With 2015 finally here, fitness enthusiasts and regular folk alike are setting resolutions and goals for the new year. And yes, starting off the year with clear goals that promote good health is a great way to foster a positive mindset and general wellness for the next 12 months and beyond.

However, it can be tempting (and very common!) to “overshoot” and set goals that might not be entirely realistic. Completing three triathlons in a year might sound like a worthwhile goal — but if you’ve never even completed one, you can end up discouraged and quickly give up on any type of fitness.

It’s perhaps just as important to set realistic fitness goals as it is to set the goals in the first place. Here are some pointers on how to set goals that set you up for success, not disappointment:

Set Specific Goals

Establishing clear, tangible goals is the first step to achieving them! Rather than just generalize, “I’d like to run more,” make it more specific, and most importantly, attainable: “I’d like to run 3 times a week, on average, all year.” This way, you know exactly what you’re shooting for.

If your goal is based on a result or outcome of fitness (as opposed to the activity itself), such as losing weight or running a 5-minute mile, then also be sure to set a timeframe for the goal. It’s easy to procrastinate a goal of “lose 20 pounds” when your end date is December 31! Try to establish goals that encourage year-round fitness — not just in January or December.

What Will it Truly Take to Achieve It?

Always try to envision how you might achieve your goals before you commit to them. Running a marathon is a great goal, but if you don’t have the time to adequately train for one, you could well be setting yourself up for failure. Ask yourself the following questions before moving forward with any fitness goal:

  • Do I have time to achieve it, given my current schedule?
  • Am I physically capable of achieving it, given my current health? (Speaking of New Year’s resolutions, remember to see your primary care physician at least once in 2015 — if only to make sure you’re healthy enough to pursue your health related goals.)
  • Can I see myself achieving this goal? It’s always preferable to choose a goal that you would enjoy pursuing, to some degree. Don’t choose a swimming-related goal if you know that swimming bores you, for example. You want to choose a program that you can stick with for the long haul — not just in January.

Hold Yourself Accountable

You can also position yourself for success by holding yourself accountable. Whether it’s leaving yourself a note on the fridge or setting a motivational wallpaper on your laptop, be sure to leave constant reminders and notes of encouragement for yourself that will keep you motivated all year long.

Finally, remember to reward yourself if you do achieve your goals! Treat yourself to a massage for every three months that you stick to your program. Give yourself a “cheat day” on your diet or buy yourself a shiny new toy. You’ll be more likely to set other attainable goals (and achieve them) if you pat yourself on the back every once in a while!