How to Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Holiday season is here, which means New Year's resolutions are just around the corner. Many people resolve to start exercising, but quit a few months later because they don't see results.  

If you want long-term success, be clear about what you want to accomplish. To help you succeed, use the S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) goal process.

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Make sure your goals are precise and stated in performance terms. For instance, if you want to lose weight, your goal might be "to lose 15 pounds in the next 10 weeks."

If you want to improve your athletic performance, your goal might be "to complete my first 10K race in the next three months." If you want to improve your body composition, your goal can be "to reduce my body fat by 20 percent within the next six months."

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A goal is measurable when it is easy to determine if it has been accomplished. The weight loss goal listed above is easily measured. Ten weeks from now you will either weigh 15 pounds less or not. Likewise, with the performance and body composition goals, it will be easy to determine if you are successful. Conversely, a goal to "reduce my risk of disease" is not very measurable. A better goal is to "reduce my LDL cholesterol by 20 points within the next year."

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One of the biggest mistakes people make while setting goals is that they set unattainable goals.  Goals should be set high, but they must also be realistic. A goal to lose 20 pounds in four weeks is both unrealistic and unhealthy. Likewise, if you are new to running and set a goal to finish a marathon in two months, you're setting yourself up for both failure and pain. Make your goals challenging, but attainable.

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Your goals should be important to you. Don't set a goal just because your friends, family members or exercise partners have set that goal. Your goals are your motivators to continue exercising, so make sure they are important to you.

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Make sure each goal has a specific time frame for completion. This allows you to easily determine if it has been achieved. It also increases the likelihood that you will accomplish each goal since you know the clock is ticking. For example, the goal "I want to lose 15 pounds in 10 weeks" has a time frame.

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About the Author

Tyrone Holmes

Tyrone A. Holmes, Ed.D, CPT, is a certified personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise and a Level 2 cycling coach through USA Cycling. He provides Cycle-Max Coaching for cyclists and multisport athletes who want to improve their performance on the bike and Healthy Life Coaching for individuals who want to lose weight and develop healthier lifestyles. His latest book is Developing Training Plans for Cyclists and Triathletes. Visit his website at and his Fitness Corner blog at

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