What type of goals should I set for my fitness program?

I like SMART goals, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-sensitive

I like to set longterm big picture goals, but also weekly and monthly goals so that you can feel a sense of accomplishment as you achieve each mini goal.  I also like to focus on what you can control.  Setting weekly targets for minutes/miles of cardio, sessions strength training, adherence to nutritional plans.  I don't like to focus on the scale as a goal, since there can be fluctuations in weight that are unrelated to effort (water retention for example) and that can lead to disappointment.

Goals can be developed using the SCAMPI principle of goal setting. SCAMPI stands for: specific, challenging, approach-oriented, measurable, proximal, and inspirational. Specific. A specific goal is one that you have identified and are determined to achieve. You are more likely to achieve a specific goal than simply setting out to "do your best". For example, "I will lose ten pounds over the next two months." Challenging. This is a goal that is at the upper end of your ability. Choose goals that challenge you, rather than those you can achieve easily. For example, "I will complete a half marathon in October." Approach-oriented. This means that your goal should have a positive end result rather than a negative state to avoid. This will help give you something to look forward to. For example, "I will spend 30-minutes exercising every day" is more approach-oriented than, "I will not watch so much television." Measurable. A goal needs to have a way of measuring progress. For example, "I will reduce my cholesterol by thirty points" is measurable, whereas "I will be healthier" is vague and not easily tracked. Proximal. Make your goal achievable within a short period of time to ensure that you stay determined. For example, "I will reduced my body fat by three percent by the end of next month." Inspirational. Set a goal that is in line with your ideals to help you stay interested. For example, if your family is important to you, your goal could be, "I will take a scenic hike with my children twice a month."

When setting fitness goals for yourself, make sure to set smaller, more attainable goals in addition to your bigger goals. When you set goals that are far too out of reach, you could get discouraged and lose your motivation when they seem to hard to accomplish. If you set smaller more attainable goals, it will be motivating for you when you acheive them, and it will encourage you to keep moving toward your bigger goals. Before you know it, those baby steps will lead you all the way to your end result.
In setting goals it's important to think realistically (doing some exercise but not too much exercise) about setting 2-3 short term goals that come out of your long term goals: losing weight and the ability to be active with my family. Those goals should include intent (intending to go to the gym) and effort (I was able to climb one or two more stairs). As you find yourself reaching one goal you'll find your confidence increasing to reach the next goal. You will also need to take into consideration what 'things' help you to exercise: groups, friends and family and what 'things' get in the way of exercising: time, energy, work and motivation. Once you are aware of what things you need to exercise and what gets in the way you are better able to incorporate those into your goals to help you move forward and build confidence. For example, if you don't like to workout alone then it's important to be aware of that, add that to your goals and find someone to workout with you. If work is a barrier to exercise, add that to your goals and find a way to either incorporate exercise into your work or add it before or after your work. 

Remember your goals are a personal matter and should excite you just thinking about them. So take a few moments to consider what (weight loss, fitness challenge, etc.) you want to accomplish and when you want to accomplish it by (a date).

Goals that should be considered are, weight loss, strength gain, toning up, feeling better, a better report from your physician, or a specific fitness challenge like a 5k run or challenging hike.

When you think of a goal, make it challenging but realistic and within your physical capabilities. Write it down and state it in a positive, personal, present tense. For example, if you did your goals on January 2nd and you currently weighed 150 pounds, perhaps it would read as the following...

"On May 27th, the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend, I weigh 120lbs." 

With this goal in mind take out your calendar or schedule book and write in the times you will exercise this week along with meal times. This should take 5 minutes and will save you any guess work during the week. The write in biweekly weigh-ins and bimonthly circumference measurents that will give you feedback on how you are progressing towards your goal.

This was just one of example of how a weight loss goal would be acted upon.  No matter what your goal make sure you think carefully what you want and make sure it is realistic. Then, write it down in the personal, positive, present tense and finally, set up periodic points of success measurement along the way, in a calendar to make sure you are progressing towards your goal.


Setting your fitness goals should be unique to you. I think the best way to go about mapping your goals is to use the acronym SCAMPI, as summarized in NASM’s textbook, Essentials of Personal Fitness Training.

Specific - Set goals that are detailed and specific. Simply stating, "I want to tone up and lose weight" isn’t enough. Decide exactly what you want to accomplish and write it down.

Challenging - Set goals that are challenging but also realistic in your abilities. Even if you fall short of a challenging goal, you are likely to have made more progress than if you met a very modest goal. Meeting challenging goals will also help build self esteem and confidence.

Approach - Goal setting should be desire based rather than fear based. Focus on changing your life in the direction of your desires and wants.

Measurable** - Make sure that your goals are measurable. With that said, make sure that your are tracking these measurements. One sure fire way to lose motivation is to not track your progress. In the textbook, NASM states, "Measurable goals also encourage steady progress by minimizing the tendency to conceptualize success in all-or-none terms, a tendency that leaves clients vulnerable to the ‘snowball effect’ or letting a minor setback ‘snowball’ into a major relapse and a total collapse." Also remember that the scale isn’t the only form of measurement. Try keeping a journal of how you feel each day, be conscious of your energy levels and changes in attitude, pay attention to how your clothes fit, have a trainer measure your body composition, etc.

