You’ve decided to start exercising regularly; awesome! However, you’ve picked up exercising before, with a goal of getting in shape, and after a few weeks of diligently going to the gym you don’t see the inches falling away, so your interest and ambition fade and you’re back to a less than active lifestyle. Sound familiar?
The vast majority of those who aim to start a fitness program have the goal of “getting in shape” or “toning up”. While this may be enough to get you into the gym the first few times, the goal of “getting in shape” or “toning up” is too vague to elicit real change. It’s hard to create and stick to a solid plan when you don’t know exactly where you want to end up. Set a SMART goal and create a blueprint to achieve the results you want.
What exactly is a SMART goal?
Specific – Be specific in what you wish to accomplish. Instead of, “improve my cardio endurance”, try, “be able to run 3 miles”. Instead of, “get a stronger upper body”, try, “be able to do 20 pushups”. Instead of, “lose weight”, try “lose 10 pounds”.
Measurable – If you can’t measure your progress, you won’t know if you’re improving. Tracking your workouts is key to reaching your goals, and it doesn’t have to be cumbersome. Simply writing in a notebook after your workout how far you ran, how many pushups you got through, how long you held a plank – whatever your goals are – provides feedback and keeps you accountable.
Attainable – If the goal is too easy or nearly impossible you’ll lose motivation (you can already do a 55 second plank, do you really need to go to the gym today to reach 1 minute?) or become frustrated and give up (losing 30lbs for your reunion next month is neither attainable or healthy!). Set a goal you can visualize yourself reaching with the time you are feasibly able to dedicate to training.
Relevant – Your goal needs to be relevant to you and your interests/abilities. Don’t set a goal of running a marathon when you don’t enjoy running, just because a friend did. If you aren’t fully vested in your goal it’s easy to find excuses to not go after it.
Time-Bound – To create a plan you need an end date. Goals can be long-term or short-term, and it’s recommended to implement short-term goals to attain a long-term goal. Signing up for a race or a 30-60-100 day challenge are both great examples.
Setting a SMART goal, or goals, is the first step in making lasting change. Once you see exactly where you want to be you can develop a plan to get there.
Still, even with the best goals there will be barriers along your journey. By planning for these with realistic strategies to overcome them (stashing workout clothes in your car, ensuring there is a gym in your hotel, having healthy snacks on hand) you can arm yourself so you don’t throw in the towel. Keep the big picture in mind and make adjustments as needed. Your goals may change as you learn more about yourself and that’s OK.
Remind yourself often – make a list – of WHY you set this goal and the pros that go along with reaching it. Posting your goal in a highly visible space (refrigerator, by your computer, on your bathroom mirror) serves as a daily reminder of what you want to accomplish. Telling your friends and family is a great way to create a support system. Share your accomplishments along the way and don’t be afraid to ask for support, request they don’t constantly offer you treats at the office or find a coworker to take lunch break walks with.
For long-term goals – running a marathon or losing 50+ pounds – break them down into smaller goals to avoid feeling overwhelmed. The sense of accomplishment that comes with hitting these smaller goals will reinforce your resolve and belief in yourself to achieve the larger goal.
By keeping your SMART goal in mind, planning for barriers and arming yourself with a support system, you have the tools to achieve whatever goal you set for yourself!
If you want assistance in determining an approachable SMART goal, or would like help creating and sticking to a plan to get you there, I would love to work with you. Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org today and together we will make your goals a reality!