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A Guide to 'SMART' Goal Setting

Updated: May 21

Goals - "The key to reaching your full potential"

Having a well defined goal from the start is key to any successful journey, and your fitness ambitions are no different. They provide the motivation, focus and structure to reach your full potential as well as the foundations to sculpting your training plan. But what is a "SMART" goal and how do they work?

Well consider the scenario below for example

Who do you think is more likely to lose weight?

  • I want to get fit and lose weight

  • I want to lose 6kg, and go from 76kg to 70kg in 3 months

The chances are you have come across the 'smart' goal concept at some point in your life, whether you realise it or not.


The more specific your goals are, the more likely you are to achieve them. If the goal is not specific how will you know you have achieved it, or remain motivated to work hard?

You should take time to really think about what you are trying to achieve and your 'end' goal. If you want to get strong, what is does strong mean to you? For some it may be to be able to do 20 pull ups whilst others are aiming for 1 press up. It doesn't matter which, but it will mean different things for everyone and therefore the goal needs to be specific to you.

Your goals should have a numerical number attached to help ensure they are specific.


If it is not quantifiable, i.e you cannot measure it, how will you know how you are progressing?

The trick here is to avoid words such as 'more' and 'quicker' and instead add some numbers. Key questions to ask yourself are

- How much?

- How often?

- How long?

One good way to measure your progress is through a journal or diary. It can be as simple as crossing of the gym days on your calendar


A big reason for people giving up is because they set unachievable goals from the off. Your goals should have the balance of being challenging but attainable, otherwise how will you be motivated to work towards the impossible? If you have never ran before, telling yourself you will run a marathon next month isn't going to happen and when you realise this you will stop completely. Instead, working towards 10 KM fun run in 3 months time is much more realistic. You can still have a long term goal of running that marathon but break it down into smaller achievable goals.


If your dream job was to be an actor you wouldn't do a degree in maths would you? Similarly, if you are about to run your first marathon increasing your chest press to 50Kg is not relevant. Yes, improving your upper body strength may help your marathon performance but it wont be pivotal in getting you over the finish line, instead your goal should be cardiovascular focused.

Equally, your goal should fit into your lifestyle. If you hate mornings and are often late for work, setting yourself a goal to go swimming at 5am won't be sustainable, and an evening activity would be much better suited.


For me personally I think this is the most important. If you do not have a deadline, there 'is always tomorrow'.

Creating a realistic timeline not only determines if the goal is achievable but also provides the motivation to chase your goals and prevents everyday life from getting in the way.

You should have smaller short term goals, which ultimately lead to your long term goal. Lets go back to the marathon example. If you want to run a marathon in 12 months time, set yourself the goal of completing your first 5KM in 6 weeks, and a half marathon in 6 months time. Without these small stepping stones, 9 months will pass and before you know it you have 90 days to train for 26.2 miles!

Having a realistic time frame helps you develop a training schedule and adjust things when it is not all going to plan without losing motivation and giving up completely.


Goal setting is not a process to be rushed, but if you invest the time at the beginning you will benefit from the rewards in the future. It is a skill which can be applied to all aspects of life, not just your fitness journey. Just remember you don't get everything right first time so be willing to modify and adapt accordingly (but this is not an excuse to fail).

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