Seven Steps in Setting Fitness Goals

Goal-setting is an important part of health and fitness and can help keep you motivated. Exercising without a goal is like going on a journey without a map–you don’t know where you are going or why. If you are trying to lose weight, get fitter, improve your health or build muscle, setting a goal will make your actions more focused and improve your exercise adherence. When setting goals, use the acronym SMARTER, which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, recorded, time-bound, enjoyable and revisited, to make your goals more structured.


Figure out exactly what you want to achieve. Rather than generic goals, such as feeling fitter, having more energy or losing weight, set goals that are specific. For example, if you want to lose weight, have a specific weight goal. A specific fitness goal could be a distance you want to run or a weight you’d like to lift. Specific goals will help you focus your efforts.


Make your goals measurable. Whatever your goal, try to apply a numerical value to it so you can measure your progress. Fitness goals could be the distance you want to be able to run, whereas a weight goal could be the number of pounds you’d like to lose. Health goals could include measures of blood pressure, cholesterol levels or blood glucose levels.


A non-runner setting the goal of running a marathon in six weeks time, while specific and measurable, is not realistic. Make sure that your goals are challenging but not impossible. Set yourself up for success by making sure your goals achievable. Enhance the achievability of your goals by trying to predict potential obstacles and devise methods to overcome them. For example, if you can’t make it to the gym, think up an alternative exercise. If you forget to take your lunch to work, find a healthy restaurant option.


Write you goals down. You don’t have to share them, but doing so can help your motivation. Keep referring to your goals whenever your motivation starts to diminish to remind yourself what you are working towards. Stick your nutritional goals to your refrigerator or your exercise goals to your exercise bike. Taking before and after pictures can also be a motivational way to record your progress.


Set a date by which you would like to achieve your goal. By applying a deadline, you will be more focused. Working towards a goal without a definite deadline can reduce your commitment and motivation as there will be no urgency. Ensure your time frame is realistic and achievable.


You’ll need to make sacrifices in pursuit of your goals, but if you find the process wholly unpleasant, your chances of success will be significantly reduced. For example, if your new diet consists of foods you don’t enjoy, it’s unlikely you’ll stick with it for long. Make sure you can enjoy the process.


Periodically revisit your goals, especially if they are long term. You may find you need to revise them to account for external factors you failed to consider initially. Think of this as fine-tuning to increase your chances of success.

About this Author

Patrick Dale is an experienced writer who has written for a plethora of international publications. Also a lecturer and trainer of trainers, he is a major contributor for Ultra-FIT magazine and has been involved in fitness for 22 years. Other than a five-year service in the Royal Marines, Dale has always worked in health and fitness and never intends leaving.