It’s January, it’s the start of a new year. A lot of us use this time to set ourselves new fitness related goals to work towards for the year - our new year's resolutions.
But a large percentage of us also lose track or give up on these goals pretty quickly. This is often because the goals we set ourselves are quite vague. This article is all about how to set SMART fitness goals, which are goals that are more specific and relevant to you, and therefore you are more likely to stick to and achieve them!
Do you find it hard to reach your goals? Do you have clients who come to you with vague ideas of what they want to achieve but don't really know how to go about it? Then keep on reading to learn how to create your own SMART fitness goals.
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So, first of all... why SMART goals?
Goal setting. It can be tough and a little confusing if you don't know where to begin, and it's not as easy as simply saying "I want abs", or "I want to be able to run 5k".
Creating SMART fitness goals is the easiest way to make sure you have attainable goals. Whether you're looking to set goals for yourself, or you're a personal trainer helping a client to set some goals to work towards, ensuring you set SMART fitness goals will mean that you have realistic, achievable goals to work towards.
Setting fitness goals is essential in order to progress and improve, and having goals to work towards can help keep you motivated.
SMART goals can be used for any type of goal, career wise, fitness wise, hobby wise. However in this article we are going to focus specifically on how to create SMART fitness goals.
So if you want to know how to make the perfect goal, keep on reading... because in this article we're going to walk you through how to set SMART fitness goals and ensure that you or your clients have achievable goals that you can start smashing!
What does SMART stand for?
So first off, when we say SMART fitness goals, what do we mean? Well, the SMART acronym stands for:
Below is a brief breakdown of each of the sections:
SMART - S - SPECIFIC
Your goal needs to be specific. The more specific you are with a goal, the more likely you are to achieve it. If the goal is too vague, how will you really know if you have achieved what you wanted to achieve?
Being specific with what it is you want to accomplish is the difference between "I want to be able to run", and "I want to be able to run 5k without stopping".
(Note that this example is not a full SMART fitness goal example as it is still very vague - but keep reading as later on in the article we are going to show you some examples of fitness goals incorporating all elements of the SMART acronym.)
SMART - M - MEASURABLE
Your goal needs to be measurable. This links in with specific - you should include a specific time frame, or specific numbers, whether that be reps or weight in the case of fitness goals. Being able to measure your success is a crucial element to reaching your goals - it can also help motivate you and keep you on track to ensure you stay heading in the right direction to reaching those goals!
SMART - A - ACHIEVABLE
It's important that your goal is achievable. Make sure that it's possible to achieve the goal you set yourself, otherwise you may end up disheartened.
Ask yourself - is your goal realistic? Do you have the necessary time and effort to put into achieving your goal? Have you accounted for any additional factors that you may need to consider, such as cost, knowledge, etc?
You should ensure your goal is realistically achievable within the guidelines of each letter of the SMART acronym.
SMART - R - RELEVANT
An important aspect to your goals is to ensure they are relevant. Relevant to you and what you are looking to achieve. If your goals are relevant to you and your lifestyle, you will be more inclined to work towards them, and feel a greater sense of accomplishment once you smash them!
On the other hand, if your goal is not relevant to you and your lifestyle, and what you enjoy, you're less likely to work towards it and will find it harder to reach - for example, if your goal is something to do with running but you hate running and you have no events coming up that require you to run, such as a 10k or a fun run, then you probably won't stick to it.
SMART - T - TIME BOUND
You should set a time frame in which you would like to achieve your goal. This commits you to working towards it, and also gives you something to work towards. Without setting a time frame, you could still be looking to achieve that goal in 8 months time or even 2 years down the line.
You need to ensure that you set a realistic time frame - don't give yourself days but also don't give yourself too long, otherwise you will likely become complacent and in turn be less likely to reach that goal. If you do have a long term goal, it can be useful to break it down into smaller goals that will add up to help you achieve the overall goal.
If all of this sounds a little confusing, no problem, we've got it sorted! Below, we have included some SMART fitness goals examples to help break down exactly what each point means. These examples also show you how to put everything together to create your SMART fitness goal.
