Wednesday, 8 August 2018

The importance of setting SMART goals

Goal setting is a highly important aspect of personal training and fitness in general. Without having set goals your training can become aimless and progress can stagnate. Having goals works hand in hand with the principle of specificity, which states that we get better at what we train for.

Ultimately, only you know what you want to achieve. If you go to a personal trainer, it is not the business of personal trainer's to dictate your goals. Rather the aim for a personal trainer is to help you achieve what you want.

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Examples and types of goals

Goals can range from simple to complex:

  • General health and fitness, e.g. become more flexible, being able to jog 2 miles a day
  • To have more energy.
  • To feel more confident in appearance, e.g. toning up specific areas of the body.
  • Being able to lift 200kg in a deadlift with perfect form.
  • Improve speed and reaction time in chosen sport.
  • Losing 5kg within the next two months for a wedding.
  • Eat healthier.
  • Simply to become more active.

Your goals can then be divided into the following three categories:

  • Short-term: Typically range from one day to a month, e.g. start aerobic training to improve fitness.
  • Medium-term: Typically range from one to six months, e.g. be able to jog up to 10km.
  • Long-term: Typically range from six months to a year or more, e.g. be able to run a half-marathon.

The important aspect however is to make goals achievable within the given time frame. This will help keep you motivated and feel that it is possible to achieve your goals. Goals that are too unrealistic to achieve within the allotted time will only serve to depress you.

It is also important to review your progress to keep yourself accountable and ensure that you are doing what needs to be done. If you're not making the progress you hoped for then you may need to alter your strategy or buckle down if you've being slacking.

This is why short-term goals and programming help so much. Achieving short-term goals will improve your motivation and they can be altered easily as needed to get you back on track or to make your routine more effective.

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The SMART formula

The above examples are simple to get the ball rolling. In reality for those goals to be acted upon they need to be made more specific. This is where the SMART formula comes in handy:

SMART Goals - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timeframe. Image copyright © Gym Pal UK.
  • Specific: What exactly you are aiming to achieve.
  • Measurable: Your goal must be measurable. Rather than simply stating that you want to lose fat, you say that you want to drop 5% of your body fat or that you want be under 11 stone.
  • Agreed and achievable: You must agree with the goals you have set yourself and make them achievable.
  • Realistic: The more realistic the goal, the more achievable it is and the greater your motivation will be as you see yourself progressing towards it. Over-ambitious goals only serve to lead to a lack of motivation and depressed feelings.
  • Time: The timescale set to achieve your specific goal, and depends on if it's a short-, medium-, or long-term goal.

To see this in action we will look at the above example of "Losing 5kg within the next two months for a wedding.":

  • This statement already states the specific.
  • It is measurable by using weight scales.
  • Is it realistic and achievable within the given time? Well healthy weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds (0.45-0.9kg) can be achieved each week, which over an 8 week period equates to 8 to 16 pounds (3.6-7.3kg). The aim of losing 5kg over this 8 week period falls quite nicely in the middle of healthy weight loss so the person in question should be able to achieve or even surpass their goal in the given time frame.

With this you should have a blueprint of what you need to do, allowing you to focus on the principle of specificity and the acute variables you need to implement in your routines and what changes you may need to make to your diet.

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Closing thoughts

Hopefully this has helped enlighten you on the importance of goal setting and getting specific with it. By having a set agenda and game-plan you know what needs to be done allowing you to focus and concentrate on achieving it rather than constantly trying to figure it out on the fly. If you have any questions feel free to shoot away in the comments or send me some feedback!

Lyle Richardson,
Gym Pal - Unlock Your Potential

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