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Setting SMART fitness goals you can achieve (with a few examples)

ID1056 Fitness goals - iStock-1027938356.jpg
Updated 19 October 2021

Is it time for you to make some changes in your life, but you’re not sure how to start? 

One way to give yourself some direction is by setting goals. Creating health and fitness goals is a great place to begin. 

It’s also important to think about your training history and your current status. Be honest with yourself when setting goals.

- Gabrielle Petterwood, Personal Trainer

The first step is identifying what’s important to you and how you want to live your life. That’s known as your values. 

Then, you’re ready to set some goals. So, what would you like to achieve and how would you like to improve? Only you know the answer to that.

Let’s look at how you can achieve your SMART fitness goals.

Benefits of setting fitness goals

We asked Gabrielle Petterwood, Personal Trainer, how putting goals in place can provide motivation. 

‘Meaningful fitness goals are dependent on what you as an individual may desire,’ says Gabrielle.  

Your goals should focus on what you want to achieve, not what others around you want to achieve. Gabrielle advises that you shouldn’t set goals based on what you think you should be striving for.

If you’re aiming toward a goal that is meaningful to you, you’ll feel rewarded each time you get closer. Every step takes you toward your milestones, edging you nearer your target. Reaching each achievement will motivate you, and propel you to the next one.

That being said, it’s important to set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. But, we’ll get to that later.

So, where do you begin? Start with things you enjoy doing and focus on your strengths.  

Make sure you concentrate on what you want to do, not what you think you should do. Set small goals which will be easier to achieve. For example, if you want to increase your cardiovascular fitness but aren’t a runner, don’t set yourself a goal of running five kilometres. Instead, try things like skipping, brisk walks and increasing your warm up exercises. 


Healthy and unhealthy fitness goals

Healthy goals can make you work harder, focus more and motivate you to keep going. But, unhealthy ones can make you cheat or even give up.

When you set your goals, you have to break them down into manageable steps. For example – if your goal is outcome driven, it’s sometimes hard to reach. Instead, think about making your goals behaviour driven.

‘Meaningful goals are driven by internal rewards. These internal rewards may feel like happiness, accomplishment, learning, exploring new fitness modalities and feeling good,’ says Gabrielle. 

For example, you set a New Year’s resolution. You want a six-pack of abs in six months. Then in February, you realise it’s too hard and you’ll never get there. You feel like you’ve failed. It’s not that you can’t ever achieve a hard core, but the goal was flawed.  

Building abdominal muscles takes time. Effort. Time. And, more than just exercise. 

So, instead of doing daily weight training, restricting your diet and running, set yourself up for success another way.

Think about the steps it takes to get a six-pack and why you want one in the first place. Do you actually mean that you’d like to look and feel good when at the beach? If so, that’s a much healthier goal.


SMART goals

Turn your ideas into effective goals by focusing on the following 5 letters of the acronym SMART:

  1. Specific
  2. Measurable 
  3. Achievable
  4. Relevant
  5. Timely

But, what does it mean?

Be specific

Don’t be vague with your goals. That makes them too hard to achieve. Outline exactly what you are working toward. 

Gabrielle says, ‘When setting a goal, it is important that these goals are specific and have meaning to you as an individual. They’re more likely to be achieved as they provide intrinsic motivation.’ 

A vague goal would be something like ‘increase my fitness’. An example of a smart fitness goal is ‘I want to be able to do 30 squats without stopping in three weeks’ time’. 

Make your goals measurable

Why is it important to track your goals this way? There’s benefits to keeping track of how you are going.

By adding a measure, you have a time or amount to measure against. You can quantify your progress.

It’s also motivating when you see yourself improving and slowly reaching your target. 

If a goal is ‘walk briskly without getting puffed’, then add a measure to it. Take into account your current fitness level, how often you can train and how long it will take to achieve. Your fitness goal then becomes, ‘walk briskly continuously for 30 minutes without getting puffed’.

How are you going to achieve your goals?

Breaking down your goals into small steps helps you visualise reaching your target. The steps should be challenging but achievable.

Try to start small and see early wins, to encourage long-term consistency. Build up to a routine and you’re creating healthy habits.

‘A positive attitude and a positive environment is essential for motivation,’ says Gabrielle, ‘If you're looking forward to exercising it makes the process so much easier. You’re less likely to lose motivation and quit.’ 

Goals need to be relevant to you

The goals you set must be relevant to your life, and appropriate for your health and lifestyle.  

‘Thinking about the things that make you happy and bring you joy are important factors to consider when setting realistic goals,’ says Gabrielle.

For example, you might set a goal to run a certain distance. But if you really don’t enjoy running, it’s not a realistic goal for you. Instead, consider alternative goals which include things you do enjoy.

Goals should be timely

Set yourself a time limit. How long is it going to take for you to achieve this goal? 

With family, work, gardening and housework, it’s hard to find time to exercise. But, setting timely goals will help motivate you to commit to your schedule.

If we return to the example goal – ‘walk briskly continuously for 30 minutes without getting puffed’ – how long do you think it will take before you can achieve this? 

If you try to walk three times a week for 30 minutes, it may take a month before you can achieve this goal. Or if that’s too much pressure, give yourself six weeks. 


Tips for achieving your fitness goals

If you’re a beginner, setting gym goals is best done in consultation with a personal trainer. 

Gabrielle says, ‘It’s also important to think about your training history and your current status. Be honest with yourself when setting goals.’

You can learn from professionals through their experience training others and their expert opinions. Give your plan purpose, and focus on perfecting your training techniques.

Here are some tips on how to achieve your fitness goals:

  • make your goals intrinsically meaningful 
  • don’t be afraid to build muscle
  • regularly reassess – are your goals too difficult to achieve? 
  • commit to the plan as best you can
  • keep hydrated and eat healthy food
  • warm up to avoid injuries
  • reward yourself when you reach milestones
  • don’t give up

Celebrate your achievements 

Setting smart fitness goals sets you up for success. They make it easy to reach your targets and help keep you motivated.

Make sure you take the time to celebrate how far you’ve come on your fitness journey. When you can do 30 squats without stopping, share this milestone with friends and family. Turn them into your cheer squad and let them shower you with praise.

Just remember – set goals that are meaningful to you, not what you think you should aim to achieve. 


Reviewed by the healthylife Advisory Board June 2021


This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. If you have any concerns or questions about your health you should consult with a health professional.