How to set and reach your fitness goals

fitness goalsBy Amy Jaya and Paul Clifford

Has the hint of spring inspired you to get into shape?  Just like real estate agents and gardeners, have you found yourself getting into the spirit of spring?  Are you polishing your runners, and ironing your sports tops in anticipation for a big summer?  Well if you are, you’re not alone.  Australians are exercising like never before especially given the Federal Government’s new exercise guidelines.

However, whilst you may have the enthusiasm, you may not have all the tools to make the most of your exercise.  Goal setting is an important tool that can help you make your exercise time worthwhile.  Sure you might have a vague goal such as getting fit or losing weight but that’s unlikely to be enough if you are serious about getting somewhere this summer.

If you don’t want regrets and you’d rather maximise this summer before it’s gone, and it will go quick as they always do, then you need to step it up and reach for something more than just a whim.  What you’ll need is a SMARTER goal or two.  That’s right don’t just settle for SMART this year, go SMARTER.   Here’s our definition of SMARTER goals.

S –specific

M-measurable or meaningful

A- achievable

R-real or relevant

T-time bound

E – evaluate

R – re-set


  • Set one or two goals only.  Focus your attention on one or two important exercise goals and go hard to achieve them.  If you set too many goals you’ll spread yourself thin and you won’t achieve any.
  • Clearly define your goal. A goal to lose weight is too vague.  Instead target a loss of 3kgs.  Or instead of getting fitter, your goal might be to reduce your run time over 5kms by 20 seconds.  Your goal might even include a “who, what, when, where and/or how” formula – reduce my body fat count by 2% by completing my gym routine with my personal trainer, on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.

Measurable or Meaningful

  • Reinforcement is a powerful psychological principle that keeps people motivated.  That’s why it’s important that you can measure how you are going against your goal.  If you want to reduce your run time or your % body fat or increase muscle mass you firstly have to set a measure of ultimate success.  It’s important to then set mini goals along the way that you can also measure.  As you achieve the mini goals this gives you reinforcement because you know that if you can achieve this mini goal you are likely to achieve the big goal if you keep putting in.  The mini goal acts as a barometer of your success and breaks up the goal into chunks that are easier for you to bite off.  Sometimes when we only have one big goal in front of us it can seem too onerous.
  • Humans are creatures that strive for meaning.  We want to matter, we want to have purpose.  When we have purpose we tend to be more excited and engaged in what we do.  Therefore it makes sense that when we set a goal we set one that matters to us; that has meaning and gives us purpose.


  • To be motivating there has to be a reasonable chance that you can achieve what you have set for yourself.  Sometimes we set unrealistic goals because we don’t believe that ‘achievable’ is good enough.  If you do have a propensity to push yourself toward unrealistic goals, it may be time to consider why.  Feeling content with yourself is an important first step for setting and reaching achievable goals that make sense for you and no one else.
  • It’s no good setting goals that are too easy either.  Stretching ourselves beyond what is comfortable is a far more rewarding achievement than reaching a goal that was a walk in the park.  By going outside our comfort zone we learn more about ourselves and our capacity to overcome fears that have held us back from being who we want to be.

Real or Relevant

  • In line with what we said about meaningful goals, a goal that is real or relevant gives you purpose.  But it can be more than that.  It can also take you from being a bystander to being in the thick of it.  Many of us set safe goals that don’t really test us out.  A real or relevant goal is one that challenges you to overcome fears and makes a real difference in your life.  At a minimum it is something you want to achieve as a priority.

Time Bound

  • Setting deadlines keeps us honest.  Time bound goals mean there is a chance we will fail.  However this acts as a motivator for us to do something now rather than always wait for tomorrow.   If we can always wait for tomorrow then chances are we’ll never achieve much worthwhile.


  • Whether we have achieved or failed in reaching our goals, we need to evaluate our success or failure and decide what’s next.  What did our efforts teach us?  What did they tell us about our strengths and where we could develop?  What is still possible?  It is important whenever we go through a process that we reflect on what we learned and develop a strategy for applying that learning next time.


  • The re-set process is setting the next goal having learned from the past.  The new goal may be more realistic or it may stretch us in new directions based on what we learned in the previous process.   We may have learned about what engages and excites us through the previous journey and as such this new goal may be more purposeful.  In the re-set process we are applying knowledge and skills learned from before to set goals that bring even greater fulfilment to our lives.

As spring unfolds and your enthusiasm for exercise increases, don’t forget that we don’t succeed by accident.   Setting SMARTER goals can be the tool that ensures your effort accounts for something and that you can look back with pride at what you’ve achieved.

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