Trainer Series: SMART Goals

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By: Anthony Galati


Every year, starting around mid-February, individuals that took the time to make their over the top, unattainable New Year’s Eve goal list are beginning to fall by the wayside. One by one these motivated go-getters with nothing but the purest of intentions start to grow miserable and disinterested, leaving themselves feeling worse than before they even started the goal setting process to begin with. I wonder why that is. Is it because going from being an overweight couch potato to developing six pack abs by the summer is borderline impossible? Or perhaps, is it that having never ran a mile to thinking that a spring time half marathon may be not only be a bad idea, but rather a dangerous one? Before attempting to achieve a goal, a person must first know how to set them. S.M.A.R.T. goals for example, is an acronym that means Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This is a simplified framework to help individuals set goals for themselves that subsequently will have a much higher chance of being achieved.


Here’s one example from WebMD of how to do it. Look at your fitness device to see how many calories you burn a week by exercising. Let’s say it’s 1,000 calories. Use that data to bump up your calorie burn. For example, a S.M.A.R.T. goal is “I will walk enough to burn at least 1,250 calories through exercise this week.”


Specific. Rather than simply saying, “I’m going to exercise more,” you’ve specified how many calories you’ll burn.


Measurable. Your device will track the calories you burn, so you’ll be able to clearly know when you succeed.


Attainable. Since you’re already burning 1,000 calories a week through exercise, bumping it up a bit should be manageable. To burn 1,250 calories, you’ll need to add about one extra workout.
Relevant. Exercise is totally relevant to weight loss! So exercising more fits into your larger weight loss plan.


Time-bound. This is your goal for this week. Period. You can choose to pursue this goal again next week, or you can set a new goal. It’s easier to commit to a goal — and be successful — if you do it for a set amount of time.


As an athlete and an experienced fitness trainer, I have to admit that setting S.M.A.R.T. goals doesn’t always get the job done. From a personal standpoint, I established a goal to compete in a triathlon in 2015. Here is how I utilized the S.M.A.R.T goal framework:


Specific. “I am going to complete a triathlon in 2015.”

Measurable. The completion of the triathlon was measured by starting and finishing the event.
Attainable. Based on my fitness level in 2015, this was a goal that, with the proper training regime, that I could have accomplished.


Relevant. I consider myself to be an athlete and the completion of a triathlon was a chance to prove that.


Time-bound. I created a weekly training schedule that consisted of fifteen different training protocols. I evaluated the success of each week whereby the percentage of completion of training protocols had to be higher than 85% in order for that week to be considered a success.
Even with the S.M.A.R.T. goal framework I still was not able to compete in a triathlon. I became disinterested in the swim, bike, run aspect of my training. Essentially, I had lost the relevant aspect of the S.M.A.R.T. goal acronym. All was not lost, however. At no point did I become depressed or miserable because I was not able to achieve my goal. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I was training sometimes two to three times a day adding up to fifteen times a week and I enjoyed every second of it. The mental toughness needed to train at such a high level was something I never though I had. When setting goals, the outcome does not always determine how an individual perceives their experience. It is not the destination but the journey where the true essence of my experience was found. I learned a lot about myself as a result of setting such a lofty goal to compete in a triathlon. I learned how to overcome adversity and break through different training barriers that I previously thought were impossible to overcome.


Try and use the S.M.A.R.T. goal template when setting and attempting to achieve new goals. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me or one of the other wonderful member of the Balance team.

Maura Aleardi