Setting goals is a common practice when working with a personal trainer. Most of us go into a workout with something we want to achieve, whether that's getting stronger, working out more regularly, or losing some weight.
The science of goal setting is well researched, a 2015 study showed that people who set tough goals but had well-defined objectives achieved a lot more than those who didn't. Goal setting is also frequently discussed within positive psychology circles because those who set goals are often more likely to have a positive outlook on life.
If it is your first time working with a trainer, they are hopefully going to encourage you to set some goals - but don't wait to see them to get those rolling. Here are some key benefits to setting goals without your personal trainer.
Setting your own goals is more motivating
“The best goals are those that are personally relevant, meaningful, and enjoyable — also called self-concordant goals, or ‘want-to’ goals,” explains Dr. Milyavskaya in this article from Outsider.
This is based on Expectancy Theory which states motivation is the product of a) how much you personally value your goal and b) how high your belief is that you can realistically achieve your goals.
It is easy to conclude here that setting your own personal goals is more motivating than having those goals be set by someone else. This is because they are more personally relevant and your emotional buy-in to the 'why' of the goal is deeper.
Your trainer can't give you goals without your input
It is really hard for any personal trainer (you could say impossible) to set you goals without your input. We understand you might not know what goals are realistic or what type of goals you should set if you are just starting out with fitness. This is where thinking about what you want to achieve short, medium and long-term could be key to success.
You can have a much more productive conversation if you turn up with some ideas of what you would like. Remember that a personal trainer will usually want to ensure that your goals are achievable to keep you motivated. So if they are suggesting that you shouldn't attempt to double your deadlift in 4 weeks or lose 20 pounds in a month, it's probably good advice.
Setting goals earlier can kick start your progress
There will probably be some time between thinking about finding a personal trainer, finding one, and then starting your sessions. This could be a day, a week, or a month but the sooner you set your goals the quicker you can start.
Let's say you are waiting to start sessions with your personal trainer but you already know that you really want to work on your overall fitness. Luckily there are lots of habits that you could be building in the meantime without a personal trainer to get you there. Examples of this could be walking more, doing something fun every day that gets your heart beating or simply doing 10 squats per day.
You may have weight loss goals, and you know that just working out alone won't be sufficient for the calorie deficit you need. Starting to figure out what your diet may look like, planning meals, and testing recipes can all be done before the start of your training. It gives you a transition period and stops the 'I'll start on Monday' mentality which does more harm than good.
Empowering yourself to start whenever you choose
Following on from the 'I'll start on Monday' or the general 'I'll do this when ____' mentality we want to discuss something that falls in the pure psychology bucket of goal setting. Procrastination is something many of us struggle with, it often provides us reasons not to do something we should or even want to do. A personal trainer is both a great tool to kick start your progress but can also be a great excuse to not do anything, right now, and potentially worse, do things that actually aren't good for you.
Breaking out of this cycle is extremely empowering and can in general improve your life because you know that you can start something whenever you choose. You can decide this minute whilst reading the blog, that you want to do something and go and do it. Actually, just go ahead and do that, this blog has served it's purpose.