When it comes to setting exercise goals people tend to get slightly carried away with what is actually achievable. While I think everyone would agree that having big aspirations is inspiring, you should take a more calculated approach when setting fitness goals. It may seem counterproductive to start small, but remember that you want to set yourself up for success not burnout or injury.

How many times have you or someone you know set a huge goal to lose lots of weight, or to exercise everyday, only to fall off the wagon a few weeks later? The truth is that even when people with the best of will power have no plan or a smart goal eventually they will stumble or fail to achieve what they set out to do.

When you first set a goal, you’re full of energy and completely motivated, but over time those feelings can wane end up pushing yourself to do too much too soon. The best method is to set a progressive set of fitness goals that build on one another to help propel you toward that big dream or end goal. Breaking a big goal into smaller, realistic goals can help you both mentally and physically. This method can also help you improve your fitness level gradually and safely, which helps to build confidence.

The first step is to really think about your goal and write it down.

Then, ask yourself these three questions:
1. How big is the goal? Is your goal only attainable in three months or more? If so, set a goal to get you to that long-term goal. Ideally, you should be able to reach the smaller goal in two to six weeks.

2. What does it take to achieve the goal? This addresses your goal’s frequency. If reaching your goal requires five workouts a week, but you can only get a babysitter two days a week, then you need to scale back your goal. Be realistic about what time you have to devote to the goal and be honest about your fitness level. Building your fitness base takes time, and being smart about increasing it will help you stay injury-free. As a general rule, never increase your weight lifted or time exercised by more than 10 percent. Slow and steady really does really help you maintain that momentum.

3. Can you see yourself reaching the goal? You want a program that you can stick with for the long haul—not just this week. Be completely honest with yourself and ask if you can realistically see yourself doing what it takes to achieve the goal at hand. If you can and it meets the above criteria then your goal is probably going to be more realistic for you to achieve!