14 Realistic Fitness Goals To Set This Year (And Exactly How to Accomplish Them)

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You know how it goes: we all start out the year with aspirations to get fit, get healthy, and be our best selves. But when those fitness goals are based on long-term ideas of how we want to look (“lose 10 pounds,” “go down a pants size,” “get abs,”) rather than short-term goals on how we want to feel, those goals fall through in a matter of months or even weeks, and you feel let down, disappointed, and like a failure.

Instead of the endless cycle of weight-focused fitness goals, and make goals based on what’s actually good for you, and goals that you’ll actually be able to stick to. When you focus on what your body can do, rather than how your body looks, you’ll start to appreciate it so much more, and want to give it more of what it needs to be its healthiest. Replace your fitness goals that are focused on the way you look or the way your pants fit with these 14 goals that will make you *actually* stronger, healthier, and better:

 

1. Try one new workout every month

Having a fitness routine is important, but always having the same fitness routine? Not great. For one reason, your body gets used to the same movements, miles, or weights, and in order to keep getting stronger, you should always be challenging yourself. More importantly, if you stick to the same exact workout routine every day, you’ll get bored. Being bored will make you less likely to want to work out, and the key to consistent exercise is not willpower, it’s enjoyment. News flash: exercise should be fun

 

How to Accomplish It:

 

  • Look for new opportunities to work out. Check out the classes your gym offers, say yes if your work friend invites you along on her run after work, or if you see a $10 first-class deal at a yoga studio, do it.

 

  • Go for the opposite workout than what you’re used to. If you’re a gym rat who prefers weight training, try a dance class, or if you’re a diehard yogi, try an HIIT workout. Changing up the routine will not only help your body get stronger, but will help you enjoy the process, too.

 

  • Not sure where to begin when trying something new? Make online workouts your BFF. Search a workout you’ve never tried before on Youtube video (Beyoncé cardio workout? Yes please!), look up your favorite trainers’ Instagram pages and search their IGTVs or Reels for shorter workouts, or opt for an online fitness platform with a variety of options (if you haven’t heard, we’re partial to Obé Fitness).

 

 

2. Stretch more

Stretching is one of the #1 things we can do to help strengthen our muscles, avoid injuries, and even relieve tension (both physically and mentally!), but most of us aren’t stretching enough. Especially combined with a sedentary lifestyle and intense workouts, not stretching enough can cause injuries and muscle strain. Not only is a warm-up and post-exercise stretch crucial for those muscles you’re working, but stretching throughout the day can improve the overall health of your body. 

 

How to Accomplish It:

 

  • Never work out without some form of a dynamic warmup before and stretching the worked muscles afterward. Danyele Wilson, a NASM certified trainer, HIIT master trainer, Tone & Sculpt coach recommended at least five minutes of active stretching to warm up the body. Post-workout, focus on isolated stretches: stretch and hold for 20-30 seconds to target the muscle groups that you used during your workout.

 

  • Make stretching a part of your routine. Take a few minutes in the morning to do a few morning stretches to wake you up, and a few minutes at night to help you wind down. Also, turn specific breaks throughout your day into “stretch breaks,” whether that’s doing a few yoga poses once every hour during the workday or stretching tight muscles during commercial breaks when Real Housewives is on.

 

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3. Perfect your form

You could be working out every day or doing hundreds of reps, but if you don’t have the right form, you might not be strengthening as much as you think (or worse: you could actually be causing injuries and longterm damage). Proper form helps you maximize a workout by using your energy for the extra push, meaning that no movement goes to waste. If you have improper form, you might be targeting unintended muscles and setting yourself up for injury. Plus, good form means you can run faster, jump higher, and push harder (yes, you will feel like Superman). Knowing exactly how to perfect your form (no matter what type of workout it is) is crucial for properly protecting your body, strengthening your muscles, and keeping your body healthy. 

 

How to Accomplish It:

 

  • If you have the option, utilize a free personal training session at your gym to have a trainer give you one-on-one attention for perfecting your form, or look up the proper form of your most common movements on Youtube (like squats) to learn the best way to perform the move. It might feel tedious, but the education and practice will be worth it in the long run. 

 

  • If you’re a fan of fitness classes, utilize the instructor. Don’t be afraid to call over the instructor if it’s a class like barre or pilates where the instructors are there to help you to check in about your form, or hang back after class to discuss the movements you’re not sure about and if any movement feels painful in a negative way.

 

  • Don’t go up in weight or reps until you know that your form won’t be compromised, and focus on form even more so when your body is feeling tired (AKA when we typically begin to forget about form). 

 

 

4. Get a workout buddy

Do you have a friend, significant other, roommate, or work wife who also wants to stick to their resolutions? Make them your accountability buddy and motivate each other by exchanging healthy recipes, sending motivational quotes, and checking in to see how the other is feeling or keeping up with their goal. You don’t have to have the same resolutions to motivate each other, but it certainly helps if you plan to hop on a Zoom yoga class with a friend or set up weekly meetings with your work wife to see how your career resolutions are coming along. You’ll be much more motivated feeling like you’re in this together.

