At the start of a new year, many of us set resolutions to achieve personal, financial, career and fitness goals. We promise ourselves we’ll lose weight or eat healthier or get fit, but when we revisit our list of resolutions at the end of the year, we find we haven’t stuck to any of them. We beat ourselves up for not living up to our own expectations, wondering why we couldn’t achieve our goals.
While it’s great to begin with intentions to improve our health and our lives, sometimes intent isn’t enough for us to reach our goals. Though we may place the blame entirely on ourselves, the reason you didn’t reach your goal isn’t necessarily because you didn’t work hard enough or didn’t care enough. More often, we don’t reach our goals because they are too vague or unrealistic. What does “I want to lose weight” or “I want to get fit” really mean to you?
By making sure your fitness goals are SMART goals, you’ll be much more likely to achieve them.
What Are SMART Goals?
Vague, unrealistic goals too often lead to disappointment. When we feel like we’re failing at reaching our fitness goals, we give up and decide we simply can’t do it. We compare ourselves to the people around us and wonder why they seem to be able to achieve what we can’t.
SMART goals are key to becoming fit and healthy. SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. This five-step method allows you to create goals that are realistic and achievable, setting yourself up for long-term success.
As long as your fitness goals include each of these characteristics, you can reach them.
Benefits of SMART Fitness Goals
What are the benefits of SMART fitness goals?
- You’re motivated to reach your goals.
- You can easily track your progress.
- You set reasonable expectations for yourself.
- You can hold yourself accountable.
SMART goal setting is the easiest way to ensure you reach these fitness milestones.
To achieve your fitness goals, make sure they are specific. You’re more likely to achieve a goal when it’s specific and clearly defined. If your goal is too vague, how will you know if you’ve achieved it? For example, if your goal is “to lose weight,” when do you know if you’ve reached your goal? When you lose one pound? Five pounds? Ten pounds? Thirty pounds?
Ensuring your goal is specific is the first step to setting a SMART fitness goal. This is what your goal is.
The following are examples of fitness goals that are too vague:
- “I want to lose weight.”
- “I want to get in shape.”
- “I want to be able to run.”
How can you make these goals more specific and clear? Here are a few examples of specific fitness goals:
- “I want to lose 10 pounds.”
- “I want to lose my belly fat.”
- “I want to be able to run a 5k.”
Spell out what you hope to achieve so you can know exactly when you’ve reached that fitness milestone.
Your fitness goals also need to be measurable. Your goal needs to be quantifiable so you can measure it and track your progress. Measurable goes hand-in-hand with specific — you should determine a number or timeframe that you’re aiming for. For example, this could be the number of reps, the amount of weight or the duration of a workout.
When setting a SMART fitness goal, your goal needs to be measurable so you can keep track of your progress. This is how you’ll achieve your fitness goal — how you’ll track your progress and how you’ll know you’ve reached your goal.
Here are some examples of measurable fitness goals:
- “I want to be able to do a pull-up.”
- “I want to be able to run a mile.”
- “I want to go to the gym four times a week.”
- “I want to lose five pounds.”
- “I want to be able to do 10 reps of 15-pound weights.”
Being able to measure your progress will keep you motivated in working toward your goal.
For a fitness goal to be SMART, it should be attainable. Is the goal you’re setting for yourself realistic? Starting at your current fitness level, can you reasonably expect to achieve this goal? Have you accounted for outside factors that could influence your ability to reach this goal? If our goals aren’t realistic, we may be setting ourselves up for disappointment.
While it’s great to set long-term goals, you may want to start with smaller, more short-term goals that will be easier to achieve. Small accomplishments throughout your fitness journey will keep you motivated to continue working toward that long-term goal.
The following are examples of unrealistic and unattainable fitness goals:
- “I want to lose 30 pounds in a month.”
- “I want to hold a world record.”
- “I want to have the perfect swimsuit body by summer.”
If you’re new to fitness, keep your goals realistic and break them down into smaller, more reasonable goals. The following are a few examples of attainable fitness goals:
- “I want to lose half a pound per week.”
- “In four months, I want to be able to run a 15-minute mile.”
- “I want to reduce my body-fat percentage by 1%.”
Consider what your current abilities and limits are to set goals that are attainable for you.
To set a SMART fitness goal, you’ll also need to ensure your goal is relevant. Is the goal relevant to you, your lifestyle and what you’re hoping to achieve? This is the why of your goal. Why do you want to achieve this goal? Why is this the time in your life that you want to work toward this goal?
Relevancy is the reason you’re motivated to reach this goal. For example, if you’re setting a goal to run every morning before work because you want to get in shape, but you hate running and you’re not a morning person, then you’re not likely to stick to it. Additionally, if you’re only setting a goal because someone else is pressuring you to, you’re also not very likely to achieve that goal.
Here are a few examples of relevant fitness goals:
- “I want to lose five pounds before my wedding so I can feel confident on my special day.”
- “At this year’s fun run, I want to beat my record from last year.”
- “I want to lose my belly fat before the summer so I can feel comfortable in a swimsuit.”
To figure out the relevancy of your goal, ask yourself why it’s important to you.
Finally, your SMART fitness goal must also be time-bound. What is the time frame for your goal? Do you have a deadline by which you want to reach this milestone? Keep in mind the other characteristics of a SMART goal and make sure your timeline is realistic but still a challenge. Too little time will mean your goal isn’t attainable, and too much time may mean you never find the motivation to start working toward it.
This is when you plan to achieve your goal. Examples of time-bound fitness goals include:
- “I want to avoid drinking soda every day for a week.”
- “I want to take a packed lunch to work every Monday through Thursday.”
- “I want to walk for 30 minutes three days a week.”
Setting a deadline for yourself is essential for ensuring you make your fitness goals a reality.
Start Setting SMART Fitness Goals Today
Combine specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound factors to create your SMART fitness goals. You can set SMART goals for weight loss and other long-term fitness goals. Below are some examples of SMART fitness goals to get you started:
- “I want to lose half a pound per week for five months so that I can lose 10 pounds before my wedding and feel confident on my big day.”
- “I want to run a 5k in under an hour by June so I can beat my record from last year.”
- “I want to deadlift 50 pounds for 10 reps in six months so I can feel strong and confident.”
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