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Your Motivational Mindset: Making Positive Changes To Fitness Goal-Setting

by Jeremy Kinser April 10, 2016

1502568_10152417726735047_5493486714762804172_nWhen it comes to fitness and health, we all have specific goals and ambitions in mind.  When I sit down with potential clients, one of my first questions in inevitably “What are your goals and expectations for personal training?” Most of us have similar goals in mind when we sit down to map out our fitness path and the conversation generally leads to answers that include: “I want to lose this extra weight,” “I want to look good for an upcoming event,” “I want to be healthy,” or “I want to tone up and feel better about myself.” However, when it comes to helping clients reach these goals, we have to dig a bit deeper and look at the big picture of what’s going on in a client’s life.

All of the aforementioned goals are outcome-based goals. Looking good in a bathing suit is an outcome. Losing 10 pounds of bodyweight is an outcome. Outcomes are essentially the “finish line” of a process. My job as an elite trainer is to formulate the process for clients to make the changes necessary to reach their final goals. Once a client has listed their outcome-based goals, I challenge them to think outside the box and consider behavioral changes that will help them achieve said goals. This generally comes with a slight pause and a look of deep concentration.  As humans, we focus on the things we want in life, but we tend not to focus on the WAYS that we can make those goals become a reality. Most people think, “I want to lose weight, so I will go to the gym, work out, and lose weight.” Unfortunately, this process doesn’t usually end in successful results, leads to frustration, and the cycle of losing motivation and stopping the process begins all over again. After some deep consideration of behavioral changes, clients throw out examples like “I need to stop drinking alcohol,” ”I need to be more consistent with my workouts,” and “I need to start doing cardio”. Once these behavioral goals are out in the open, we can formulate a more concise plan of attack.

Outcome based goals vs. behavioral based goals:

11027451_10152859580960047_5864712416116862990_nOutcome-based goals are something that we all have deep in the back of our psyche, especially when it comes to our looks. However, they are hard to track, and things in life inevitably happen that can affect outcome-based goals. Things like workload, stress, illness, injury, and everyday life occurrences can affect our ability to reach outcome-based goals. How many times have we set goals only to find that life gets crazy, fitness and health gets pushed onto the back burner, and our goal of “losing weight” becomes more of a fantasy than a reality? Outcome-based goals are also hard to track. Sure we can measure our weight on a scale or take measurements, but what happens when the scale says we haven’t met our outcome based goal of “losing weight”?  We generally get frustrated, give up and end up stressed out.

Now, let’s look at ways to turn the tables and focus on behavioral goals. If someone is having a hard time losing weight, we have to decide which behaviors in our life are prohibiting us from reaching our intended goals. Behavioral goals come in many forms but the most common are nutrition, time, consistency and habit based. Behavioral changes can be measured daily or weekly, can be reassessed often, and can be smaller, realistic, and achievable, which leads to longer term success when adhering to a plan. Behavioral changes can also be progressed and/or regressed as needed so that changes in lifestyle can still accommodate long-term goals. I look at challenges that my client is currently facing and assess a realistic goal that we can reevaluate with the next week’s programming. For example, if a client is struggling with nutrition, we may make it a goal to meal prep and avoid eating out at restaurants Monday through Friday for the week. I then ask the client on a scale of 1-10 how comfortable they feel that they can accomplish that goal. If they respond with an 8 or higher, the goal is realistic and we focus on that behavioral change for the week. The next week, if a client was able to meal prep successfully and didn’t eat out at restaurants, then we consider the behavioral change a success and we can build from there. Perhaps for the next week, we focus on meal prepping for all 7 days of the week and try to only eat out at a restaurant for one meal. Again, these goals are meant to be realistic, achievable and short term. If a client tells me that they ended up eating at restaurants every day, it is then time to reevaluate the goal. A regression for this example would be “this week I am going to try to eat breakfast and dinner at home Monday through Friday, and limit my lunches at restaurants to two days during the work week.” Remember, reaching a goal is not as easy as going from A to B. Small steps lead to long-term successes.

When setting behavioral change goals, it is important to use positive language that is productive to achieving goals. People respond to positive thoughts and actions. We spend too much time beating ourselves up over minuscule things, which adds unneeded stress to our already-stressful lives. Instead of using words like don’t, won’t, can’t and stop, think of spinning these words into positive motivators such as try, limit, less, and reduce. Many people naturally want to go cold turkey and say things like “I’m going to stop eating carbs” or “I’m won’t drink alcohol anymore.” This places us in a restrictive box that challenges us into an “all or nothing” approach. Subsequently we beat ourselves up and usually end up reverting back to old habits in even greater excess. If, however, we say “I am going to try to limit my alcohol consumption to one night a week” or “I am going to reduce the amount of processed carbs that I eat every day” we allow ourselves greater leeway to make mistakes while still staying within the guidelines of our goals.  This helps to prevent overindulgence, keeps us in positive spirits about our progress, and is something that can be tracked and reevaluated on a weekly basis. As a client becomes more effective at setting and achieving realistic goals, new goals can be made and the steps towards long-term goals become more realistic. 

Making positive changes to help clients reach their goals is much more involved than simply saying, “eat healthy, work out, and do cardio.” The emotional aspect of personal training is just as important as the physical aspect, and often can be the difference in clients making life-long lifestyle changes. By setting realistic goals, clients remain motivated, stay positive and are more likely to stay on track and eventually hit their long-term outcome based goals.  Let’s be honest, we all want to look good for summer, but it’s the behavioral changes that we set and accomplish that are going to make the difference in having a “summer body” for a season versus a lifetime. 


For more information or to book a class, visit

The Phoenix Effect, a functional group fitness studio that gets you in shape fast, is offered exclusively at 7264 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA.

Jeremy Kinser
Jeremy Kinser


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