How to Set Fitness Goals that Actually Work

Whether you're at the start of your fitness journey or need to pause and refresh, Nutrition Coach Joshua Smith offers his expert advice on hitting your targets

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How to Set Fitness Goals that Actually Work

Nutrition Coach for Fortitude Nutrition Coaching, Joshua Smith, offers his advice on taking the first step to achieving your health and fitness goals with an outcome vs behaviour approach. Throw out the rule book and take a leaf out of his book for setting goals that can actually be achieved.

Getting started...

Commonly, when someone sets their health and fitness goals, they start with the outcome they want first:

• I want to lose 5-10kg
• I want six-pack abs
• I want to snatch 100kg

Outcome goals describe how we want things to be at the end of the process.

There’s nothing wrong wanting things. Or talking about what you want. Or starting with the end in mind. But we can’t stop there. Wanting things isn’t enough, even if you really, really, really want them.

However, we often can’t control outcomes. Outcomes are affected by environmental things like:

• Your job gets crazy busy
• Your kid gets sick
• Your gym closes for renovations
• You have exams at school

They’re also influenced by physical things:

• Your hormones
• You have a chronic illness (or even just a cold or flu)
• You’re stressed
• You’re travelling a lot
• You’re getting older
• You’re having trouble sleeping
• You tripped over your dog and sprained your knee

Take control

You can’t make your body do what you want it to, but you can control what you do. That’s why behaviour goals are so important. They focus on the things we do have control over.

Behaviour goals represent your commitment to practicing a particular set of actions or tasks every day, as consistently as possible.

Here’s how:

1. Write down the outcome you want.
2. Think about all the small steps you can take to move you toward that outcome, and which ones should come first.

Here are a few other examples of how we can turn outcome goals into behaviour goals:


Lose 5kg
Lower blood sugar
Squat more weight
Sleep 8 hours per night
Have a better relationship with a partner


Eat until 80% full at each meal
Eat low-calorie fruit for dessert, instead of sweets
Squat 3 times a week at various intensities
Create a calming pre-sleep routine and start it 30 minutes before bedtime
Have a date night once a week

Notice how both outcome and behaviour goals are trackable. However, behaviour goals are usually more effective because they give you something to do (and track) each day.

Setting powerful behaviour goals

1. Write down one outcome you want. Name the thing you want most right now.
2. Write down some of the skills you think you’ll need to get that outcome.
3. Related to each skill, write down a behaviour you can do today that’ll help build those skills.
4. Do the behaviour today, and tomorrow, and the next day. Keep in mind, if you don’t practice that behaviour on a particular day, don’t let it derail you. Each day is a clean slate. Start again the next day.

Final thoughts

True Protein’s in-house Accredited Sports Dietician, Roslyn Yee, offers her opinion on setting achievable goals at the start of your fitness journey:

“Behaviour goals are the strategies you will need to implement to reach your long-term goals. They’re like the clues to finding a lost treasure chest. You want them to be clear and concise instructions for you to follow easily, rather than vague and puzzling clues that see you fumbling around in the dark.

If your behaviour goals are not planned properly, then you may be setting yourself up for failure.

Physically writing down your goals may seem cliché but it’s been proven to increase your chances of achieving what you first set out to do. Results from a study conducted by Psychology Professor Dr Gail Matthews found that people who wrote their goals down were more likely to achieve their goals over those who hadn’t. More interestingly, those who had written goals that were made public with additional strategies of accountability were even more likely to achieve their goals.

If you’re seriously committed to achieving your goal then follow the above steps for ‘Setting Powerful Behaviour Goals’. Once written, make it public. Whether it’s by telling your closest friends and family or by starting a new Instagram account to photograph and record every step of your journey.

The intricacies of this part really don’t matter as long as you actually do it. Psychologically, it works by keeping you accountable and by creating a support network for when times get hard, and when (not if, but when) they do, you will have people to help you stay motivated and on track.

If you’re new to this process, it’s important to be real with yourself, sometimes even brutally honest. There is no point in creating a strategy that deep down you know you won’t do, or you don’t have the resources to complete the task. That’s OK, there will always be another solution. Remember, the smallest sustainable step in the right direction is better than overextending yourself that sees you fizzle out in the process, or, even worse, doing nothing at all!

My final thoughts were to wish you good luck but in this case, luck has nothing to do with it. So, I wish you well in planning out, writing and sharing your goals. Stay committed and consistent and you will get there!”

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: all content provided here is of a general nature only and is not a substitute for individualised professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and reliance should not be placed on it. For personalised medical or nutrition advice, please make an appointment with your doctor, dietitian or qualified health careprofessional.