An effective tool for goal setting is to use the SMART method. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time framed. It is commonly used in project management or human resources, but it is very effective for setting fitness goals as well. Its effectiveness is a result being able to use the criteria to set quality short term goals that lead you to a long term or “end” goal. Here is a more detailed breakdown of the criteria.
Specific- The usual resolution goes something like this: “I’m going to lose my love handles”. A specific goal would be “I’m going to reduce my percentage of body fat by 5%”. This gives you a much more specific target to shoot at. From here it would be advisable to get a body composition test. This test would tell you exactly how much of your body weight comes from fat, muscle and bone. This allows you to set a specific goal, say dropping your body from 25% body fat to 20% body fat.
Measurable- “I want to improve my bench press”. A measurable goal would be “I want to increase my bench press by 15 lbs.”. To achieve this goal you would have to determine how much you can currently bench press which gives you a starting point. You should then start a training journal to track how much weight you lift each session. By having a baseline you can truly measure your progress.
Achievable- “I going to go to the gym 5 days a week and run the other 2”. A more achievable goal for most people starting out would be “I’m going to go to the gym 2-3 times a week and go for a walk/ run 1-2 times a week”. All too often, people set their targets too high, making their goals unachievable. This often leads to people becoming disappointed with their progress (sometimes even if they are making great progress), frustrated with their programs and ultimately quitting them. By being more realistic with your time commitment your goals will be far more achievable. It’s great to have ambitious goals over the long term, but approach them step by step. By reaching one small goal after another, you also build confidence in yourself, which helps build confidence for continued improvement.
Realistic- “I want to lose 10 lbs. of fat and gain 15 lbs. of muscle”. A more realistic goal would be “ I want to lose 10 lbs. of body weight and retain the muscle I have”. Once again, by setting your goals too high you set yourself up for frustration and failure. Keeping your goals realistic allows you to more readily achieve them and continue your training with confidence.
Time framed- “I’m going to start going to the gym sometime soon.”. ”I am going to start my gym routine tomorrow.” is a time framed goal. You have to be honest with yourself, the longer you put something off, the less likely the chance it will ever be done. By setting a deadline you ensure the task will be accomplished within a certain amount of time and you give yourself less room to procrastinate and eventually forgetting about your goal all together.
By using these five simple criteria, everyone can set effective and high quality goals to give themselves a great opportunity to achieve their fitness goals.