Now that January is almost over, you probably have noticed that your gym is loaded with new members looking to make a fresh start with exercise. Whether the goal is for improved performance, weight loss, get healthy, etc, most of these folks will start to fall of the wagon around mid-February or March and you will never see them again. Why? Most people who make a New Year’s resolution to start an exercise program have a lack of guidance.  This can come from a few sources: no idea of what they are doing so they copy someone else, starting a program that they did 20 years ago (re-living the golden days of their youth), and/or lack of proper goals.

Our previous blog post talked about using process goals versus outcome goals. Today’s post will look at how to set-up an appropriate goal by using the acronym S.M.A.R.T.  Keep in mind that you can use the concept for any goal, not just exercise.


The SMART acronym stands for the following: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.   Using SMART, let’s create an exercise goal: Being able to perform one pullup. Let’s put that goal through the SMART process:

Specific – Is it specific? Absolutely. You either do one pullup or you cannot. Pretty straightforward, no gray area to be had.

Measurable – This is a little harder.  You can measure a pullup by being able to do a pull or not, but how do you know if you are getting stronger if you can’t even do one to begin with? This is where the process goal comes into play.  By creating a detailed plan to help you to be able to do a pull-up, this is how you measure your progress.

But what if you don’t know how to create a program to help you achieve that goal? Setting up a program that can give benchmarks will allow to determine if your program is working or if you need to make some adjustments along the way.

If you don’t know or don’t want to think about developing an exercise program, have a certified personal trainer create a plan for you. Whether you meet your trainer in person or online your personal trainer will hold you accountable to the program and should be there to answer any questions along the way.

Achievable – Are you willing to put in the work to accomplish your goal? The biggest question you can ask is why? Why do you want to accomplish this? Dig deep. Using exercise as a goal and saying “To be healthy” will not motivate you long term. Everyone knows exercise is good for you, but that isn’t enough to get people to do it. You must have a deeper reason for wanting to accomplish this goal. Keep asking yourself why until you hit that deep emotional reason. Once you do, your goal will have an emotional attachment. An emotional attachment will equal a drive to help you succeed.

Using the pull-up example: What will performing a pull-up do for you? Why is performing a pull-up important to you? I want to get stronger. Great! Why is being strong important? Keep digging until you figure out specifically why you want to achieve that goal.

Realistic – Being realistic relates to the goal being achievable. Being able to perform a pull-up requires hitting the gym multiple days per week of targeted workouts. If you know that you aren’t going to do that, then your goal is unrealistic. Again, why do you want the goal? If you can’t match the goal with the actions needed to achieve the goal, then you will never attain it. Determine how much effort is required to hit that goal and take a long, hard look at yourself to figure out if you want to do that.

Timely – Leaving an open ended goal never works. Create an end date.  For example, “I want to be able to do a pull-up within 3 months,” creates a finish line. This also relates to the first part, specific. By having an end date, it allows you to work backwards to create a program (process goal) to help you reach your goal (outcome goal).

All athletes use a version of this process to help them plan their training year. It provides them guidance so they know what they need to do to reach whatever goal they have.  The training plan is designed so there are measurable goals to reach throughout the week, month, and/or year to make sure their program is heading in the right direction. If they are behind schedule or ahead of schedule, adjustments are made to keep them on track.

Using the process outlined above, you can create a similar plan for yourself. Make sure you create a goal that isn’t too easy. If you make too easy, boredom can set in. However, if you go the other direction and make it too hard, reaching the goal will be too hard and you will most likely stop trying. Be realistic with yourself and don’t bite off more than you chew.

Run your goal through the SMART acronym and see what you get. Have any questions or comments?  Please send an email to