6 Tips to Set SMART Fitness Goals

Whether you want to lose weight, get six-pack abs, tone up, or pick up your pace, there's one tool that will get you there: SMART fitness goals.

SMART, or specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time sensitive, goals are one of the best ways to achieve new results each week. It's the simplest and most positive approach toward feeling good and living healthy over the short and long terms.

According to Alan S. Kornspan, author of Fundamentals of Sports and Exercise Psychology, "Goal setting is one of the most important skills taught to athletes in order to help them achieve optimal performance," an excerpt in Kornspan's book. "The goal-setting process helps athletes understand where they are currently and also where they want to go."

More: 3 Goal-Setting Tips for First-Time Marathoners

Kornspan's book also says a mental skills training consultant or sport psychologist can teach an athlete how to set systematic goals that are focused on the process and performance rather than focused on the outcome of competition.

The goal-setting technique SMART meets the following criteria:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable or Action-oriented
  • Relevant
  • Time-sensitive

Here's why you should set SMART performance goals and a basic approach.

More: 7 Pitfalls to Avoid When Setting Goals

They Give Energy and Purpose

Performance goals give you something to look forward to: a reward. Multiple studies show that once you reach that reward, you're more likely to continue the behavior that led to that positive outcome. This gives you a purpose to keep training and will give you a boost of energy to push yourself.

They Help to Keep Healthy Habits

The basic psychology of habit formation described in Charles Duhigg's The Power of Habit is cue, routine, reward. That means once you repeat a cue, routine and reward pattern a few times, research suggests that the cue will automatically lead to the routine.

Here's an example of habit formation in action:

You set and visualize a specific set of results like muscle building or fat loss (cue); you workout to support that goal with a performance (routine); and you achieve results (reward). After a few times of visualizing your goal then working out toward that and seeing results, you'll continue your healthy habits automatically.

More: 10 Tips to Create Healthy Habits

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