buy a membership at any of the gyms with pools near you so that you will be able to switch your workouts for a swimming session every time you have a rest day or you're a little injured. This way, you will not miss the mental benefits of a good training session.

How to set your fitness goals?

Let’s recap. You chose your main fitness objective, completed both of the assigned steps, and maybe you selected a couple of funny fitness goals as well.

Therefore, by now, you should have jotted down a pretty nice-looking list of goals. If you did, well done! You can proceed with putting your goals on our worksheet below this text block.

If you didn’t do any of the above, you should know that setting fitness goals only takes a matter of minutes, even for beginners in the world of working out. So, let’s take action, shall we?

Henceforth, your mission is to choose which one of the 7 main fitness goals above fits your needs, set a long-term goal, and break that into smart short-term goals.

To make this process even easier, use our incredibly efficient Fitness Goals Worksheet.

What are my fitness goals?

As the proud founder of Unfold Today, I always stand by our products and make sure they provide value to our readers – yes, even the free ones.

Thus, here are the fitness goals I ended up with by following the exact instructions on our super-efficient worksheet:

  • Main goal: building muscle;
  • Long-term goal: put on 10 kg of muscle mass in the next year;
  • Short-term goals:
  1. Eat 3300 calories per day for the next 3 months;
  2. Track my weight and performance in training every day;
  3. Eat nutrient-rich food each day to cover the necessary protein-intake of 190 g per day;
  4. Strength train 5 days a week;
  5. Go for light 20-minute-long runs every morning before working out.

Motivation Time: 5 quotes on fitness goals

Man grabbing circles in the park for training his body

Whether we are beginners or advanced fitness practitioners, sometimes we all need a push in the journey towards achieving our fitness goals.

Of course, a worksheet with your fitness goals broken down in easy-to-follow steps is the best thing to start with, but your quest to your tip-top condition is long, so glimpsing over a few motivation quotes works wonders, I’m telling you.

  • Michael Phelps Fitness Goals Motivation Quote
  • Dwayne
  • Drew Brees Fitness Goals Motivation Quote
  • Cristiano Ronaldo Motivational Quote
  • The Dalai Lama Fitness Goals Motivation Quote

To sum up, whether you’re trying to lose weight, build muscle, increase endurance, improve your flexibility, or just benefit mentally from your workout routines, you can now make full use of the art of setting fitness goals and achieve your objectives sooner than you’ve ever thought possible.

What are your long-term and short-term fitness goals? Drop a comment below.

Written by
Claudiu Pop is a nutritionist, medical writer, journalist, and the founder of Unfold Today. He specialized in fitness and nutrition, especially in weight gain, by helping people increase their body mass since 2019 with over 20 articles published in the field.

4 comments on “How to Set and Accomplish Smart Fitness Goals (for Men and Women)”

  1. Hello - Great write up!

    I was wondering if you know any good guides for busy moms striving to lose fat? It looks like V Shred may be a good option but after looking at it, I'm having second thoughts.
    I'm looking for reviews on great exercises other moms have bought online to tone their bodies. I would love to get my bikini body back.



    1. We plan to publish articles that will help moms like you lose fat, but until then, send me a message on the contact us page. I can hook you up with one of the certified personal trainers we collaborate with and, together, we can work up to that bikini body you're looking for. Cheers, Sam!

  2. I have gone through the blog post and I must admit it is very informative. I liked the writing style too. Keep up the good work and share more content. Cheers!

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