The New Year is an opportune time to revitalize your fitness routine. With a clean slate, any setbacks or failures from the previous year can be put aside as you create new goals.
Resolutions in particular, however, are often highly ambitious and challenging to maintain, because many people do not set realistic goals. This ultimately leads people up to be let down, dissatisfied, or frustrated with their progress.
Luckily, there’s a simple method that can help you succeed when setting goals, whether your goal is losing five pounds or running your first half marathon. By following the SMART goal-setting framework, you can avoid burn-out and injury, stay motivated, and watch yourself achieve those goals.
Here are the 5 stages of setting SMART fitness goals:
- Specific — Consider how precise your objectives truly are and fine-tune them. “Being healthier” is a good place to start, but is vague and does not indicate what you’ll do to get there. Will you be increasing your amount of daily or weekly exercise and improving your diet? Instead of “be healthier,” an example of a more specific goal is “exercise more”.
- Measurable — Let’s continue to examine this goal to “exercise more”. The word “more” is subjective; it doesn’t state how much you need to exercise to reach your goal. Determine a measurement that will define success and allow you to track your progress. For example, “exercise for forty-five minutes at least four times per week”.
- Attainable — Especially at the start of the year, it may be tempting to set a very ambitious goal for yourself. This could lead you to embark on goals that are unrealistic and set you up for failure. Ask yourself, “Is this something I can actually do?” It’s important to understand your own limits, so that you don’t push yourself too hard. With that said, it’s also important not to set a goal that’s too relaxed, as you could lose motivation and make little progress.
- Relevant — Is your goal something that’s important to you? Is it relevant to your interests? Try not to let your peers impact how you set or measure your goals. If you’re not truly interested in signing up for yoga classes or taking up kickboxing together, decide upon a fitness goal that would be most beneficial to you
- Timely — Setting a deadline is key to fueling motivation. Similarly, it’s critical to be realistic with your deadline as well, so that your goals remain achievable. For example, giving yourself two months to gradually reach four days of exercise per week is possible and achievable. In addition, identifying a midpoint and end point will enable you to track your progress and stay motivated.
With SMART goals in place, the final principal is being kind to yourself. It can be frustrating when you don’t see immediate results, but pushing yourself too hard can potentially lead to burnout and injuries. Be patient and listen to your body when it’s telling you that it needs a break. This will ultimately help you succeed in your goals.