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Beginners guide to setting SMART fitness targets

I remember being in a sport science lecture at school, the subject of the lecture was target setting with relation to health and fitness. At this stage of the year most of the class had given up on answering questions and took on the practice of just trying to cram our minds with what we needed to for our upcoming exam rather than engaging with trivial things like participation and real learning, as is the way with modern education.

However when our lecturer Mrs Roberts asked “Can anyone tell me the best way to make and complete a fitness target?” a voice from the back called “Just set one and do it”. Although this was in part just a bid to get laughs (which it did only from our teacher), this got me thinking. If it’s that simple then how come I’ve not managed to fulfill my goals of going running on a daily basis or eat healthier during the week, or any of my health and fitness related targets for that matter? And as Mrs Roberts then explained over the course of the next 40 minutes, it isn’t that simple and there are in fact many ways to ensure that you complete any health and fitness target that you set yourself as long as you follow this framework.

Getting fit is easier than you think, you just have to be S.M.A.R.T about it.

S – Specific. You need to make your target specific, this means writing your target in it’s simplest form. An example of a specific goal could be, ‘lose 3lbs in one month by maintaining a healthy diet and going for a 30 minute jog 3 times a week’, rather than your target being ‘lose some weight quite soon, before summer at least’. They mean the same thing but the former and more specific of the two is much easier to follow and keep track of.

M – Measurable. You must be able to measure your target. This may include having dates/times/amounts in your target, depending on the objective. This way there is no confusion as to whether you have finished it or not. And when you know that you’ve completed your goal, you can make another one and continue your progress!

A – Achievable. One of the worst things for your motivation is setting a goal too high for you to achieve because even if you do make progress with your fitness you’ll still feel like you’ve failed. Therefor this is one of the most important aspects of goal setting when health and fitness is in mind. That being said, make sure you still stretch yourself, just don’t be unrealistic.

R – Results-based. Ensure that your targets are focused on an outcome rather than an activity. If your goal is to lose a certain amount of weight in a certain amount of time then let that be the focus rather than just engaging in the activities that should lead you to that goal. This way you’ll get the results you want faster as you can tailor the activities to your goal if your progress isn’t going fast enough to keep in line with your fitness target.

T – Time-based. There should be some kind of time sensitive aspect to your fitness classes targets. This is in order to prevent you from spending too long on a goal which can result in slow progress or even giving up entirely. This aspect comes in especially handy when trying to regulate your progress and keep yourself on track.

That’s how you make a S.M.A.R.T Target and they’re not only useful in health and fitness goals but also when trying to achieve any goal. Who knew that the most valuable lesson I’d learn in school would be taught in PE!

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