How To Set SMART Fitness Goals
Are you feeling ready to make a change to your health and fitness, but aren't sure where to begin? Creating fitness goals using the SMART framework is a great way to give yourself direction, motivation, and set yourself up for success.
Whether you're wanting to make movement a part of your daily lifestyle, are training for an event or want to challenge yourself with a new Sweat program, your goals need to inspire you to take action.
What is goal setting?
Goal setting can be a powerful way of helping you to plan ahead and achieve what you want in life.
To create your own health and fitness goals, identify what you want to achieve, or an area you want to improve on, and then focus on the active steps you need to take to achieve that goal.
How to set SMART fitness goals
The way you create your fitness goals is so important — if you don’t set yourself the right kind of goals at the beginning of your fitness journey, you could actually be limiting your success before you even get started.
Your goals should be realistic and achievable within a certain time frame, and specific to your lifestyle and training habits. Using the SMART framework, you should consider five main focus areas when setting your goals to help make them more achievable.
SMART goals are:
Here’s how you can set SMART fitness goals — using the example of being able to do push-ups on your toes.
Be specific — clearly define your goal
Effective goal setting involves more than just having a vague idea of what you want to achieve. You need to get specific.
When you have a specific goal, it’s easier to identify when you have reached it, and to plan what you need to do to get there.
For example, the goal “I want to get fit” is not specific enough. What do you define as fit? How will you be able to tell when you are fit? This goal doesn’t provide you with a clear path to success.
When setting your goals, thinking about the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” can help. Aim to clearly describe what you are trying to achieve and why you want to make this goal a reality.
An example of a specific goal could be: “I want to be able to do push-ups on my toes”. Striving for this particular goal means you are working towards getting fitter and stronger. It also provides a focus for your training, which makes it easier to work towards.
Make your goals measurable
When you can track your progress against a benchmark, you know if you are getting closer to achieving your goals! This can help to keep you motivated.
Some examples of measurable fitness goals are:
- Achieving a set number of repetitions of an exercise, for example, 12 pull-ups
- Lifting a specific weight for a new 1RM (one-rep max — the maximum amount you can lift)
- Running a personal best time over a set distance.
Why is it important to be able to measure and track your goal in this way? Not only will seeing your progress make it easier to work towards a goal over time, you'll know when you have achieved it!
Returning to the push-ups example, a measurable fitness goal would be: “I want to be able to do 20 push-ups on my toes”.
By specifying how many push-ups you want to do, you can then measure your progress by keeping track of how many you can successfully complete over time.
Your goals need to be achievable
While your goals should challenge you, it is important that they are also realistic. For example, setting a goal of doing 20 push-ups on your toes in the space of two weeks is probably not achievable if you are a beginner.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go ahead and dream big!
A good way to tackle your bigger goals is to break them down into smaller, more achievable goals that lead towards the bigger goal.
Let's consider the goal of doing 20 push-ups on your toes. If you're new to fitness, an achievable goal might be to aim for it in three to six months' time.
You can then work towards this by setting smaller goals (such as doing five push-ups on your knees by the end of your second week), before taking new, more challenging steps to achieve the overall goal of doing 20 push-ups on your toes.
Your goals need to be relevant to you
You need to set goals you can realistically do the work to achieve, considering your lifestyle, resources, current fitness level and available time.
The goals you set should be relevant to your life, and appropriate for your health and lifestyle. Think about why you want to achieve your goal of doing 20 push-ups on your toes — will it improve your quality of life? Perhaps you want to feel stronger and healthier so you can be more active with your children — this is a meaningful goal and, as a result, you might be more committed to working toward it.
Similarly, if you decide to commit to five evening workouts at the gym per week when it doesn't suit your lifestyle (for example, if you have a young family or a lot of social commitments), then this might not be a relevant or realistic goal for you.
Be sure to challenge yourself with your goals while also making sure they suit your lifestyle.
Goals should be time-specific
Setting a start time and deadline is important. This allows you to work out a plan to achieve the goal by breaking it into daily actions and marking your progress by acknowledging smaller milestones.
Here’s the push-up goal from before framed as a timely goal: “I want to be able to do 20 push-ups on my toes in three months time”.
When you set yourself a realistic time frame, it’s easier to plan ahead and schedule the time you’ll need to dedicate towards achieving your goal, and you’re more likely to be motivated to work towards a specific deadline.
Regularly reassess your progress
With any goal, it’s important to keep track of your progress. You may need to be flexible — it’s possible you’ll have to revise your ambitions if you encounter a fitness setback, or you’ll have to challenge yourself if you reach your goals sooner!
Find a way to track your fitness so that you can see your progress, and maintain motivation as you keep working towards your goal. If you like to have regular rewards and reminders, try using a fitness tracker to record workouts and set your daily movement goals.
If you use the Sweat app, you can use it to record your daily steps, workouts and water intake.
Another meaningful way to chart your progress over time is to keep a journal to record whether you’ve achieved the smaller goals and actions that are part of your plan to achieve your bigger goals.
Now that you know how to set SMART goals, it’s time to take action!
As you plan your goals, write down your reasons for selecting that goal and the specific details of the goal itself. Once you know exactly what your new fitness goal is, you can make time for exercise, and map out a plan to achieve it!
When setting your SMART fitness goals, it’s so important that they are YOUR goals and are meaningful and relevant to you — don’t compare your goals to others, as everyone is on an individual journey with unique challenges!
It may seem like a lot of work goes into setting and working towards a goal, but once you’ve done it once and achieved your goal, it’ll be easier to set the next goal!
What health and fitness goals would you like to work towards next? Let us know in the comments!
* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.