 

How to Accomplish It:

 

  • Team up with a coworker to work out before the workday starts (meet for an early morning run or text each other to make sure you’re up for individual online workout classes), make friends with people at your gym, or simply tell a friend you trust your fitness goals and ask for help staying accountable.

 

  • Instead of your usual coffee date or happy hour drinks to catch up with friends, suggest a barre class or going for a walk. 

 

 

5. Do something active every week that makes you feel calm

Fitness should not be all about working as hard as you can, as much as you can. You have to be just as serious about your rest days as you are about your workout days and focus on the mental benefits of fitness just as much as the physical. Instead of sticking to intense, heart-pumping, sweat-dripping workouts, add in an activity every week that makes you feel calm. Now that’s a fitness goal that you can stick to (and will make a major difference in your wellbeing).

 

How to Accomplish It:

 

  • Instead of a fifth day at the gym or the same HIIT class you do every day, opt for a calming yoga class at the end of the week, or do your own flow at home (bonus: focus on Savasana more than you focus on the tricep push-ups).

 

  • If it’s nice outside or you need some fresh air, don’t force yourself into a gym or on the yoga mat in your living room: take a walk instead. Listen to a podcast, put on your comfy shoes, and take some time for yourself while you’re moving your body.

 

  • Incorporate meditation. It’ll quiet your mind while your body rests, too. I love meditating right after working out (it feels extra good when your body is tired), but if you need some additional help, check out meditation apps or another kind of meditation.

 

 

6. Walk instead of drive whenever you can

You might’ve heard that a healthy person gets 10,000 steps a day (curse you, Fitbit!). While I’m not personally a fan of defining our health based on numbers (our wellbeing is much more subjective than that), walking is undeniably good for our health. The body is meant to be consistently active throughout the day, but most of us are sitting basically 24/7 (at your desk, in the car, or on the couch for a Netflix binge). 

 

How to Accomplish It:

 

  • Closeout the Uber app or put away the car keys and make the most of the warmer weather by walking. Make sure you plan ahead to allow for a longer commute time, wear comfortable shoes (no more blisters, please!), and cue up a good podcast or playlist to make the time go quickly. 

 

  • If you’re going somewhere too far to walk, get off the train a couple of stops early, park in a farther garage, or have your Uber drop you off a few blocks away.

 

  • Make easy swaps in your routine to up your step count. For example: use the furthest bathroom instead of the closest, treat yourself to a latte at a walkable coffee stop instead of making your own, or go to the grocery store more often (because walking down food aisles count too!). 

 

 

 

7. Remind yourself of your “why” every day

New Year’s resolutions often fail (or are forgotten by February) because we forget the “why.”  The first step to holding yourself accountable is to put meaning behind the goals you set. For example, “going to the gym every day” is a fine goal, but you need to look at the bigger picture goal as well. Why do you want to go to the gym every day? Is it to be stronger, feel more confident, or live longer? If you’re not looking at the reason, the goal will never feel motivating enough to actually achieve. 

 

How to Accomplish It:

 

  • Instead of thinking you’re supposed to go on a run, attend a workout class, or get up early for exercise before work, remind yourself why you want to do something. Tell yourself you want to work out before work because it makes you feel better during the day, or you want to lift some weights because feeling stronger helps you feel more confident.

 

  • Take some time to reflect or journal about why accomplishing this goal is important to you and how it will make a difference in your life.

 

  • Tape affirmations or your “why” reason somewhere you’d see it every day like on your fridge, mirror, or laptop. 

 

 

8. Drink more water

Staying hydrated is a tale as old as time, but there’s a reason just about every expert on the planet recommends it. Your body uses water to maintain the functions of cells, organs, tissues, etc. No surprise that water is not only an overall health goal, but also crucial for you to achieve your strongest, fittest self. As with everything else, the amount of water the body needs for optimal health varies from person to person because of factors like lifestyle, activity level, and bio-individuality, but it’s a good rule of thumb to be drinking half of your body weight in ounces a day, or just as much as possible.

 

How to Accomplish It:

 

  • Find the type of water bottle you like the best and buy multiple. This sounds so simple, and yet it’s the easiest way to trick yourself into drinking more. Do you prefer tumblers with straws, glass bottles, or steel canisters? Figure it out!

 

  • Set smaller daily goals for yourself that are easy to follow, like “drink three water bottles full of water before lunch” or “after dinner, I’m going to drink two cups before going to bed.”

 

  • Add fresh ingredients to your water like lemons, mint, cucumbers, ginger, or fruit. Not only will it boost the nutrients, but it will boost the taste too (and feel bougie AF!).

 

  • Drink a glass of water every single morning before you have a cup of coffee or a bite of food.

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9. Get 7-9 hours of sleep

Say it with me now: Sleep. Is. Crucial. For. Your. Fitness. Sleep gives your body time to recover and rebuild muscles, as well as conserve enough energy for you to exert at your next workout. Getting your beauty rest is critical for both your body’s health and the success of your workouts, so tracking how many hours of sleep you’re really getting can help determine if your sleep is restoring or if you could use a little improvement. Aim for 8-9 hours (sounds good, right?), but get no less than seven.

