Setting Goals the SMART Way

Working out without goals is like driving without a map. You may eventually reach your destination but having directions will save you the time and frustration from getting lost. Goals create focus, help you stay on track, and can also help you stay motivated throughout your fitness journey. However, people are often overwhelmed by the ambitious goals they set for themselves. Use the SMART method to set realistic and well-defined goals to help you achieve the health and fitness outcomes you want.

S – Specific

Specify the exact details for what it is that you want to achieve, how you will achieve it, and when will do it. For example, instead of saying, “I want to lose weight,” say, “I will go to the gym at least three times this week.” Being specific allows you to know what exactly you need to do.

M – Measurable

In order to evaluate your goals, you need to be able to keep track of your progress. Using the previous example, one may start by going to the gym three times a week, then four times a week, and then include 30-minute resistance training sessions. This also allows you to assess areas needing improvement.

A – Attainable

If you are someone who a busy schedule and going to the gym four times a week is not feasible, then set a more realistic goal. This might mean going two times a week instead of four or doing home-workout videos instead of going to the gym.

R – Relevant

To judge whether your goal is relevant, ask yourself these questions: Why is this goal important? What are the benefits? Can you commit to this goal in the long-term or does the goal just sound right now? Set a goal that is important to you right now and relevant to your current situation. For example, if you decide that it is important to lose weight but do not like going to the gym, a more relevant goal may be to attend fitness classes that are fun for you.

T – Time-bound

Setting a deadline helps by keeping you accountable for achieving your goal. You can set one for the short term (1-4 weeks) and one for long-term goals (3 months or longer). Your short-term goal should enable you to make progress towards your long-term goal.

Long term-goal: I will lose 5% of my body weight in 3 months.
Short term-goal: I will take a 30-minute walk after dinner every day for 2 weeks.

Once you’ve created your SMART goals, write them down on a sticky note and place it somewhere you will see every day. Treat yourself using non-food rewards such as new gym clothes, a massage, or a getaway trip to celebrate your progress. Remember that goals are benchmarks on the lifelong journey towards good health.

Amy is a Registered Dietitian taking a holistic approach to help others reach their wellness and fitness goals. She offers tools for success using science-based evidence, individualized nutrition plans, and motivational coaching.