It’s great to be ambitious and set the bar high with your goals - after all, what doesn’t challenge you, doesn’t change you!
However, there is one very important condition - to reach your goals efficiently while feeling great about yourself, you must also be realistic.
Here’s a quick example: if your friend told you they’re planning on running the world's fastest marathon tomorrow, however have not jogged once in their life, how would you rate their chances?
Likewise, would you expect to safely perform 10x150 kg hip thrusts today, if you just hit your 80 kg personal best a couple of days ago?
Both examples above are quite obviously unrealistic, and for most people, this would be both obvious and neutral emotionally. Most people would calmly reassess those and set smaller goals - for example, hitting 5 k in 30 minutes after a month of dedicated running training, or attempting a set of 3x80 kg in a few weeks.
Yet, the thought process tends to be very different when it comes to physique-related expectations! This isn’t too surprising, considering we are constantly bombarded with ads and posts promising to “help us shred 10 kg in a week” or “build a booty in a month”. Clever imagery and - let’s be real - wishful thinking makes our brains believe that it’s indeed an attainable expectation.
The issue is...it’s not going to happen. Not overnight, and for most people - not in weeks, or even months. Expecting big changes to happen right here, right now can really hurt your self-esteem and hinder any future progress!
Here’s what our long-term client Ellie realised throughout her journey:
“It's easy to think we're not progressing sometimes! If you're like me and you are a slow progress kinda gal, don't be discouraged! Never give up, because hard work forever pays off. Slow progress is still progress. It doesn't matter at what speed you are progressing: at any speed, forward is forward”.
Not sure how to get into this mindset, and don’t feel like your hard work is paying off? Please read this blog before throwing in a towel!
Fitness journey road map: expectation vs reality
The key to setting expectations correctly is accepting that no long term journey is ever going to be linear!
When following other people’s journeys without actually seeing what they’re going through every day, it may seem like they’re walking a straight path. However, it usually looks a bit like this:
The little twists, turns and curves can represent any disruptions, such as:
- Getting sick or injured
- Being surprised by friends bringing over pizza and beers
- Feeling a bit down and giving yourself a break
- Any emergency getting in your way
...and so on.
At times where you’re a bit further away from the “straight line of success”, it may seem like you’re getting nowhere. However, so long as you are taking steps forward, you’re still moving in the right direction!
As well as the picture above, this could also be your journey:
That’s right - even by accepting that your journey isn’t linear and implementing necessary actions to move forward every day, you may actually never find yourself at the point you always pictured as your final destination.
This can be a difficult thought to adjust to - but isn’t inherently bad!
To revisit one of the previous examples, one may start a marathon training, follow protocols to a T - and eventually discover that while their endurance is not quite there for the full 40 km, they are actually a natural sprinter! Is it in any way worse, or less valuable? No, just different! Is it still progress and growth? Of course!
The key here is to keep an open mind and be willing to adjust that final goal. While it’s true that theoretically anything is possible with enough resources, sometimes it’s wiser to adjust your expectations and become the best version of YOU, instead of a close enough representation of someone else.
Practical tips on managing expectations
Below are a few practical tips to help you match your efforts to your expectations, and achieve the best results throughout your journey!
Learn to set goals
Take your time to set goals, thoughtfully going through the entire S.M.A.R.T. process! Simply analysing whether each goal you set is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely, you can save yourself from shooting too high or too low.
Don’t compare yourself to others
There are two main components to this:
- Avoid pinning someone’s physique as your “goal body”. While it’s entirely true that it’s possible to change your shape with training, there are limitations to this such as natural build and genetics. If you naturally have a long, dainty frame, striving to become like someone who’s naturally curvy and possesses a softer physique is setting yourself up for an almost guaranteed failure - and vice versa. If you must choose a fitspo crush, ensure they naturally have a shape similar to yours! You may not be able to assess this on your own, so it’s always good to ask for an independent opinion (e.g. a friend you can trust to be objective and constructive, or better still, a fitness professional).
- Always remember that everyone progresses at different rates, and there’s absolutely no point looking at someone’s seemingly faster changes and getting discouraged! This can be hard to accept, but making comparisons is only making you feel unnecessarily upset - without any benefits.
Words of wisdom from our gorgeous client Bex:
“I’ve been doing these Programs for 1 year and 3 months now, and have completed multiple Challenges, repeating a few of them along the way. I quickly realised that this journey is about lifestyle and long term changes, not quick fixes or trying to lose as many kgs as possible. In fact, I’ve learned to not measure my worth by a scale at all. It honestly means nothing and that’s the way I used to measure my value entirely! I've learned so much about nutrition, self love, finding the workouts that work for you, consistency, and so much more - and all this has helped me undo years of negative diet and exercise myths and fads that I believed were true!”
Consider your starting point
A big part of setting realistic expectations is assessing your starting point!
You must come from a point of kindness and self-compassion, however be very clear on:
- What lifestyle have you been leading over the last weeks, months, years;
- Where is your body composition at, and what you want to work on (you - not someone else projecting their perception of beauty and strength onto you);
- What is your fitness level - including strength, endurance, and exercise frequency;
- What is your health status - whether you have any injuries or conditions that may have an impact on your journey;
- And anything else that helps you build a big picture!
To take this to extremes, if your leg is currently broken - it’s not very likely that next month you will hit heavy barbell squats.
If you’ve never exercised before - 6 sessions a week may be too taxing.
If you would like to lose 20 kg, you will not get there in 2 weeks healthfully.
Don’t put more pressure on yourself that anyone could handle in your circumstances. Think about what advice you’d offer to a friend at the same starting point - and do your best to apply it to yourself! It’s not a race, it’s a pleasant journey with nice views and plenty of discoveries along the way.
Remember that it’s your journey, and yours alone!
Comparing yourself to others or trying to fit into someone else’s shoes is only going to cause you grief.
Set realistic expectations and put in your best effort to meet them - and you will be surprised by just how much you can achieve!