 

How to Accomplish It:

 

  • Go to bed just five minutes earlier every night. You won’t even notice the difference but in just a couple of weeks (or less), you’ll be sleeping one hour more than you used to.

 

  • Try an app like SleepCycle that will not only track how many hours you’re sleeping, but will also identify sleep quality; even if you’re getting nine hours but your sleep cycles are poor quality, you won’t feel well-rested.

 

  • Perfect a nighttime routine that helps you wind you down. Read for 15 minutes, do a meditation, or have a multi-step skincare routine. You’re less likely to break a routine you enjoy the next time you’re tempted to binge Grey’s Anatomy until late at night.

 

 

 

10. Live less sedentary

Forget designated workout times or using a “rest day” as an excuse to not get off of the couch all day. The most important “fitness goal” you could make for yourself is not a longer or more intense workout, but just to live less sedentary overall. That means more non-workout movement and prioritizing your body outside of gym sessions or workout classes. Movement throughout your entire day can help boost consistent energy and help everything from posture to chronic pain. 

 

How to Accomplish It:

 

  • Walk to work or your evening plans instead of drive, or take a walk around the block on your lunch break (see point #6). 

 

  • Turn on music and dance whenever you’re cooking or getting ready (bonus: it makes mundane activities way more fun!)

 

  • Set reminders to get up every hour on the hour throughout your workday for some movement: stretch, do 10 squats, or go through a quick yoga flow. 

 

11. Schedule workouts in your calendar

When appointments, meetings, or tasks are on your calendar, you know they’re going to get done. And you’ll probably show up on time, be fully prepared, and never skip. Just because a workout is not a work meeting does not mean you shouldn’t prioritize it as such. Honor your fitness goals like you would any other appointment on your schedule. For example, either sign up for an online workout class in advance or put “going on a jog” in your calendar.

 

How to Accomplish It:

 

  • Schedule workouts in your calendar at the beginning of each week instead of planning to get to a workout “sometime.”

 

  • Sign up for workout classes (either virtual or in-person) in advance. The cancellation fee itself will be enough to ensure you show up, and the strict start time will make sure you’re not late or push it off.

 

  • Honor the workout as you would a business meeting (since both belong in your calendar!). Show up on time, plan ahead, and be prepared.

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12. Always take the stairs if you can

About that sneaking in more movement into our daily lives instead of just intensifying workouts, every set of stairs is an opportunity for a mini glute workout (no, really!). While escalators and elevators are functional, convenient, and important, they also might be one of those sneaky reasons our step goals seem impossible to reach. If you are able to, take the stairs whenever possible to engage muscles, increase step count, and get your heart rate up (and if you have a walk-up apartment, enjoy it instead of cursing it). 

 

How to Accomplish It:

 

  • This one’s pretty simple: opt for the stairs over an escalator or elevator whenever possible.

 

13. Aim for balance

Working out way too hard and way too constantly without proper time to rest and recuperate could lead to burnout, injuries, and overall exhaustion. Instead of making goals based on how “intense” you can go or how long you want to work out, aim for balance. After all, the goal of health is balance, not perfection. Prioritizing rest as much as you prioritize exercise will help you be as healthy as possible, both physically and mentally. Bottom line: listen to your body more often than you listen to your workout plan or fitness routine.

 

How to Accomplish It:

 

  • Do something every single day that you count as “self-care,” whether it’s getting to bed early, reading for 30 minutes, or watching Real Housewives reruns (we won’t judge).

 

  • Make sure you’re enjoying your health routine. If you’re feeling bored with your workouts, switch it up. If you feel exhausted, take a break and try yoga. Cook inventive and interesting food instead of just bland protein and veggies for every meal, and master healthy cooking.

 

  • Listen to your body: become a master at knowing if you’re feeling lethargic and need to exercise to get your energy up, or if you’ve been running yourself too thin and you need a day to rest.

 

 

14. Give yourself a compliment or gratitude every day.

By now I don’t need to tell you the importance of self-love and body positivity when it comes to achieving your goals. The more you believe in yourself and love yourself, the more likely you are to achieve your goals—because you’ll be achieving them for the right reasons. Putting yourself down or feeling like you’re not reaching goals fast enough will make you already failed instead of motivating you to work harder. The secret to achieving any goal is to realize you already have what it takes to be your best right now. In fact, the only thing keeping you from being the strongest, healthiest version of yourself is your own belief that you’re not already there. 

 

How to Accomplish It:

 

  • Start a gratitude journal. Write what you’re grateful for about your body: how your thighs are so strong, how you can run so fast, or even just that you’re healthy and alive.

 

  • Stare in the mirror and give yourself a compliment. Look for the good in yourself, and tell yourself you’re beautiful for a million other reasons besides the way you look. Eventually, you’ll start to believe it.

 

  • After every workout, make it a habit to silently say “thank you” to your body for working so hard and getting you through the workout.