How To Balance Your Short Term And Long Term Training Goals

January 28th 2020

Goal setting is necessary for accomplishing any particular goal – it could be losing weight, gaining weight, becoming healthier, etc. 

This concept is an essential part of a beginner lifter’s journey. 

Before embarking on this rigorous journey, goals must be set. One has to know what they are trying to achieve, and their purpose of setting their ultimate goal. 

There are essential things one has to keep in mind while creating these goals. 

I will be outlining tips on how to effectively set specific goals that can be attained in a realistic manner. 

These will assist you in setting goals for yourself that will make you successful.

What is a goal?

A goal is a desired result a person envisions, plans and commits to achieve. We incorporate goals in all aspects of our lives. 

As a beginner lifter, you have to set goals for that specific thing you would like to achieve. Goals can be categorized into short-term and long-term goals. 

Short-term goals can be defined as, something you want to accomplish in a short period of time. This could range from a day, a few weeks or even months, but not more than a year. 

In contrast, long -term goals are things that take longer than a year to up to 10 years accomplish.

Balance Short Term And Long Term Fitness Goals

Staying focused and developing S.M.A.R.T. goals will help you to better successfully achieve your short term goals. Accumulating many short term goals will eventually carry beginner lifters over to getting towards their long term goals. The time span for short term goals can be as short as daily goals while long term goals can span for as long as many decades.

How do short-term and long-term goals look like for a beginner lifter?

As a beginner lifter, you have a particular goal you are working towards. 

Usually, setting goals tend to be the easier thing to do. However, more often than not, a lot of people find it difficult to actualize their end goal. 

What makes it easier - note the word “easier” - is having a specific and concrete way of accomplishing it. 

This is where short-term and long-term goals come in. As mentioned above, short term goals are goals that can be accomplished in a short period of time - usually less than a year, while long terms goals can be accomplished in a number of years.

A few examples of short-term goals are as follows, keep in mind, these could be daily goals, weekly goals or even monthly goals;

  •     Weekly workout schedules - stating out specific days of the week that are allotted for workouts, how many hours will be spent on each day for workouts?
  •     How much weight is being gained? Make sure the scale reflects that.
  •     How many calories need to be consumed to gain a particular weight goal? If so, keep a food journal or have someone you consult with to make sure you are accurate.
  •     Do you have a weekly workout plan? Make sure to nail that down.
  •     Are you considering working with a trainer? If so, how often will you be meeting up with the trainer?


Examples for long-term goals are as follows;

  •     How much do you want to weigh in a year?
  •     Are you trying to reach a specific weight and set a personal record?
  •     Are you trying to lose body fat percentage and build your physique? 
  •     Are you trying to build strength for a competition? 

How to prevent overestimating your goals?

While we have talked about how both short-term and long-term goal should look like, we have yet to state how to effectively set them in order to be successful. 

We have all been guilty of setting goals – very good ones – but somewhere along the way, we fall off. We then begin to wonder why we couldn’t follow through with our goals. 

One significant reason is not setting specific, measurable and attainable goals with a realistic timeline. 

To avoid overestimating your goals, a good tool to use in setting goals is the term ‘SMART’ goals. 

SMART goals are an acronym that gives you a step-by-step guideline to effectively set your goals. So, what do SMART goals look like?

S stands for SPECIFIC

Setting a specific goal enables one to draw out a clear and concise goal that provides a direction in curating specific regimens that fit into that particular goal. 

Let’s think of it this way, saying you want to “bulk up” seems very general. It doesn’t clearly state a particular part of the body that will be the focus of muscle gain. 

A good question you can ask yourself is, “what part of my body am I trying to gain more muscle?”. If it is your chest, a clear and concise goal could be, “I want to increase the size of my chest.” 

That enables you to have a linear direction that you can tailor your workout and diet plan to ensure that you attain your specific goal.

Let us assume another situation, what if you want to gain strength. That is way too general.

You could make it more specific and gain strength for a particular sport, like basketball. Then, you would have a direction to tailor your research and goal development.

But if you want to gain functional overall strength, that is also a good way of identifying and specifying what you want, to balance your short term fitness goals to sync up and develop into long term fitness goals.


M stands for MEASURABLE

Another thing to keep in mind while setting your goal is making sure your goal is measurable. What do I mean by measurable? Measurable means being able to quantify your outcomes for your goal. 

