Having a solid fitness goal is an amazing way to power you towards success, but not all #goals are created equal. While it’s great to have an end-game in mind, there are some best practices when it comes to goal setting. Whether you want to lose weight, improve your fitness level, or train for an event, putting the SMART method into action can help you achieve what you set out to do.
SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely—all of which are important in reaching a fitness objective. SMART goals can help keep you on track and remind you of your priorities, so you’re able to follow through with every workout or healthy meal you have planned. “Being accountable to what you set is the only way to maintain real long-term consistency,” says Jason Loebig, Nike trainer and ambassador for HI-VIBE, a Chicago-based superfood juicery.
Get SMART and put these five elements into action when you’re setting your fitness goal.
“You need something that’s not too arbitrary,” says Loebig. “A bad goal would be, say, ‘get healthy’. A specific goal would be to lose weight.” You’ll narrow down that goal even further by using the rest of the method, but whether you want to get stronger, faster, or smaller, having a baseline points you in the right direction.
Here’s where you determine exactly how you’ll measure your goal. “If you’re going to follow the bad goal, it would be get really healthy,” says Loebig. “That’s not quantifiable. A measurable goal would be, say, ‘lose 10 pounds’. You can quantify your progress, and you can sort of back into a time frame once you have that.” Your goal may be to master a pull-up, run five miles, or go to the gym four days a week—whatever it is, you should have a definite way of knowing when you’ve reached your goal.
While it can be helpful to set big-picture goals in the long-term, says Loebig, you need a more achievable goal on the horizon to keep you on track. “You want to start small and see early wins, which encourages long-term consistency,” he says. “If you set something too lofty right off the bat, it might be discouraging to not make progress as fast as you would like.” You should also consider the size of your goal—for example, a goal of losing 30 pounds in one month just isn’t going to happen, so you’re better off setting smaller goals that are in closer reach.
This is where things get a little tricky, says Loebig–finding your “why” is easier said than done. “[Ask yourself], ‘is this goal worthwhile, and am I motivated to do it?’ Creating a goal with some type of motivation attached to it, like I want to lose 10 pounds in two months to be ready for my wedding, can give a bit of relevancy to your goal.” Whether you want to feel confident at a big event or perform better during everyday activities, pinpoint why a goal is important to you.
“You want to be strict about a deadline—doing so creates urgency,” says Loebig. It’s also important not to set your sights too far out. “If you give yourself four months to lose 10 pounds, that might be too long because you aren’t incentivized to start working at it immediately.” Instead, consider setting smaller goals along the way, like “I want to lose three pounds in two weeks.” Maybe running a marathon is your long-term goal, but if you’ve never been a runner, signing up for one that’s a month away isn’t realistic—instead, set smaller mileage goals for shorter time periods and work your way up.
You should also be honest with yourself about what you’re able to accomplish in a given time frame. “If losing 10 pounds is at the top of your list and you’re willing to make sacrifices in your social life and at work, we can attain that more quickly,” says Loebig. And if not? That’s completely fine, too he says—you just need to adjust your expectations so they’re in line with your schedule and commitments.
Once you have your goal in place, it’s all about the follow-through. Whether you want to lose one pound a week, be able to do five full push-ups in two weeks, or run a 5K in under 30 minutes in four weeks, you can come up with a plan to help get your where you want to go—but it all starts with deciding what you want. Be accountable to yourself, stay consistent, and the results will follow.