Setting SMART Fitness Goals

Specific, measurable, accountable, realistic and time-frame specific goals are the keys to achieving your fitness target.

When you look at a men’s or women’s fitness magazine with  ”the Rock” or Heidi Klum on the cover do you find yourself wishing and dreaming you could look like that too? What about your Facebook feed with the 25 year-old ripped fitness models doing chin-ups easier than you can get out of bed in the morning? I must confess that I wish I had that muscular, chiseled look that has made Dwayne Johnson a household name. But I also realize that although I can improve my current physique, it’s not possible for me to be built exactly like another human being. We all have DNA that is specific to us. I want you to see yourself as an individual and not compare yourself to models, media stars or your really fit friends.

Let me be clear, it’s good, and necessary, to have goals. But often times, the goals we set are unobtainable, and when left unmet result in a sense of failure. The intent of this article is to encourage a mindset change towards setting goals.


One of the best tools that I have used when creating goals with new clients is the S.M.A.R.T. approach. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Accountable, Realistic, and Time-frame specific.

Let’s go through these one at a time and I’ll explain how they can relate to you, and specifically attaining your goals.  

Coach Darius Burrus working with a personal training client.

Specific: Most people come to us wanting to lose weight. I ask, what do you weigh now? “I don’t know,” they say; they’re afraid of the scale. Most people think they want to lose weight but what they are actually looking for is fat loss. Both weight loss and fat loss are specific goals, and they are measurable. The other specific way to set goals is around reductions in dress size or pant size.

Measureable: Before we set goals we MUST measure!  And what’s awesome about this is we now have an extremely accurate way to measure fat composition with a Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) – a medical grade, non-invasive technology that measures body fat, lean muscle, and water in less than a minute. By using your BIA, we can set specific percent body fat loss as a goal.  If you don’t know where you are trying to go, how will you know when you’ve reached your destination?

Accountable: There are several ways to hold yourself accountable. One of the most effective that we have found is participating in a fat loss challenge. I have run 30 or more of these can tell you they work well because of the accountability tools like turning in a food journal to be reviewed, having accountability partners, checking your name off of a chart after each workout, or simply announcing your goal to your friends, family, and co-workers. We always suggest that you take the time to not only write down your goals and put them up where you can see them several times per day, but to also write down your “why.” What are the reasons you want to lose weight? Those reasons serve as huge motivators when the going gets tough.

Realistic: Like I mentioned previously, set goals that are realistic and achievable. Take into consideration your height and body type, your family history, and your past mentality towards training and eating correctly. Once a client said to me “I’ve never worked out, but I want to go six days per week starting January 1.” I replied, “Well, let’s get started with two times per week and work towards the six,” which is a more realistic goal.

Time Frame: Break your goals down into eight-week or twelve-week mini goals. If your goal is to lose 30 pounds by the end of the year, start with losing 10 pounds by March 30. Better yet, how about losing five percent of body fat by March 30?

Tips to help you reach your 2018 Fitness Goals:

  • Consistency is key. Whether it’s trips to the gym or nutritional habits, nothing beats consistency.
  • Find a coach. You’ll need accountability, exercise and injury recovery knowledge, food prep skills, and encouragement. Once you have the right coach everything starts to fall into place.
  • Attitude overcomes a lot of failures. Get up. Show up. Do your best.
  • Track your progress. Use a calendar, a Fitbit, check in with your coach, or even make a simple check mark on a spreadsheet on your desk at work.
  • Start now! There is no better time than the present. No one knows when that health scare is coming. Make a decision to do it and get started.
Client Todd Welsh in his InBody BIA test with coach Cory Albright.

We all want to be in better shape.  We all want to be healthier. Are you willing to set those personal goals and tell everybody about them? Do you know why you want to do it? Are you willing to skip desert? Eat a salad instead of a burger and fries or pizza? Are you willing to get up at 5:30 a.m. and show up? Can you give up that half bottle of wine every night?

Now set those goals and get started!



Colby Schreckengost
About Colby Schreckengost 4 Articles
Colby Schreckengost is owner/director of training at Next Level Fitness & Performance in Haymarket, VA. Colby holds a BS and MS and is a former strength and conditioning coach at the University of Tulsa. He is a certified personal trainer and Sports Nutritionist.

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