Setting SMART Fitness Goals

Are your fitness goals setting you up for success or failure?

Credit: Flickr/yuan2003

Setting appropriate fitness goals sets you up for success

Chiseled abs look great but I don’t think it’s a good fitness goal for most people to shoot for.

Yep, you read that right. A trainer who doesn’t encourage most of his clients to develop Brad Pitt abs.

To achieve Pitt’s movie star physique you’ll need to drop down to 8% body fat or lower. The average Canadian has about 30% body fat. You do the math.

As I see it, aiming to get to that extreme level of leanness is setting yourself up for failure. To drop that much body fat requires a LOT of hard work and strict eating. And for what? So you can rip open your shirt at your next office meeting and show off your ripped abs?

For most people there just isn’t enough motivation to adhere to the regiment required to do this. Brad’s motivated by multi-million dollar paycheques; he gets paid a lot of money to look good. It’s part of his job description. I don’t think it’s in your job description to have abs that anatomy students could use to study for exams.

Include More than Aesthetic Goals for Your Fitness Regime

Don’t misunderstand me. I think we all want to look good and there’s nothing wrong with that. And I certainly will tell my clients to drop body fat if they are overweight.

But aesthetic goals will only motivate you so much. A few years ago I read a study that concluded people whose fitness goals included more than appearance had greater success in reaching their goals than those who simply wanted to look better.

So include more than aesthetics in your goal list.

SMART Goal Setting

I’m sure you’re familiar with the SMART goal setting acronym but I’ll list it here anyway. SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic (I prefer to use the term Relevant)
  • Timely

If you look at that list you’ll understand why I don’t think six-pack abs are a good goal for most people. It’s not a relevant goal for them. I’m not at all against setting a high goal for yourself but there has to be some leverage for you to go through the effort in attaining it.

You’re better off to aim for a body fat percentage or a dress size. For women, getting to 20-25% body fat would be very rewarding and attainable goal. You’ll look better and be healthier but will still be able to have a life that includes more than working out and watching every morsel of food you eat.

Guys aim for 18-20%. You can certainly aim for lower than that but in my experience these figures are relevant and attainable for most people.

Get a full medical workup done. If the results show you’re lacking in any health measurement, set at improving that as a goal. Usually your appearance will improve as a byproduct.

Sign up for an event like a triathlon, half-marathon or dragon boat race. Whatever tickles your fancy.

Setting goals that focus on more than just appearance will set you up for success.