For example, when we stated, “increasing the size of your chest,'' how much are we trying to increase? We can, therefore, make the goal measurable in this manner, “I want to have a 2-inches increase in my chest.” 

When you quantify your goal, it makes clear what you need to do to achieve that quantity.  

If you want to develop strength, doing an extra set or extra reps with a challenging weight will show measurable improvement. The most classic example of strength improvement is by setting new personal records in the gym or competition.

A stands for ATTAINABLE

We have talked about being specific and measurable. Another thing is, making sure your goal is attainable. Based on your specific goal in relation to the quantity you want to gain, does that seem as something attainable? 

A lot of times, people seem to get lost here. 

They set grandiose goals that seem attainable in their minds but not practically. This tends to demoralize a lot of people and make them feel like failures. What made them fail is setting goals that cannot be practically attained.

A good way to ensure you are setting attainable goals is by envisioning your time frame. Ask yourself, “am I able to gain 2lbs in one week?” 

If you agree, that becomes an attainable goal.  Another important thing is breaking up a larger goal into smaller achievable goals. This way, they become more feasible and attainable. 

Realistic but practical. In the past, athletes just tried everything and saw if it worked for them. For beginner lifters, you need to just try new strategies and see if they work for you.

Of course, do your research and question methodologies but you must rack up training experience in order to fully understand the scope of training. 

R stands for REALISTIC

Another important thing to keep in mind while setting your goal is ensuring your goal is realistic. What do we mean by realistic? It is ensuring that your goal is feasible in relation to your set time. For example, gaining 2lbs a week. That is a realistic goal, it is not overestimated. 

Many times, people get lost in these unrealistic expectations of themselves. 

They set big goals with a timeframe that isn't compatible with their specific goal. This results in feelings of failure when they are not achieved. 

Some guidelines to use while evaluating the feasibility of a goal are, “am I going to get burnt out at some point”, “will my motivation be at an all-time high”, “what am I doing to keep myself motivated?”.

Similar to attainability, it is important to break up larger goals to short realistic goals. This will increase productivity levels, reduced burn out and increase levels of motivation.

I read a piece recently about how Southwest Airlines had a big decision to make 30 years ago, to make as much money as they possibly can in a fiscal year or to practice sustain growth and to make sure they have room to improve each year.

I do not have the exact piece but this popular article can summarize what Southwest Airlines did.

In the end, Southwest Airlines saw sustainable growth in the last 30 years even when our economy suffered major setbacks. Because of the practical decisions made by the leaders decades ago, the company is still growing strong and is showing no signs of slowing down.

This draws many parallels into strength training. For a beginner especially.

Yes, you can do all out, balls to the wall and make massive amounts of progress in very short amounts of time. One instance of this can be seen by adding 5 lbs to your squat after every successful workout.

It can work but it is not realistic nor sustainable in the long term. This will force beginners to adapt and learn about new techniques in order to improve their strength.

This is part of the learning curve of lifting weights. 

In the end, you need to be realistic but also not super conservative where you do not push your body. There is a fine balance to strength training where if you train a little too hard, you will suffer an injury.

This is where experience comes into play. This also highlights our next point: 

T stands for TIME

Finally, you want to make sure you are setting a realistic timeframe to achieve your goal. 

The benefit of setting a timeframe is to prevent procrastination. 

Another benefit is to ensure you are not overestimating your goals. If your goal is to increase your bench press by 100lbs in 1 year, you want to make sure you are on track to meet your due date. 

It will also allow yourself to assess whether you bit more than you can chew. 

Other than preventing procrastination, setting a timeframe teaches one to be disciplined. 

After doing this several times, it soon becomes second nature. Most importantly, setting a time frame makes a goal complete. 

Therefore, it makes it easier to achieve a goal once a realistic time frame has been set. 


Now that you have learned how to set SMART goals, it is my hope that you will be more effective and efficient in goal setting. 

It is also my hope that this will boost your motivation, increase your productivity levels, see your results and keep pushing you to achieve your long-term goals. 

Strength training is a lifelong sport but so many athletes get derailed by injuries which forces them into early retirement. Train S.M.A.R.T but train hard as well.
Easier said than done but this is the work needed so that you can avoid bigger issues later on.

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