We all want to achieve something when it comes to fitness and training, and likely lie in bed at night thinking about it, visualising we’d done it. But, many of us put up mental barriers to this achievement or end up letting life or other commitments get in the way. A dream of hiring a wizard or genie, and then going back to bed hoping those achievements will magically manifest through no hard graft, may float across your apathetic psyche. But this would also make you delusional. Wizards? Come on.
What is feasible, however, is breaking the overwhelming tasks into bite-size portions you can chomp away at over time, giving you a much better chance of success in the long run!

Setting the right training goals will be the answer to your success and progression. But, when sitting down – notebook and pen in hand – this can sometimes be very hard to formulate by yourself without a structure. SMART Training goals are the fundamental starting point for any decent coach (worth their salt) and their athlete or client. Starting off on the right foot is important. Discussing and setting agreed goals with someone who supports you will ensure you have a fair chance at understanding what is expected of you.

SMART Training goals

We use SMART as an acronym for the below words. It provides the fundamental building blocks for athletic programming, however is completely applicable for goal setting in any area of your personal or working life.

Specific

As a coach I heard the following, “I want to train more often and get stronger”, “I just don’t want to be fat anymore”, “I want to run fast”. These are great statements which drive the emotive powers in you to succeed, however they are very hard to analyse progress against. By making these aims more specific goals, you’ll be able to track progress and any gains you make.

For example – “I want to get stronger at deadlifts”.

Measurable

There are a lot of variables when it comes to sport and fitness, so setting a goal which is easy to measure will help you in the long run. Apps and fitness trackers are ideal for this element as they allow you to monitor your own progress through the dashboards and feedback. Giving yourself numeric or data led measurable factors can help you fully understand what you want to achieve and how to improve. For example, “I want to run a faster 10k” or “I want to increase my deadlift from 40kg to 80kg”. These are very trackable, allowing you to break these goals down even further to understand what you need to do each week or each session.  

Achievable

Nobody likes feeling like they’ve let themselves down or underperformed, it feeds negative thought patterns and can really knock confidence. You’d be surprised to know how many times I have witnessed this in the fitness industry alone, and I’m sure other coaches feel the same.

I once trained a woman whose former PT had her carrying a huge lunchbox everywhere, intaking 6 meals a day like a pro bodybuilder. She had 3 children, a partner who worked away 4 days a week and was caring for an unwell parent. And why did this PT do it? Because that’s what worked for him. In fitness, one size definitely doesn’t fit all. We must always look at the unique conditions surrounding each individual’s personal life situation and their needs. She was getting so demotivated and demoralised with this way of living, feeling like she was always falling short of what was expected of her. She became extremely stressed and started feeling more negatively about her body because she felt the physique she wanted was never within reach.

To me, that former PT was not only robbing her blind, but kicking her in the process. We soon had her on a normal ‘real meal’ plan that coincided perfectly with busy family life, reduced food waste and was a ‘food first approach’ to vitamin and macronutrient intake. Unsurprisingly, she began making great progress. She had more time to spend on fitting in extra home workouts, alongside being less stressed and therefore being a happier Mum for her kids. Give yourself a fighting chance and ensure you can feasibly achieve your goals.

For example: “I want to lose 3kg of fat in 6 months, to make running easier on my joints” This is a totally achievable, healthy goal.

Realistic & Relevant

We’d all like to be faster than Usain Bolt, (…or Rachel Atherton in my case, look her up) but there are just going to be goals that are outside of our genetic potential or natural physical talent. Now, it’s not to say that you shouldn’t dream big, honestly, I urge you to dream big.  Just give yourself a fair chance to attain the goal. If you can plan and visualise exactly what you need to do with hard work and commitment to reach the goal, then it’s likely it’s realistic. For example, you may need to put on a bit of muscle or lose some body fat first, but if it’s done healthily and is realistic for your body mass, then you’re onto a winner. A respectable coach can help you do the math and calculate how much is correct for you in the time span you’re working with, and taking into account the relevance of this goal to your personal abilities.

For example: “I want to squat over my bodyweight”. For someone with a healthy musculoskeletal structure, this is doable. For some, it could take 6 weeks, for some 2 years. It totally depends where you’re starting from, and needs to remain relevant to your own fitness journey. But, this goal can be broken down into more manageable chunks, such as adding 2.5kg to the bar each week for example, using a traditional 5×5 weightlifting method. Therefore making it realistic and relevant.

Time

Ahh the old clincher, when are you going to do it and how long will it take? Remember all the above points fresh in your mind when you decide the time frame you are going to set. All those ‘crazy fools in the gym over Christmas’ know full well that that’s when the hard work for their summer body begins. Chances are, they will be the ones grinning in a budgie smuggler, six pack gleaming with a well earned Mai Tai in hand, over last-minute Larrys who signed up to the gym 3 weeks before their flight to Ibiza. Give yourself a chance to train long enough for your goal so that it is feasible to do. It sounds brutally obvious, but I could count on far more than 2 hands the amount of times people have given me a goal that’s 6 weeks away. Impending brides and grooms being the worst offenders! No, Jeff, I cannot halve your bodyweight in one thirtieth of the time it’s taken you to put the weight on because you’ve just had a very late suit fitting. No amount of expert programming, or perfect marathon training, can work magic like that.

Remember that your body needs time to adapt to training levels, different dietary intakes, different routines around training and different methods of training. Planning as far as you can ahead will increase your chances of success hugely!

For example: “I want to run a marathon in under 4 hours in 6 months time”

By Tess Underhill, Content Manager, Personal Trainer and two wheel enthusiast.

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