Without ever setting fitness goals, I had been working out for over a year and thought it was going well. I felt like I was getting stronger. I didn’t seem quite as winded at the end of Insanity’s Full Cardio workouts. Playing sports with friends was going a bit better. Hey, even my mood was improving overall…at least, I thought it was. And yet there was something missing in all of this. It took me a rather long time to figure it out because, as great as I thought everything was going, in reality, I was clueless. And once I realized I was clueless, things went downhill. I went from feeling good to feeling like I was not doing well at alI. And then I struggled to figure out why or how I lost my mojo.
Setting Fitness Goals: Expect What You Inspect
Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “Expect What You Inspect.” It’s a quote from the late Walter Deming (look him up, he was a smart fellow). The first time I ever heard it was in a business class during a discussion on creating a culture of ownership and accountability. The story goes like this: Jack, a rather industrious company man, was discussing how to make his team of employees live up to his many expectations of how to run a successful place of employment. In talking about all the initiatives happening during their busiest month, a simple question was posed to Jack. “How do you know all of the things you are talking about are getting done, and getting done well?” Jack stood there for a moment and replied, “I always expect what I inspect. We have systems in place to measure success, and goals to help us know what success looks like.”
Now, to be transparent, I can’t say I was paying much attention at the time of the class, but that particular phrase stuck with me. “Expect what you inspect.” You see, Jack was a very clever man. He knew that people need goals and accountability. If you have unclear expectations that are not followed up on (or inspected), people are likely to stray. Here is what you have to realize though: when I say “people,” I mean you and me! That’s right; you are in great company with every other human being I have ever met. Without goals (expectations) and measurement (inspection), you will never have a way to truly know if your exercises are doing you any good at all.
Setting Fitness Goals: The Secret
Discovering this principle was the secret for me. I had been stuck but didn’t know why. I knew the exercising I was doing had to be doing some good, but truth be told, there were really big issues with my exercise routine. The first issue was that I had no clear expectations or goals for myself. Hear me out on this one. What expectations I did have went something like this: “I want to feel better, be able to run when we play sports, and get fit in general.” How is that for the fuzziest and most abstract goal this side of the Pacific? Expectations can help you start; but clear expectations will help you finish.
Setting Fitness Goals: Write Them Down
So what did I do? I did the same thing you should do. I spent time writing out my goals for fitness. They were pretty simple, but they were specific and able to be measured. When I was done, I had two fitness goals. The first fitness goal was to increase my upper body strength as measured by being able to do 60 pushups in a minute and 20 pull ups in 2 minutes. My second fitness goal was to be able to touch my toes (who ever heard of a soccer player who can’t touch their toes? Now you have…). And I wanted to achieve both of the goals by the end of completing a 3-month training program. From there I looked at different routines, decided P90X was the right one to help me hit my goals, and started pushing play every day.
Setting Fitness Goals: Enter SMART GoalsYou see, you not only want to create clear expectations, you want to create SMART expectations.
So what is a SMART goal? Glad you asked. It is something that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. You may see slight variations on those definitions, but they all say essentially the same thing at the end of the day. Let’s go through these and see how it can help you out in your fitness journey.
Setting Fitness Goals: Specific
Remember my goals from earlier? They were the antithesis of specific. “Get fit in general” could not be any less specific. Making a goal specific simply means it is clear enough for you and those who are holding you accountable. My friends know exactly what I am aiming for, and they know exactly how to help.
Setting Fitness Goals: Measurable
This is the part of your goal where it is helpful to put in some kind of number. For me, I said I want to be able to do 60 pushups in 60 seconds. If your goal answers the “how many” or how “much question,” you know you are on the right track.
Setting Fitness Goals: Attainable
Now, I could have set a goal for myself that went something like this: Be able to lift a semi-truck 6 inches off the ground at the end of 3 months. That meets the “specific” and “measurable” criteria, but in no way, shape or form is that actually attainable for me. If it is for you, that is awesome and I would love to hire you as my bodyguard. But for the rest of us, pick something you can actually do. The attainability of a goal is where most people get goal-setting wrong. People are either wanting to achieve too much too soon or what they want to achieve simply isn’t possible in the first place. That’s why this particular part of a SMART goal is where it is great to have a knowledgeable outside source (like an online fitness coach for example) help you think through what makes sense for where you are.
Setting Fitness Goals: Relevant
Simply put, do something that makes sense for you. For instance, a great goal could be to run a 5k in under 23 minutes after 8 weeks of training… unless you hate running. In that case, it would be an awful goal. So set a goal around something you would genuinely benefit from improving in or around something you enjoy doing or both. I love lifting weights, and I need to be more flexible to reduce my potential for injury; thus my goals.
Setting Fitness Goals: Time-bound
This is merely putting a deadline or time-frame on your goal. Most routines that I go through are around 3 months, so that is usually a go-to for me. But whether your goal is 21, 60, 90, or 365 days, you want to put a deadline on it. NOTE: Remember, the shorter the deadline, the more important it is you are realistic about the “attainable” part of the equation. 21 pounds in 21 days isn’t likely to happen, though it could in 60 or 90.
Setting Fitness Goals: Get Started!
And that, my friends, is how you set a SMART goal. Now, I am not sure if my savvy business friend Jack had fitness principles in mind when he shared “Expect what you inspect.” I do know that setting clear and specific expectations is a huge step towards a better you. So go on and get started. Take some time to sit, think, and write out your SMART goals for fitness. And when you are finished, share with some friends who can help you out.
Want even more help setting fitness goals? No worries as we still have an entire other half of that quote to get through. Today we worked on what to “expect.” Next time we will go through what it looks like to “inspect.” But that doesn’t mean you have to wait to get started. Paralysis by analysis is arguably worse than setting unrealistic goals. So if you want some help getting going, click the “Start My Coaching” button below and a coach will work with you to help set you up for success.
NOTE: This article was adapted for Home Fitness Gurus. It was originally written by Daniel Kaufman and first appeared on BodyTithe.com.