We have all probably seen the image on SMART goal setting where each letter becomes part of the definition of goal setting. Given this reference, let’s break down exactly what this means to setting a proper fitness goal for you.
You need to have a specific goal to strive towards rather than a general one. The goal must be clear, concise and unambiguous. Nothing about this goal should be vague or left up to interpretation. To make your fitness goal specific, you need to answer the 5 “W” questions: What, Why, Who, Where and Which.
Who: Who is it about?
What: What do I want to accomplish?
When: Identify an target date of completion.
Where: Identify a location.
Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
An example of proper goal setting is saying that you want to lose 20 pounds at the rate of 2 pounds per week within 10 weeks by exercising 3 times per week at the gym so that you can look great in a bathing suit. This answers the 5 “W” questions in one simple sentence.
What: Lose 20 pounds
When: Within 10 weeks
Where: At the gym
Why: To look great in a bathing suit
An example of poor goal setting is saying that you want to lose 20 pounds. By just setting that as a goal, you have not answered Why, Where, nor Which. The goal is very vague and too much is left up to interpretation.
The second part of this goal stresses the need for you to measure progress toward the attainment of the goal. To put it bluntly, if a goal is not measurable, it is not possible to know whether you are making progress toward successful completion. Measuring progress helps you stay on track, reach the target dates, and gets you to your ultimate goal.
A measurable goal will usually answer questions such as:
How will I know when it is accomplished?
With our assumed goal of a 20 pound weight loss, we have identified all of these once again.
How much: 2 pounds per week of weight loss
How many: 8 weeks
How will I know when it is accomplished: You will have lost 20 pounds
The third part stresses the importance of goals that are realistic and attainable. It is great to strive for the top, but keep each measurement attainable. Do not attempt to lose 10 pounds per week for 2 weeks. Be realistic (and healthy) by losing 2 pounds per week for 10 weeks. You may want to weight yourself at the beginning of each week to track progress. Perhaps one week, you will lose 1.5 pounds instead of 2, so work a little harder and meet your next goal by catching up and losing 2.5 pounds on the second week.
An attainable goal will usually answer the question:
How: How can the goal be accomplished: By losing 2 pounds per week for 10 weeks
The fourth piece of the puzzle stresses the importance of choosing goals that matter. Do not set a goal of watching 48 straight hours of television. You will not get support from loved ones on this goal, but loved ones will assist you in your goal of losing weight.
A relevant goal can answer yes to these questions:
Does this seem worthwhile?
Is this the right time?
Does this match our other efforts/needs?
Are you the right person?
The fifth piece stresses the importance of framing goals within a specific time frame by giving it a target date. A commitment to a deadline helps you focus your efforts on completion of the goal on or before the due date. To me, this is the most important part of goal setting. Without a plan of when you plan to complete a goal, you do not have a goal.
A time-bound goal will usually answer the question:
What can I do six months from now?
What can I do six weeks from now?
What can I do today?
In our example above, we are not looking out six months from now, or even six weeks, but we will answer what we are doing in one week, two weeks, etc.
When: We will work out 3 times per week to reach our goal.
What can I do one week from now: Monitor progress and adjust program as needed.
What can I do two weeks from now: Monitor progress and adjust program as needed.
What can I do today: Start your program.