Having a specific goal in mind for your fitness routine can provide the motivation to keep going when the workouts get tough (or your schedule becomes hectic). However, it’s important to create realistic objectives to avoid burnout and discouragement. Here’s how to set SMART fitness goals you can achieve and stick with for the long haul.
What Are SMART Goals?
SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. SMART goals are often associated with productivity in the workplace. However, these same ideas can work well for your fitness goals, too. For the most part, creating concrete goals with set time limits is a helpful way to achieve just about anything.
1. Be Specific With Your Plan
It’s easy to think “I’d like to work out more” or “I want to get more flexible,” but these types of vague ideas aren’t the best way to make an achievable plan. Instead, create specific goals, such as running a 10K or hitting the weight room a certain number of days each week.
One way to follow through with your specific goal is to find an app that supports it. For the previous examples, downloading the 10K Runner app or the Strong Workout Tracker Gym Log app will make focusing on those particular goals simpler.
If your goal is very niche (you want to, say, practice the hula-hoop a certain amount of time each week), then a general goal-tracking app like Coach.me or LifeRPG can help. Simply entering that fitness goal means taking the first step toward achieving it.
Download: 10K Runner app for iOS | Android (Subscription required, free trial available)
Download: Strong Workout Tracker Gym Log for iOS | Android (Free, subscription available)
2. Set Measurable Fitness Goals
Making goals quantifiable is a simple way to measure progress over time. Depending on your sport or workout, goals based on time, repetitions, or speed are all sound. A swimmer, for instance, may decide to hit the pool a certain number of days each week, swim for at least 1,500 meters each visit, or work toward a sub-2:00 100-meter pace. What’s important is that you’re spending more time in the pool and putting in the work.
A person looking to walk more often might decide to walk for 30 minutes five times a week or aim for 10,000 steps a day on a pedometer app. Whatever your chosen activity, find some way to keep track of your development and progress to help you stay motivated.
For many athletes, activity-tracker apps are a great way to make use of the measurable components of your chosen sport. Even better: they do all the counting for you. In addition, people who use a fitness tracker with heart rate data can aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate activity (or 75 minutes of intense activity) as recommended by the American Heart Association. If you have heart health concerns, always speak with your doctor about setting an appropriate goal for these activity levels.
3. Make Your Fitness Goals Achievable
Although the idea of making giant, sweeping changes to a fitness routine can be tempting, it’s easy to get overwhelmed or discouraged when these dreams don’t play out the way you expected. For instance, setting a goal to get an intense workout every single day might not stick if that’s far from your current routine. Frustration and skipped exercise sessions are far more likely.
Instead, set smaller goals that feel attainable. For someone new to strength training, for instance, doing a 7-Minute Body Weight routine on YouTube a few days a week is a good start. Likewise, following a 30-day squat challenge (or a similar plan) is a simple way to blend doable workouts into your daily routine.
Choosing smaller goals, particularly when you’re just starting a new fitness routine, can be much more attainable. Plus, checking off each completed workout is gratifying in its own right. Lastly, meeting these simpler goals can give you the momentum to keep moving and improving in the future.
4. Choose Relevant Goals
How do you make fitness goals relevant to your own life? For some people, it’s easier to work out when some big-picture goals sync up with your exercise objectives. You may want to get more cardio to improve overall heart health, for instance, or take up a yoga routine to help reduce stress.
Part of relevance also means finding ways to exercise that you enjoy. Remember that there’s no one correct way to work out and move your body, so don’t have to commit to exercises you hate.
If working out in the gym bores you to tears, then consider at-home bodyweight exercises or other fitness routines you can do anywhere. Experiment and play around with different routines, instructors, or sports until you find something that’s fun and challenging. Out of all SMART goal elements, relevance is perhaps the most personal part. Make it your own!
5. Make Fitness Goals Time-Bound
Setting both short-term and long-term plans is a fantastic way to make sure those fitness goals grow and evolve over time. For instance, commit to following a beginner yoga routine now, with a general intention to attempt more difficult poses after about three months of practice. With this approach, those tricky arm balance poses won’t scare you away from practicing entirely.
The reverse is also true. To take part in a 50-mile cycling event six months from now, start a cycling training app like Kudo Coach right away to get prepared. In general, setting timely parameters helps avoid the temptation to put off your fitness goals. Creating a realistic time frame can make all the difference.
Set SMART Fitness Goals to Make Your Plans Stick
If you’ve dealt with failed resolutions in the past, then setting SMART goals for your fitness routine can help make those plans stick. While SMART goals are great for career development, they are also ideal for giving fitness plans some structure and intention. In many cases, a bit of preparation and planning is all it takes to turn your fitness dreams into a reality.
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