Setting S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Fitness Goals

Steve Flanders

Steve Flanders

“If you always put limit on everything you do, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” ― Bruce Lee

Goals are a great tool to use to ensure you prioritize fitness. Goals help direct your fitness, are a way to hold you accountable, and can help keep you motivated. If you are looking to get fit, I would encourage you to take a step back and think about your fitness goals. It is important to note that not all goals are created equal. In this post, I would like to discuss how to set S.M.A.R.T.E.R. fitness goals that will really benefit you and your fitness.
demolish-goals

Tips for Setting Goals

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” ― Fred Devito

When thinking about fitness goals, the five Ws and one H should be answered:

  • Who is the goal for?
  • What is the goal?
  • When will the goal be completed?
  • Where will the goal be done?
  • Why is this a goal?
  • How will the goal be achieved?

While researching this post, I came across the S.M.A.R.T. goal model, which was very similar to the points I wanted to discuss. The acronym is defined as:

  • Specific (What and Where): target a specific area for improvement with as much detail as possible and no ambiguous language.
  • Measurable (How): quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Assignable (Who): determine who is targeting and thus owns the goal.
  • Realistic (How): ensure goals are challenging yet attainable within the given timeframe.
  • Time-Based (When): set a timeframe that is aggressive yet realistic.

S.M.A.R.T. is a goal-setting model used to ensure that you reach your goal. I believe S.M.A.R.T. can be built upon by extending it to motivate you. To do this, I propose adding two letters to the acronym:

  • Specific (What and Where): target a specific area for improvement with as much detail as possible and no ambiguous language.
  • Measurable (How): quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Assignable (Who): determine who is targeting and thus owns the goal.
  • Realistic (How): ensure goals are challenging yet safe and attainable within the given timeframe.
  • Time-Based (When): set a timeframe that is aggressive yet realistic.
  • Empowering (Why): when you achieve the goal, you should feel accomplished and motivated to continue making progress
  • Recognized (How): others should know your goals, others should hold you accountable for your goals, and others should help support your goals

With the S.M.A.R.T.E.R. acronym, not only are you setting good fitness goals, you have a better chance of reaching your fitness goals and will have more motivation to continue setting new fitness goals.
Note: The definition of the letters E and R are mine though other definitions of the letters exist.

Types of Goals

“You must also give mental and physical fitness priority.” ― Jim Otto

There are two primary types of fitness goals:

  1. Process: habits or activities. For example, working out 30 minutes a day three times a week. Process goals may be long in duration (e.g., perform the described workout regiment for one year) but are short in terms of achievement (e.g., if you worked out 30 minutes a day three times this week, then you achieved the goal).
  2. Outcome: achieving an accomplishment without defining the process. For example, run a 10K road race. Outcome goals may be short or long in duration but are typically between short and long in terms of achievement.

Each type of fitness goal has its benefits and limitations. Outcome goals are great because once you reach the accomplishment, you feel extremely motivated. The problem with outcome goals is that you will likely lose all of your motivation if you do not achieve them. Process goals are often much easier to follow but may not necessarily make you feel empowered, impacting motivation.

When settings fitness goals, it is important to use a balance and set at least one outcome goal and one process goal. The idea is to keep you motivated and ensure at least some goals are attained quickly.

Note: Some may argue that there is a third type of primary fitness goal–performance–and that my definition of outcome is really performance. With this mindset, outcome goals are end-result-focused and partially out of the goal-setter’s control. Given this definition, outcome goals are long in both duration and achievement. In my opinion, this definition of outcome goals does not follow the S.M.A.R.T.E.R. method described above.

Example Goals

“The human body is an incredible machine, but most people only get out of that machine what their mind allows them to.” ― Rich Froning

Given the tips for setting fitness goals stated above, you may be wondering what some example S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals would be. I would guess one of the most popular fitness goals would be something along the lines of losing a certain amount of weight in a certain amount of time. When many people think about fitness or getting fit, they think about weight — I know I used to. I guess this makes sense as we live in a culture that emphasizes all the wrong metrics. Discussing the topic of weight and fitness could easily be its own blog post, but for now, I will leave you with some additional reading for an understanding of what I mean:

We live in a culture that emphasizes all the wrong metrics.

So what are some examples of S.M.A.R.T.E.R. fitness goals?

  • Process
    • Exercising a minimum amount of time a day for a minimum number of times a week – if you want to get fit, it is important to exercise regularly. With the busy lives we live, it is easy to make excuses and put off exercise. Ensuring you have a minimum bar on the amount of exercise you do makes it easier to attain other fitness goals.
    • Eating a certain amount of fruits and/or vegetables a day – in addition to exercise, diet is also important. Diet does not necessarily mean that your goal is to lose weight but fuel your body based on exercising properly. If you are not properly fueling your body, the exercise you are doing make not be as beneficial as it could be.
  • Outcome
    • Being able to lift a certain amount of weight a certain number of times – especially when you get started, increasing the amount of weight you can lift is one of the easiest S.M.A.R.T.E.R. fitness goals you can set. Your goal might look something like this: To be able to curl 100 pounds within six months. Typically this would mean that you can curl at least 80% of the weight you wish to reach already, or you have been tracking your curl process for the last six months and believe the new weight is attainable.
    • Being able to perform an activity for/in a certain amount of time – especially when you get started, increasing the amount of cardio activity you can perform fits the S.M.A.R.T.E.R. model. Your goal might look something like this: To be able to run a mile in under 10 minutes within three months. Typically this would mean that your mile time is currently under 12 minutes, or you have been tracking your mile time for the last three months and believe the new time is attainable.

Achieving Goals

“Set your goals high, and don’t stop till you get there.” ― Bo Jackson

In this post, I discussed tips for setting goals using an enhanced version of the S.M.A.R.T. method modified by the addition of motivation. Next, I discussed the two primary types of fitness goals being process and outcome, and stressed the importance of setting both types of goals to increase success and motivation. Finally, I discussed examples of good goals such as focusing on exercise routines, healthy eating and reaching fitness milestones instead of focusing on weight loss.
I would be remiss if I did not touch on the other parts required to achieve set goals. While there are many ways to achieve a goal, a topic I will discuss in a future post, at a high level, I believe the process should look something like this:

  • Set a goal
  • Make a plan
  • Do the work
  • Stick to it
  • Reach the goal
  • Repeat

Of course, the information I shared above is my opinion, but I would love to hear your opinion. What goal tips do you have?

© 2015 – 2021, Steve Flanders. All rights reserved.

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