How To Set SMART Fitness Goals
Are you feeling ready to make changes to your life, but not sure where to begin?
Creating goals is one way to give yourself direction and motivation, and set yourself up for success.
This is especially true if you want to improve your health and fitness! Setting specific fitness goals can help to provide the motivation you need to commit to training regularly.
Your goals need to inspire you to take action — so let’s get started with goal setting!
What is goal setting?
Goal setting can be a powerful way of helping you to achieve what you want in life.
Goals are about identifying something that you want, or want to improve, and then focusing on the steps needed to achieve them.
How to set SMART fitness goals
The way you create your goals is so important — if you don’t set yourself the right kind of goals to begin with, you could actually be limiting your success before you even get started.
If you want to be effective, consider five main focus areas when creating your goals — you can remember this by using the acronym “SMART” to guide you.
SMART goals are:
Some studies have shown that working towards specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely goals can improve your chances of achieving success.
Here’s how you can set SMART 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 writing down a vague idea of what you want to achieve. You need to get specific.
When you have a specific goal, it’s easier to know if you have reached it, and to plan out the steps you need to take to achieve it.
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 direction.
When setting a goal, think about the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” of your desired outcome can help. Aim to clearly describe what you are trying to achieve.
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 goals against a benchmark, you know if you are getting closer to achieving them! This can help to motivate you to continue working towards the goal.
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? When goal setting, if you make your goals measurable it will make it easier to track when you have achieved that goal — as well as work toward it over time.
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
All goals should be challenging; however, it is so important that they are also achievable. For example, setting a goal of doing 20 push ups on your toes in the space of two weeks is probably not an achievable goal when you are a fitness beginner.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go ahead and set yourself some big goals!
However, you need to break those big goals down into smaller, achievable goals that lead towards the bigger goal.
Let's consider the goal of doing 20 push ups on your toes. If you are a fitness beginner, an achievable version of this 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 5 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 that 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 that 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 set your goals high but make sure they suit your lifestyle.
Goals should be time-specific
Setting a start time and deadline for your goal is important. This allows you to work out a plan to achieve the goal by breaking it into daily actions and smaller milestones.
Here’s the push up goal framed as timely: “I want to be able to do 20 push ups on my toes by (insert date)”.
When you set yourself a realistic time-frame, it’s easier to plan 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 don't know how to use the SWEAT app, there are functions that allow you to record daily steps, along with 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 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? Comment below!
* Results may vary. Strict adherence to the nutrition and exercise guide are required for best results.