Summer is just around the corner, and just like every year, health and fitness resolutions are on the top of almost everyone’s list. Unfortunately, without a real plan, many of these resolutions fall by the wayside, only to be picked up again the following year. Not this time. This year you have all of the strategies you need to succeed. We’ll break down your resolutions into concrete action plans that will be easy to follow, and help you succeed. Today we’ll be focusing on setting S.M.A.R.T Goals
What is a S.M.A.R.T Goal?
Most of us set abstract goals. We want to “get fit”, “lose weight”, “be happy”, “make more money”. But this is only just the beginning. SMART goal setting helps us define our goals to make them real in our minds. Instead of, “I should really get around to that”, you’ll be saying “this is what I want, and here’s how I’m going to get it”. No more wishy-washy goals. This year you’re going to identify exactly what you want to accomplish, the steps you need to get there, and the time it’s going to take you. Sound good? Let’s get started!
Most of us set goals that are outcome-based. We want to reach this ambiguous endpoint sometime in the future. “I want to lose weight”. It’s good to have an outcome goal because it gives you a direction to go, however, you need to take your goal setting a step further by creating S.M.A.R.T Goals!
SMART Goal Setting Step 1: Be Specific
S – Specific - Being specific helps you solidify your goal in your mind. Instead of simply hoping you’ll end up at your endpoint, define your endpoint. Today, my example is going to be “lose weight”. It’s a common one, but often a challenging one. I want to lose weight. Why that number? How much? Put a number down. Now ask yourself what that number means to you. How will you feel if you reach that number? How will you feel if you get close to that number, but don’t quite make it? How will you feel if you don’t get anywhere close? For now, pick a number that resonates with you; we will change that number in further steps.
SMART Goal Setting Step 2: Be Measurable
M - Measurable - Next, we need to find a way to see if we’ve actually reached our goal, and help us determine how far we have to go. We can’t just say “well I think I’m close” or “I have no idea if anything’s changing!” Sticking with the weight loss goal, we need a way to measure our progress. Will you weigh yourself once a week? Will you measure your body composition? Other goals, like “being happy” are a bit harder to measure because they are more qualitative. For these goals it is important to, first, define your scale. Does being happy mean being a certain number on a scale of 1-10? And if so, what does each number mean? Does being happy mean accomplishing a certain number of tasks per day? Does it mean having your home completely clean? By defining it, you can measure it!
Next, we need to start really looking at our goal to see if we can actually accomplish it. We need to see if our goal is Attainable and Realistic. Most people skip these steps and are disappointed when they don’t reach their goals. Here’s how it works:
A – Attainable – Attainable means your goal is something that you can actually work to achieve. For those of us with fitness goals, we need to take a close look at what is attainable, and what is not. My goal might be to look like The Rock (it’s not, but bare with me for a second). Being The Rock is not an attainable goal for me – he’s a lot taller, he’s made for putting on muscle. I should not set The Rock as my goal. This goes for women too. Do not pick up your nearest magazine and set your goal to look just like the person on the cover. For one, the picture in the magazine is photoshopped and you have no clear way of knowing how much of genetics or environment play into the body you are trying to copy. Keep the focus on yourself when creating your goals.
R – Realistic – Let’s say I am 5'9" and 190 lbs. and my goal is to lose 50 lbs. This is technically an attainable goal, however, not a realistic goal for me. Losing that kind of weight for me would not only be extremely challenging, but also potentially dangerous to my health. For those of you following my weight loss example, take a look at your number again. Based on your height and amount of lean muscle mass, does the number accurately reflect the body image you want to create for yourself? Is it motivating to reach for such a high goal? Is it healthy for you to lose that much weight? You have to be realistic to you.
Another way to stay realistic with your goal setting is to start small. Instead of, "I want to lose 50 lbs.," say "I want to lose 5 lbs." and then see how it goes. You need to be able to climb a hill before you can climb a mountain!
SMART Goal Setting Step 5: Time-Bound
T – Time Bound - A goal that is time bound has an endpoint. It creates a sense of urgency. Instead of saying “I want to lose 10 lbs….eventually”, you should set a period of time by which you want to accomplish your goal. Having an event or endpoint is very helpful for motivation. For weight loss, we might pick an event like a wedding or a vacation. However, be wary of ambiguous time goals. Don’t say that you’ll reach your goal by summer, because summer lasts 3 whole months. Set your goal for the first day of summer, or the last day of school, or any specific date that is meaningful for you. It is important, when setting your time-bound, to keep in mind the previous step, be realistic.
Here’s where the personal trainer steps in. Most people do not know how long it should take to lose a certain amount of weight. Others have heard what they think should be a healthy rate of weight loss. And still others read magazines about losing insane amounts of weight in a short period of time. Here’s what I say – studies show that losing weight at a rate of 1-2 lbs per week is healthy. That is a healthy rate of weight loss for most people. However, there are 2 caveats. One, a person who has more weight to lose will lose it faster. If you are exceeding your goal substantially, be aware of how your body feels in the process. If you are losing tons of weight but feel exhausted all the time, that rate may be too fast for you. If you can maintain your health and energy levels, stay on track and continue monitoring. The second caveat is understanding what goes into losing weight. While losing 1-2 lbs a week might be healthy, it may be unrealistic for your body or lifestyle. Losing 2 lbs a week means having a 1000 calorie deficit every day of the week, for the entire time that you’re trying to lose the weight. It’s very challenging to sustain that kind of change, let alone make it in the first place. I say set your goal a little lower, at about 2 lbs every two weeks, while pushing as hard as you can. If you exceed your goal, AWESOME!
Write down your goal. Put it in your calendar.
Thanks for taking the time to check out my first post on Central Sweat, excited to be an official part of the team. See a lot of you at the bootcamp this summer!
Leave your S.M.A.R.T. Goal in the comments below!