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Goal Setting

Many people would like to be healthier, more fit and/or lose weight, but most people do nothing about it.  Unfortunately the select few who do begin a new exercise or weight loss program will quit within 1-2 months without reaching their goal.

The top 3 reasons people quit are:


  1. They do not have a specific goal.

  2. They have an unrealistic goal.

  3. They have no one to hold them accountable.

The SMART way to set a specific, yet realistic goal.

The S.M.A.R.T. approach to setting goals is a simple technique that can be used for short and long term goals.   

The S.M.A.R.T. principle

Specific:  Set specific goals. The more specific the goal, the more likely you are to reach it.  Everyone would like to get healthier, but what does that mean?   Many people say they are trying to lose weight, but this is too general of a goal.   A specific goal would be, “I want to lose 15 pounds in 4 months.”   Or, “I want to improve my half marathon time by 5 minutes, in 6 months.”   Once you have set a goal, you must write it down and make a plan about how you will attain it.  This must be written on paper and not in your head. 

Measurable:  Set Measurable Goals.  By setting a specific goal, it allows you to be able to document (or chart) your improvement.  If you are trying to lose 15 pounds in 4 months, you may want to measure your weight every Sunday night before you go to bed, and then document it.  This will tell you if you are on track or not. 

Attainable:  Set Attainable Goals.  For a goal to be attainable it must be adjustable, and you need to have action steps to help you get there.  Your goals should be flexible enough to accommodate challenges without having to abandon your goal or give up hope.  If you are training for a specific marathon and you sprain an ankle, you may have to modify your workout for a few weeks.  This means you may have to train for a half marathon or another type of event.  If you are trying to lose weight, and while documenting your improvement you notice that you are not on track, you may have to change your diet and exercise program. 
Every good goal has action steps to help you achieve it.  If you are training to lose 2 inches around your belly, you have specific exercises that you are doing every week, as well as dietary goals.  If you have a good plan, you will know what days you are doing your cardiovascular workouts and what days you are doing your weight lifting and crunches.  Plan your action steps (or workouts) ahead of time.  I recommend at least 1 month out, preferably 3-4 months out.

Realistic:  Set Realistic Goals.It is important to start where you are and increase your goals accordingly.  If you have never been a swimmer and you are planning to do a triathlon, it is probably not wise to go to the lake and try swimming 1 mile.  While this is the ultimate goal, you have to start where you realistically are.  You may have to go to the pool for a few weeks to gain strength, then go to the lake and slowly increase your time in the water.  This type of training is safe, healthy and realistic.  If your goals are too tough, you will either get injured or quit.  Yet, if they are too simple you won’t feel much satisfaction and are likely to quit.  Only you truly know what is realistic for you.

Timely:  Set Time-based Goals.Look again at first example: lose 15 pounds in 4 months. This is specific and time-based. Without a time line there is a tendency to procrastinate or get bored.  It is also important to set interim goals to help you stay on track.


Important Suggestions:

An important thing to remember when setting goals for weight loss, is that it can be difficult.  Everyone is different and will lose weight at different rates.  Just because your friend lost 15 pounds in 1 month, doesn’t mean you will.  There is always a possibility, but each of your metabolisms can be different.   If you are setting a goal to lose a specific amount of weight, also make a goal of how many times you are going to workout and what types of foods you are going to eat. 

Setting a goal for a race is very rewarding.  Almost everyone can find some type of event, whether it is walking a 5K or doing a triathlon.  There are many types of athletic events in this area.  When you set a goal for an athletic event you can do one of the following:


  1. Choose a type of race you have never done before (Run, Triathlon, Duathlon, etc).

  2. Choose a new event that you have never done before (Different location).

  3. Set a goal for an improved time. (If you have done the race before).


When we set a race or event as a goal and actually sign up for it, we can hold ourselves a bit more accountable.  I personally know that if I miss a workout (especially a couple) that I will be set back on my training.  If I get set back too far, I will not be ale to compete in the event or not get the time that I wanted.  I don’t get to choose the race date.  Therefore, I must hold myself, or find someone to hold me accountable to get my workouts done.


One of the biggest reasons people do not reach their goals is that they lack accountability.  If they do not have someone to hold them accountable, it is very likely that they will quit when it gets hard, or when they get tired.  There are 4 things that people can do to help them with accountability.


  1. Hire a Health or Fitness Coach.  (A health coach can make training and working out a whole lot easier. (link to health coach section)

  2. Find a workout buddy.

  3. Tell your friends, family and co-workers what you are doing. (They will ask how things are going from time to time, and you don’t want to say that you quit)

  4. If you are training for an event or race, make sure you sign up and pay for the event the moment you decide to start training.  (No one likes to waste money.  If it is already paid for, you are unlikely to give up.)


The Secret

There is a secret that many people don’t know; and that is that most people don’t like working out.  Even the exercise fanatics, who work out everyday, will tell you that they don’t enjoy working out a lot of the time.  However, they continue because of the way it makes them feel afterward. 

To be honest, I don’t always look forward to my workouts.  It can be uncomfortable, maybe even a little painful, hard to breathe, hot, and sweaty.  However, I feel great afterwards.  In fact, I feel so good I look forward to my next workout. 

It may sound better to be sitting on the couch, watching a movie and eating a big bowl of ice cream; however, you know how that makes you feel, ICKY!  With out regular physical exercise our immune systems get weakened, we get sick more often and we feel tired most of the time.  It can cause depression and negative self-talk.  Our bodies do not function as well when we do not get the physical activity our bodies need, causing dis-ease in the body.   

There is no question about the benefits of exercise.  The number one killer of men and women is heart disease.  The number one way to avoid heart disease is exercise and diet.  In fact, we should be getting at least 30 minutes, if not 1 hour of moderate exercise every day.  Depending on your physical activity, a good goal might just be to workout 5 days a week and stop eating fast food.  What ever your goals might be, in order to reach them you must:


  1. Have a good plan (S.M.A.R.T. Principle)

  2. Have someone to hold you accountable

  3. Have your plan written out

  4. Schedule your workouts into your daily planner


Every week you should know what you are going to be doing to help you attain your goal, and when you are going to be doing it.  Time management is incredibly important.  If you do not currently use a daily planning system, I highly suggest getting one.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it has to be used.

Setting goals can be easy, but attaining them is a bit tougher.  If you follow the S.M.A.R.T formula and find ways to hold yourself accountable, you will find it motivating and rewarding.

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