Whether your goal is health oriented (to lose weight, gain muscle, lower blood pressure or cholesterol), improve your fitness level (gain endurance, strength, and speed) or sport (train for an event such as a 5k or triathlon) setting S.M.A.R.T. goals can help you achieve success by keeping you motivated and focused. S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym used to describe the different attributes a goal should contain to allow you to succeed. The adjectives used in a S.M.A.R.T acronym can vary depending on who you ask, although we all mean the same thing.
S – specific, significant
M – measurable, meaningful, motivational
A – achievable, action-oriented
R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding
T – time-based, timely, tangible
“If you set a goal for yourself and are able to achieve it, you have won your race. Your goal can be to come in first, to improve your performance or just finish the race, it is up to you.” Dave Scott
Countless times when I start coaching a new athlete and ask them their goal, the top three responses include 1). To is to finish an event, 20. To get faster or 3). Improve from their previous season. That kind of response tells me nothing. Then my follow up questions include “how much faster (Be Specific), “how will you measure improvement or speed (pace, heart rate, power, RPE)” “what do you feel you need to do differently to achieve your goal (set objectives and actions)” then I determine from these answers if their goal is realistic and together we set a timeframe to achieve the goal.
Here’s how to use S.M.A.R.T.
1. Set specific fitness goals:
A common mistake people make is to set goals that are too vague. If your goal is to train for an event such as a 5k or triathlon, specify the end result, a predicted finish time goal. If you goal is to do a pull-up, what will you do strength wise to progress towards your goal and when do you want to achieve that goal? If your goal is to lower blood pressure find out what your current number is and establish a plan to lower based on nutrition and activity to a healthy number recommend by your doctor. Write down the significance of your goal, your reason, your way. Knowing why, when, how, and how much are important questions to ask before attempting to achieve your fitness goals.
2. Make your fitness goals measurable:
How are you going to measure the result of your goal to determine whether you achieved it or not? Too often athletes set a goal “to finish” and are disappointed by the outcome because they really wanted to finish in a certain time. If you are looking to gain strength and endurance, establish your baseline fitness, and determine how much you can gain. By setting goals that can be measured, you can perform fitness assessments during your training to assess how you have progressed. If you are not moving forward towards your measurable goal then you can change components (frequency, intensity, or duration) of your training plan to keep you motivated. Measuring both your successes and difficulties will also help you evaluate whether your current plan is the optimal way to achieve your fitness goals.
3. Set achievable, action-oriented goals:
Another common goal-setting mistake is setting expectations for ourselves that are too high, or simply out of reach. By creating achievable goals early, you will stay motivated and greatly increase your chances of success. Early achievements will often lead to greater success down the road.
4. Keep your fitness goals realistic and reasonable:
There’s no need to set unrealistic goals such as “I will finish and Ironman in 10 hours” when your best half Ironman time is 6 hours and you only have 8 weeks to train. Or you will bench press 200 pounds in one week when you can only currently bench press 50 pounds. These unrealistic goals can often set you up for failure and create a loss of motivation. Remember that life, illness, work and family commitments can sometimes temporarily de-rail your training plans and scheduled workouts. Stay committed and consistent to your routine as much as possible, create lifelong habits, without losing motivation, and your goals can continue to progress from one to another.
5. Set a deadline to achieve your measurable goal:
Goals with no end date do not create a sense of urgency that helps maintain motivation. You may find out you are always putting off your training till tomorrow since you do not have a future goal in sight. A major roadblock to achieving your goal is excuses and procrastination. Setting a date to achieve your goal can help deal with this common problem.
Following these S.M.A.R.T. guidelines will set you up for success and give you the tools needed to achieve your goals. Remember to be patient, and take great comfort and reward from the slow but steady achievements that will, in turn, provide you with the motivation needed to achieve your overall fitness goals and make positive lifelong habits.
Reach out to me to help you with your Health, Fitness and Sport Goals
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