Setting goals in life is paramount to success. How are you ever going to succeed if you don’t know where you are going? It’s like throwing darts, without having a target to aim for. One of the easiest methods for setting fitness goals is using the SMART method.
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic and Timeframe. A very common goal people come to boot camps and personal trainers with is ‘losing weight’. Let’s analyse this goal a little further using the SMART method.
Goal: weight loss.
Is this SMART? Certainly not. But, with a few small additions we can make this goal much more focused, and therefore help this person achieve more.
To make a goal Specific, particularly with fitness or health, it needs to have a number attached to it. In a weight loss situation, the number is either a number of kilograms to lose, or a goal weight. So ‘losing weight’ is a goal, ‘losing 20kg’ is a specific goal. A specific goal lets you know precisely when your goal has been reached.
To Measure a goal, there needs to be a way to actually measure a change has occurred. In weight loss, this would usually be by standing on the scales. So, to measure ‘losing 20kg’ we will do this by standing on the scales. A measureable goal ensures you have achieved you goal by having a definitive end point.
How are we going to reach our goal of ‘losing 20kg as measured by standing on the scales’? What Action needs to occur? The actions will be exercising, going to the gym, eating more healthy foods and in smaller proportions. Again, be specific. Set a number of sessions or time you will do in the week. A realistic number is 3, some people can get 5. If you can exercise every day, for at least 30 minutes each time, you will definitely be heading the right direction.
Having a realistic goal is important too, as it helps to focus the goal and maintain motivation. Is it realistic for a 30 year old man who is 20kg overweight with no history of exercise to reach the Olympics for the 100m sprint? No. But is it realistic for this 30 year old man to lose 20kg so he is within a healthy weight range. Yes, provided he has 20kg to lose. If someone is already in their healthy weight range, a loss of 20kg is unrealistic, whereas a loss of 2kg may be realistic. If your goal is unrealistic, you will soon fail, become disheartened and be disinclined to ever exercise again.
Finally, having a timeframe also helps to keep your goals focused and on track. A time frame that is too short will inevitably lead to a failure to complete the goal on time. Whereas a time frame that is too long will lead to procrastination and putting off taking action to achieve the goal. Weight loss of 1kg a week is quite possible, but a smaller amount like 0.25-0.5kg a week is likely to be a more likely and more maintainable weight loss for most people. So, to lose 20kg, it could take somewhere from 20-80 weeks. Let’s take the middle point and say that it will take 1 year to lose 20kg.
So there you have it. We have gone from a goal of ‘losing weight’ to ‘losing 20kg, as measured by standing on the scales within 1 year, by exercising for at least 30 minutes a day, 3-5 days a week’, and this allows a fitness trainer or exercise physiologist to write a much more effective exercise plan, to help you better achieve your goals.