SMART FITNESS GOALS EXAMPLES
Each one of your goals - whether for you or your client - needs to include all 5 parts of the SMART acronym.
Here is an example of a SMART fitness goal, followed by a breakdown of each section so that you can see which part of the goal relates to which letter of the acronym.
Let’s imagine that you are helping a client set a SMART fitness goal.
To start with, think about working through each letter of the acronym and coming up with information related to the goal for each letter. For example, for S - Specific, discuss with the client the goal weight that they would like to be able to deadlift. Also think about how many reps the client would like to achieve. Go through each of the letters and once you have the information for each part, put it altogether into a full statement.
Therefore, a good example of the SMART goal you could help to set for the client is the following:
This example is very specific with what it is that the client wants to achieve - deadlifting 90kg. Including the specific weight in the goal too means that the goal is also measurable, as both you and the client will be able to track the client’s progress and once the client can do 5 reps of 90kg deadlifts, you know that the goal has been achieved.
As we know, the A stands for ‘Achievable’ and this goal is achievable for the client. The client already deadlifts and can currently lift 50kg, so we can assume they know the movement and they know the correct form of the exercise.
The client also goes to the gym 3x per week so they already have time carved out to work on their deadlifts and progress towards this goal.
The client wants to improve on their deadlifts and therefore this SMART goal is relevant to them.
T for Time Bound - this example specifies a time frame - the client has 3 months, until the end of April 2019, to achieve this goal. This time frame is not too short so that the goal is unachievable, and it is also not too far away that the client may become unmotivated and become disinterested in working towards it. It is a good amount of time to achieve the goal and also allows a little wiggle room for any minor changes in circumstances/challenges that may arise.
As you can see from the above example, each element of SMART has been covered within the goal statement of “I want to be able to lift 90kg for 5 reps in 3 months time - by the end of April 2019”. This goal provides more information than “I want to deadlift heavier”, and gives the client something to work towards.
Below is another example. This time instead of setting the goal for a client, imagine you want to set a SMART fitness goal for yourself. You have signed up for a 10k charity run taking place in August, and currently you do not do any running training.
Think about each section of a SMART fitness goal. You need to make your goal specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and include a time frame.
Your overall goal is to be able to run the 10k charity run in August. You could set your SMART goal as:
“I want to be able to run 10k in around 70 minutes by my charity run in August.”
This is a good SMART goal, however as August is 7 months away, it can be helpful to create smaller, shorter term goals that will help you work towards your overall goal and keep you motivated throughout the lead up to the event.
Bearing in mind that, for this example, we are assuming that you currently do not do any running training, some examples of this are:
These examples break up your overall goal into smaller, shorter term goals that help you work towards your longer term goal of completing your 10k run in around 70 minutes. Having these smaller goals can help to motivate you throughout the entire 7 month period. Without these, you may be tempted to put off your training for a few months until it becomes closer to the time, which would then mean you would have to work harder to reach your goal, and there is a higher possibility that you would not meet what you want to achieve.
WHY ARE SMART GOALS IMPORTANT?
Setting SMART fitness goals elicits a deep sense of why the goal is so important.
For example, saying “I want to lose weight” is essentially a surface goal, therefore when circumstances change or potential challenges arise, it becomes harder to stick to the goal because there is no deep meaning behind the goal, and no repercussion of not taking action to reach the goal.
In this example, if a challenge were to arise while you were working towards this goal, you could easily stop working to reach the goal and give up because there is no real incentive to continue. You may think “Ah, I’ll start again next month”.
On the other hand, if you were to create a SMART fitness goal around losing weight, for example “I want to lose 5lbs by the end of February this year”, having this in mind means that if the same challenge were to arise, you would be more likely to work to overcome it and continue working towards your goal because you have incentive and motivation to reach your goal within a certain timeframe, ie. by the end of February.
