Short Term Fitness Goals: The Best Approach?

You’ve probably noticed that I love goals. Goal setting is where I get most of my motivation to keep moving forward with, well, everything, but especially my health and fitness.

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged when things are moving slowly, like fat loss and muscle growth. We’re talking glacial speed here. hourglass-short-term-fitness-goals

I remember when I first started trying to lose my baby weight and it took weeks and weeks to just lose 5lbs. Of course, I was making a lot of mistakes along the way but I also hadn’t set any short term fitness goals.

Trust me, I had a lot of long term goals, like, fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes (which would be another 45lb), lose 50lbs, be able to lift the same weights as before, have a flat stomach, you know the drill.

Every time I would weigh myself or try to fit into old clothes it was always disappointing and deflating (not in the good way, I wish I could have deflated my stomach ha!). Here’s the problem, I was looking too far into the future, my goal setting was all off. Hopefully, this will help you not make the same mistakes I did.

Long Term Goals Why They Don’t Work

Do you have any friends or relatives who are yo-yo dieters? Meaning, they jump from one diet to the next and claim that the previous one didn’t work? Yeah. I have never been a yo-yo dieter, but I have definitely gotten discouraged and given up several times.

When I was trying to lose weight I adamant about not buying any new clothes because I was determined to lose weight and fit back into my old clothes. I was running the miles and my weight wouldn’t budge.

The first time I felt truly defeated I looked in the mirror at my pleasantly plump self and said “I guess I am just one of those girls who never loses the baby weight… I might as well just buy some clothes that fit me because I guess this is the new me.” I almost gave up, but I am so thankful I didn’t.

One of the biggest mistakes I made was my goals were too big and too far into the future, they were too long term. I was never able to celebrate any victories because, frankly, I never had any.

Long term goals do not work by themselves because there is never a reward.

I am not a scientist, but humans don’t fare well when the promise of a reward is far away. I don’t think this is just a millennial thing either. It’s in our genetic makeup to seek for gratifying things NOW. It was the key to survival as we were constantly pushing for now. If we waited then we would probably not be here as a species.

A few posts back I talked about sugar addiction (you can read that post here) and I think it kind of relates to this topic too. Humans are very motivated by immediate rewards. Sugar for example, it’s much easier to pick the immediate reward (eating something sugary) over the long term reward (losing weight/being healthier). Its human nature.

That’s why long term goals don’t work. That’s why every time we set goals for ourselves like; “lose 50lbs” or “fit into my old jeans by vacation (in 6 months),” we end up falling off the wagon because the task is too daunting.

Secondly, and probably the biggest trap of long term goals, is it gives us the illusion that we have a ton of time to meet our goals. We can get away with eating this ice cream because our goals aren’t for another 6 months.

See the issue with long term goals, when they are set by themselves? Yeah.

Short Term Fitness Goals, Why They Work

One of my favorite quotes is, “little by little, a little becomes a lot.” I absolutely love it. It’s so true isn’t it? All the little things you do equate to big change, this applies to health, fitness, career, personal development, everything.

Short term goals help awaken that reward part of our brain. Our goals seem so much more attainable and we are more motivated to achieve them because we have more faith in ourselves. That’s why I am such a HUGE fan of short term goals. Don’t you feel better already? Just reading that makes me feel better.

It’s like eating your cake one bite at a time… probably not the best analogy for a weight loss post, but you know what I mean.

Short term fitness goals work because they are much more easily attainable and that means quicker reward. Awesome, right? However, I do not think that short-term fitness goals should be the only form of goal setting.

My Solution

To me, the best formula for goal setting is to have both, long and short term goals. Long term goals don’t work by themselves because they are too daunting and far away. Short term goals do not work by themselves because it’s easy to fall off the wagon when you don’t have long term direction. winning-short-term-fitness-goals

If you combine the two, you get the best of both worlds. Short term goals give you the confidence and reward to keep moving forward and your long term goals give you the motivation to keep going forward. It’s amazing!

The way I like to do this is writing them out. Here’s how I do it.

  • Long term goals: These goals are usually 6-12 months in the making. I write them down on a piece of paper and put it on my wall so I can see it often. I might add to this as time goes on but I keep it very simple.
  • Weekly goals: On Sunday nights I write out my goals for the following week (I do this in all areas, fitness, personal, career etc. usually 3 per category)
  • Daily goals: These goals are usually written the night before and contain what I want to accomplish the following day.

Following this method has changed my life in so many ways. I am so much more driven and productive.

I really hope you give this a try. If you do, please let me know how it goes!

What are some of your goal setting strategies?

Much love,



  • Daniel

    This seems like very practical, pragmatic advice. Setting goals is one of the most important things you can do. Having some sort of aim gives your life purpose. I really like how you broke down long term and short term goals and how they effect motivation. Very interesting read!

  • Jukka

    Great tips Savannah! I have both long term and short term goals in my strength training program. The short term goals are important for keeping you on the right track like you said. My main fitness goal for this year is a 5 rep 140 kg back squat that seems like an impossible feat at the moment, but I have gradually added weight to the bar every single week. 5 rm 120 kg currently. My left knee and lower back are acting up so I have to pace myself as injury will set you back in strength training more than anything. If they hold up, I know I will crush that goal by the end of the year but I need weekly and monthly goals to keep me going. Wish me luck!

    • Savannah

      Wow those are some pretty big goals! Injuries really can set you back, I tore a muscle in my lower back doing RDL and it took me a very long time to recover. I still have to be careful with my lower back and that was probably 4 years ago. Definitely take all the time you need! Good luck!!

  • Donna Rayne

    Hi, Savannah!

    I enjoyed reading your article. I too have had to battle weight loss. Before I had children, (I’ve had 4 but they are all grown) I was a tiny person. And when I started having kits, my weight just kept on accumulating with each kid.

    I tried to diet and I just gained weight. No matter what I did, it just didn’t come off.

    Until… I went through menopause. I lost 40 pounds without even trying. Then for a while, I was tiny then during a bad marriage I gained 40 plus 10 more pounds.

    I managed to get this weight off due to me being sick from colitis and it just melted off. Then I had a radical hysterectomy and put on a few pounds.

    Not only is it good to set different degrees of goals but also to take into consideration how the weight was gained and what to do about it.

    Women always have to struggle with their weight and it’s not easy for some.

    So I thank you for putting this out there. More women need to read this article.

    You are inspiring,

    All my best,
    Donna Rayne

    • Savannah

      Oh yes, weight gain/loss issues are some of the most frustrating. Hormones play such a big role in our weight. I wish it something more people took into account. I have definitely noticed my weight is much more touchy since having my daughter. I really hope that you have been able to find the balance and happiness that you deserve! 🙂 Thank you so much for your insight Donna, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it!

  • Daniel

    This is an interesting read, Savannah. I completely agree with you on the need to have both short term and long term goals….they work hand-in-hand. Setting goals gives direction and purpose of action, no matter what activity you are into, not just on fitness. Your article was well broken down and well written. Well done!
    Thanks a lot for sharing!

    • Savannah

      Daniel, thank you so much for the feedback 🙂 I totally agree, I have short and long term goals in all areas of my life and have seen a huge change in overall productivity 🙂

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