Many people find that the most difficult part of their fitness program is sticking with it. Often we drift from program to program, becoming passionately dedicated to step classes one month, then Pilates or yoga the next. Sometimes we drop fitness altogether, opting for life back on the couch.
The problem is motivation. The core of any personal fitness program is staying interested and, as a fitness instructor, my role is to keep my participants coming back for more. If I don’t, then I’m out of a job. The law to which all fitness instructors conform states: No participants; no classes. No classes; no money.
Motivating participants means goal setting. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Great! He’s going to tell me if I set a goal to become a power lifter, I’m going to stay true to a fitness program forever.” Nothing could be further from the truth. A broad goal like becoming a power lifter doesn’t take into account specifics such as how to train, when or where to train, or how to tell when it’s time to enter competition. It leaves no room for evaluation.
It’s not a SMART goal. A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Time-bound.
1. Goals Need to be Specific
A specific goal is one that takes a component of the overall goal and states it. For a power lifter, it may involve improving muscle endurance, stance, and strategy. In other words, it’s a set of clearly defined goals rather than one broad one.
2. Goals Need to be Measurable
A measurable goal could refer to time, distance, times per week, numbers of repetitions, or mass. If your goal is to do more squats, your goal would state that you want to be able to squat with 120 pounds of weight.
3. Goals Need to be Action-oriented
This part means that you’re going to go to the gym and use the squat rack to carry out your goal four times per week.
4. Goals Need to be Realistic
Once you begin weightlifting, you’ll become familiar with the weights and what your limits might be. You can develop a strategy to gradually increase the weights until you reach your goal.
5. Goals Need to be Time-bound
How long will it take to reach your goal? Is this something you can do in six weeks or will it take six months? Identify your timeline.
Using the SMART criteria, you can generate a SMART goal to improve muscular endurance. It might read: “Within 30 days, I will increase my squat resistance on the squat rack from 100 to 120 pounds by training four days per week and increasing my weight by five pounds per week.”
If at the end of 30 days you reach your goal, evaluate how this fits in with your overall fitness goal of becoming a power lifter. You may wish to set a new or different goal. If you didn’t reach it, ask whether there might be a reason. Perhaps you had the flu, or the goal wasn’t as realistic as you thought. Formulate a new goal and time interval.
SMART goals can be useful in many aspects of life that involve motivation–not just fitness. Use SMART goals in your relationships, for career change or advancement, and to improve eating habits. Any aspect of life that requires motivation is open to the application of SMART goals.
By: Mike Broderick
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Mike Broderick is a BCRPA registered fitness instructor and freelance writer who lives in Port Coquitlam, BC by night. By day he is the employment specialist for the Neil Squire Society where he finds work for people with physical disabilities. He is also the owner/operator of The Spin Doctor’s Resume Service. His book, Awakening the Hunk Within is available at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is a regular contributor to alive magazine. Visit alive.com for related articles.