We spoke to Mollie Millington of ptmollie.com, a qualified Personal Trainer. She told us the importance of setting SMART goals for your clients:
SMART goals are very important to help your client have a clear cut goal that they are looking towards. As you discuss how to make it "smart-er" you may get more insight into their motivation and how they perceive success (which can be very important as you design their fitness program). For example, of they view being fit as a 25 minute parkrun, you can tailor your workouts to develop muscles important for running.
SMART goals will also assure your client that working with you is worth every penny. Having the conversation clears up ambiguity of "get fit" and "lose weight". If your client is looking to drop 2 stone in 2 months for an upcoming holiday, you can discuss safe ways to lose weight and manage their expectations.
THE BENEFITS OF SMART GOALS
Here are some benefits of setting SMART goals:
Sian Ryan, a qualified Personal Trainer and the PT behind sianliftsweights.com, explained to us the benefits of setting SMART fitness goals.
“There are huge benefits to setting SMART goals compared to the standard goals such as ‘I want to lose weight’ or ‘I want to eat healthier’. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic & Timely; this makes them clearly defined. When goals are clearly defined, you are more motivated to take action towards achieving these goals and it is easier to achieve success. Having a loose goal of ‘I want to eat healthier’ is not specific, it has no call to action, no smaller steps and is so vast that it can seem unachievable.”
ARE THERE ANY DISADVANTAGES?
Of course, everything has an opposite and so where there are advantages, there has also got to be some disadvantages. There’s always a flip side.
In this case, the disadvantages for setting SMART fitness goals are much the same as the disadvantages that come with goal setting in general.
Some of the disadvantages of goal setting include:
Below, we have elaborated on each of these drawbacks, and we’ve also included ways to ensure that you can minimise the risk of these occurring.
Having goals to work towards, especially ones with a time frame included, has the potential to make you feel pressured. You may become stressed with the feeling that you must achieve the goal and you must achieve it on time.
A good way to reduce the chance of this happening is to set yourself realistic time deadlines. Don’t give yourself too short a time to achieve your goal, otherwise this will lead to feeling pressured to achieve it on time. Also, remember that you can be flexible with this deadline. Whilst it’s best to stick to the time you set yourself as much as possible to avoid putting off working towards your goal, it’s perfectly okay to adjust the deadline if your circumstances change, or even abandon the goal altogether until your circumstances are back to normal or you are in a position where you can continue to work towards your goal.
A good example of this is in the case of injury. If you have set yourself a goal of wanting to be able to run 5k by the end of February, but then you injure your hamstring, realistically this can prevent you training and working towards reaching 5k by the end of February. Depending on the severity of the injury, you could push your deadline back either by a few weeks or by a few months.
Feeling pressured by your goals is pretty unlikely, but if you start to feel under pressure at any point, take a step back and re-evaluate.
Sense of Failure
When you achieve a goal, you will likely feel a sense of accomplishment, however, if you don’t achieve a goal, you may experience a sense of failure. This feeling of failure could prevent you from setting goals in the future, because you don’t want to experience it again.
A good tip to work around this is if there is a goal you don’t manage to accomplish, you should take some time to assess that goal. You can match it against the SMART criteria. If the goal was not realistic within the time frame you set, or if it wasn’t measurable, then you should rethink your goal and make adjustments based on where you think may benefit.
Furthermore, you should think about the techniques you used to work towards your goal. Perhaps you only dedicated one hour per week to work towards your goal, when in order to achieve it you maybe needed 2 hours per week. Learning from what went wrong and working on it for next time can turn a sense of failure into something more positive.
Knock Your Confidence
This links in with the sense of failure. If you do not achieve one of your goals, it may knock your confidence.
As the saying goes, if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.
Don’t let it deter you from setting future goals! The same tip given above can also help here: use this as a learning opportunity and turn it into a positive situation. Think about what you can learn from this experience when setting your next goal.
Priority over other things
This one stems from poor goal setting. If your goal is unrealistic and has a really short time frame, there is potential that you may prioritise trying to achieve this goal over other things, or concentrate entirely on this one goal.
The best way to avoid this is to take the time to set your goals properly, because as long as your goal is realistic, you should not encounter this problem. Follow the SMART criteria when creating your goal and you should end up with a goal that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound.
