Healthy Living YMCA Health and Fitness

The 5-step formula for SMART goals that yield real results

Man with bathing cap swimming in pool lane, reaching for wall

Your dream of a healthy lifestyle will only become a reality if you hit the gym with a plan. Whether you’re just getting started on your fitness journey, or you’ve been struggling for a while without making any progress, the best way to get on track is to set a S.M.A.R.T. goal.

S is for Specific

Make your goal clear and focused. Some popular ones include “lose weight” or “get healthy,” but those are too vague. Ask yourself how, exactly, you plan to shed those pounds or improve your quality of life: are you going to start exercising regularly, work on developing healthier eating habits, quit smoking, or do something else entirely? There are countless ways to “get healthy,” so focus on one and build your goal around it.

M is for Measurable

If you can’t measure your goal, you won’t know when you’ve achieved it. Typically, measurable goals have a number. For example, if you want to “get healthy” specifically by exercising, start by asking yourself how often you want to work out, and for how long. A measurable goal would be to do 30-minute cardio sessions, three times a week for one month. When the month is up, it’s time to re-assess and see if you need to try again, or if you can move on to tackle a new goal.

A is for Attainable

Set the bar high, but don’t set yourself up for disappointment. It’s boring to chase an overly easy goal, so take on a challenge that will put your determination to the test. At the same time, though, it’s disheartening to reach for something unrealistic, and never be able to celebrate your triumphs. You know yourself best, so set a goal you know you can accomplish with a reasonable helping of willpower and motivation.

R is for Relevant

It’s your life, so set a goal that matters to you. You won’t be motivated to chase someone else’s dream, and you probably won’t care much if you don’t reach it in the end. Ensure you’re setting a relevant goal by asking yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Maybe you actually want to get healthy so you can have the energy to play with your kids, perform better on your dodgeball team, stop feeling stressed all the time, or be a better role model for your little sister. Dig down deep to reveal your real motivators, and you’ll quickly know whether you’re setting a goal worth pursuing.

T is for Time-Bound

Giving yourself a deadline helps make your goal measurable, but it also motivates you to get started. Say your goal is to get healthy by the time your next annual checkup rolls around, so that your doctor is happy with your blood pressure. Book your appointment, so you have a firm date to hold yourself accountable to, then set steps or check-in points between now and then. Giving yourself a schedule will ensure you make steady progress towards your goal, rather than scrambling and feeling guilty a few days before.

If you’ve had a few false starts towards a healthy lifestyle, or pour time and effort into your workouts with no results, it’s time to re-think your game plan! Try smartening up your fitness goals, or meet with a personal trainer for some one-on-one goal setting guidance.