Fitness goals have an air of gravitas to them—especially in the era of social media. Your feed may be packed with people running a marathon in every state to raise money for a great cause, or trying to squat heavy to win a CrossFit competition. While these targets are valiant (scratch that, really freaking cool), not every goal has to be a moonshot. There’s something to be said for mastering the art of the “dumb fitness goal.”
A “dumb fitness goal” is a target that’s not necessarily for your health or geared toward a major event like a race. Instead, dumb fitness goals prioritize fun movement styles that just feel good to you, and that you decide to do… just because. They give you something simple and satisfying to check off your to-do list on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
Just ask Alison Mead, an ultramarathoner who’s on a four-year-long streak of running at least one continuous mile per day. She’s someone who loves writing weekly goals and habit-setting checklists to help her celebrate small wins. In addition to running daily, she adds in other small fitness pursuits, like 10 burpees, a 30-second plank, or walks with co-workers. “Each month, I like to pick something where I can focus on variety,” she says. “[Goal-setting] gives me purpose for when I go to work out. I know what I want to accomplish, and I know when I’m done.” Plus, it gives her a sense of achievement at the end: “Looking back at everything I accomplished [is] very rewarding.”
The benefits of dumb fitness goals
SLT instructor Jess Paris, NASM-CPT, agrees that not every moment of your fitness regimen needs to have a capital “P” purpose. “I think there may be people who refrain from setting goals because the idea of a goal is too intense or scary for them. But a goal does not need to have a finish line or finite measure of anything. It instead could be translated as intentions, routines, or lifestyle changes,” she says.
For example, a “dumb” fitness goal could be something like: I’m going to power walk in at least two parks in my neighborhood by the end of the week. Or, I’m going to go on a bike ride until I see at least three cute dogs.
While it won’t be a huge bummer if you miss this kind of goal, checking it off your to-dos will give you that wonderful “I did it!” feeling if you do make it happen. In the long run, sticking with these mini-wins can teach you how to stay consistent for when bigger opportunities (think: triathlons or incredible hikes) come knocking.
“They teach consistency and routine, which is a lot of what keeping a fitness regimen is about and how you’ll see and feel progress,” says Paris. “If you get used to setting time aside every day to do the dumb goal, then you’re more likely to keep that mindset when looking to create a fitness routine.”
This feeling of “I did it!” benefits you from a psychological standpoint, too, according to positive psychiatrist Samantha Boardman, MD. When you create a goal that adds something to your life—say, a little pickleball-induced serotonin—checking it off can highlight your strengths and make you feel good about yourself.
“We constantly focus on what’s wrong. For example, if somebody were to ask a person that question, it’s easy for them to come up with 20 things [they need to improve], and fixate on that,” said Dr. Boardman in a recent episode of The Well+Good Podcast. “But less available to us is, ‘What are our strengths?’ and ‘What are we good at?’ And from there, ‘How can we put our strengths to good use in order to navigate toward a goal?’”
Along the way of chasing seemingly silly goals, you’ll learn just how much you can accomplish physically in a month. “I love fitness because it’s easily measurable,” Jade Morning, a yoga instructor with Alo Moves. She might have a new client who, at the beginning of the month, can’t do any push-ups, for instance. “But after setting a goal, creating a plan, and following it for a month or so, now my client can do five,” she explains. In other words, a frivolous fitness goal just for fun may amount to something that’s far from dumb. And that’s why they’re worth doing.
“‘Dumb goals’ spice up your fitness routine,” says Morning. “I currently have a ‘dumb’ goal to get the splits, not because it’s necessary for my training or coaching but because it’s a small thing I can work towards weekly. There’s so much power in the journey.” Along the way, you may even find that you have a “serious” fitness goal—like a deadlift PR or learning how to rock climb—in your future.
How to make the most of your dumb fitness goals
Dumb goals are the fitness equivalent of a blank canvas—so you can’t really go wrong. Pledge to dance to your favorite song every day at exactly 1 p.m. Decide that you’re going to cover every under-five-mile hike in your city. Make up your mind to swim every weekend this summer.
Remember: These goals are additive. Meaning, you’re not subtracting anything from your life. Instead, you’re adding a joy-promoting behavior. “When we plan for joy, when we schedule joy, and when we think about it in advance, it allows us to make sure that those good things actually happen,” joy expert Ingrid Fetell Lee previously told Well+Good.
However, Paris does note that any target that relies on a daily commitment requires a mindful approach. Ask yourself: Am I taking care of myself? Am I resting enough? Am I enjoying my dumb goals? “There’s the chance you get a little too obsessed with the goal, and you don’t rest when you should. Or, on the flip side, you stick to the mile a day without thinking of how to progress and improve your fitness beyond the mile,” she says.
Make sure you’re programming time into your monthly goal-setting to reflect on what you’re getting out of your movement. And what’s, well, dumb… but no longer fun. The beauty of dumb fitness goals is that if they’re lifting you up, that’s great; if they’re not, there’s no harm in letting them go.
How about committing to learning a new dance style each month?