USING SMART GOALS TO TIME MANAGE YOUR DIARY
As a personal trainer, you can use SMART goals to help you manage your time and your diary.
Working with your clients to help them set SMART goals means you can better plan your sessions with them as you have a clear objective they want to achieve and also a particular time frame in which they would like to achieve it. This means that you can be more productive with your session planning.
Here is an example:
You help your client set the SMART goal:
You can now plan in sessions in your diary with this client up until the end of March, and can create a plan to help the client work on their pull ups to gradually build up to 5.
You would be able to create a loose plan up until the deadline of the end of March, only needing to make minor adjustments after each session based on the client’s progress. For example, say you have an hour session each week with the client, you could start with pull ups with the use of the assisted pull up machine, then progress to the use of a resistance band, working on a slow eccentric phase, and finally progressing on to unassisted pull ups and working up to 5.
You can also use your own goals to better manage your time. At the start of each month you could set some SMART goals based on what you want to achieve for the month. You could also break these down into smaller weekly SMART goals to help you work towards your monthly goals.
Each day you should then identify the top 3 things that you want to prioritise for the day to help you get closer to your goals and work through these 3 things each day as a top priority. This way, every day, you are one step closer to achieving your weekly/monthly goals, and having them in line with the SMART principles means that you are easily able to measure and track your progress while knowing exactly what it is you’re aiming for, and when you’re aiming to achieve it.
APPLYING SMART GOALS TO OTHER AREAS OF LIFE
The great thing about SMART goals is that they don’t just work for fitness related goals, they can work for goals in all other areas of your life too!
Whether you want to set career goals, financial goals, business goals or even just general life goals, applying the SMART principles to each goal can be super useful and incredibly beneficial.
If you have any long term goals in your life, for example a career related goal that you want to achieve within 5 years, think about whether you could break this goal down into smaller, shorter term SMART goals that you could work on to help you achieve your overall goal within 5 years.
This step isn’t essential, but it can help you stay focused and keep you on track, heading in the right direction to achieving your goal.
NON-FITNESS RELATED SMART GOAL EXAMPLES
Below are some examples of SMART goals that are not related to fitness, just to give you an idea of how you can apply each criteria to your goals in other areas of your life.
First we’ll cover a financial goal: let’s say you have booked to go on a self-catering holiday for 2 weeks in Summer, specifically the 3rd August. You have put down a £250 deposit on the holiday, and need to pay off the remaining balance 6 weeks before you are due to go, which is 22nd June. The remaining balance for the holiday (flights and hotel) is £1750.
You could break this up into 2 separate goals.
Your first SMART goal could be:
This is specific: you want to save £1750 (this also means it is measurable). It should be achievable, as you have 5 months to save up the amount. It’s relevant, because you are saving up the money to pay off the holiday that you have already booked. It’s time bound, because you have given a deadline of 20th June.
Secondly, you’re going to need some spending money. You could set another goal in line with the SMART criteria:
Again, this goal is specific and measurable: you want to save £1000 to cover the cost of food, excursions and souvenirs. It’s achievable - you have 6 months to save up the amount. It’s relevant as you are saving the money to spend on the holiday that you have already booked, and it’s time bound as you have set the deadline as 31st July.
Below is an example of an academic SMART goal:
Let’s say you are enrolled on a course and are studying to become a fitness instructor. You have your Anatomy and Physiology exam in 3 weeks and you want to achieve a good mark.
Your SMART goal could be: I want to get a PASS mark on my Anatomy and Physiology exam in 3 weeks time.
This goal is specific and measurable: You want to achieve a PASS mark. Providing you study and revise for your test, it should be achievable! The goal is also relevant as you will need to pass the test to gain your fitness instructor qualification. The test will no doubt be taking place on a certain date at a certain time, and this is your deadline which therefore makes the goal time-bound.
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So there we have it - everything you need to know on SMART fitness goals, complete with how to create a SMART fitness goal (and a SMART goal for any other area of your life!) with examples and scenarios to help you along the way.