Proximal - Make sure you are setting long, mid and short-term goals. Simply stating, "I want to lose 100lbs" is a daunting task right out of the blocks. Break that 100lbs up into smaller, more manageable goals. When you meet these smaller goals, you will gain confidence and determination to keep pushing towards your long-term goal.

Inspirational - Set goals that align with your desires and ambitions. This assures that your vested interest in them, which means you are more likely to be persistence in your pursuit of success.

Spend sometime working through this goal setting process. Please don’t short change yourself here, after all, these are the reasons you are going to be putting in sweat equity!

Clark, M. & Corn, R. & Lucett, S. (2008). NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training. 3rd ed. USA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. pg. 468,469.

The answer to that is within you. Setting goals for your program will begin with an identification of what you value and what inspires you. Becoming aware of where you presently are at, and what daily tasks and activities you partake in will also help determine fitness goals and needs.

As your plan begins to unfold it is important to match fitness components to fitness goals. Will you need to work on flexibility, balance, stability, endurance, strength, power, and/or speed?

Once the above questions have been answered, having a coach create measurable tests and timeframes to evaluate your progress would be an invaluable tool. The most important factor though, is creating goals that ignite the fire from with yourself to act!

According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training 2008), an individual can use the acronym SCAMPI to help reach their fitness goals. SCAMPI stands for Specific, Challenging, Approach, Measurable, Proximal and Inspirational.

When setting fitness goals, your goals should be specific and challenging. Studies have proven that setting specific goals will result in better performance. 

Challenge yourself! When you challenge yourself and succeed, this will inspire you to achieve more which in turn will build your confidence. 

Approach is the way you take on a challenge. An individual should stay positive, or rather approach new challenges in a positive way. Staying positive will help you achieve more rather than avoiding negative states of mind.

Measurable goals should be set. You most likely have an end goal of what you want to achieve, but you can also set mini goals (Proximal Goals) to help you stay motivated along the way. These mini goals will also tell you if your current program is working or if it needs to be changed. 

Proximal goals as stated previously are short term goals (mini goals) toward your long term vision. These "checkpoints" will help you stay on track and reinforce the motivation to help you reach your fitness goals.

Goals should be set towards your personal Inspiration. If it inspires you, you will stay interested, motivated and more likely to stick to your program and goals. You will be more likely to succeed which can lead to better performance outcomes and higher self-esteem. 

So remember to set goals according to you and what you want to achieve. Goals should be realistic to your wants and needs. So get inspired, work hard, take charge and stay positive!   

Yes SCAMPI is great and all are wonderful things to keep in mind when setting goals but also mentioned in the NASM textbook is the importance of vision.

Too many people will will simply say "I want to lose weight", or "I want to build muscle" and then immediately go into a strategy or try and develop habits based on a base goal.

I encourage clients to spend more time on vision.  Sometimes days or weeks before putting together a full game plan.  Just getting in the gym, eating healthy and spending time to clarify ones vision can be incredibly helpful.  Asking yourself questions such as "why?" or "if failure was not an option what would I want to accomplish?"  

These are questions that open your mind, get you to think outside the box and cause you to reflect greater on your goals and your vision.  Your strategy may be flawed if it does not match up with your vision.  The more clear your vision is the better strategy you will have.  Also as your vision changes so should your strategy, not the other way around.

SCAMPI is part of strategy so if vision is step 1 then vision needs to come before SCAMPI.  Having a clear vision is what sets you up for the greatest chances of success.  Also having a clear vision makes the SCAMPI more effective.

Look at why questions, look at things that put your vision in a positive light and clarify your vision and your strategy and SCAMPI will be less flawed.

Set an ultimate long term goal, because that's what's motivating you to get fit in the first place. Then set short term attainable goals, because they will keep you accountable and will give you a measure of success.

Know that with a healthy eating and fitness routine, losing 1-2 pounds per week on a weight loss program is success. While it's possible to lose more than that on a low calorie crash diet, it's unsustainable in the long term. Unless you can maintain that weight loss through healthy diet and exercise, your body will gain the weight back again and then some. By pushing your body into starvation mode you will find it harder to lose weight in the future. Better to start slow and progress steady.

Set goals that you can sustain. When focusing on diet choices, choose foods that are filing, yet low in calories. You will be unable to sustain a diet if you are hungry and low on energy all the time. Feeding yourself regular meals that are high in fiber and lean protein, will allow you to function productively, and keep you full longer without causing you to reach for high calorie, low energy foods out of desperation.

Progress your fitness routine. Start slow and work up to a more strenuous workout. Condition your body through strength and stability training, working up to a high endurance program. Pushing yourself too fast and hard in the beginning can lead to a long recovery period and injury.

By making sure your short term goals are attainable and sustainable, you will find you stick with them and are successful. This will keep you on track and working toward your long term goal, as well as ultimately surpassing it.

Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals is the best way to get started with a fitness program.

S - Specific - write down and visualize what you are trying to accomplish - if it's losing weight - how many pounds do you want to lose, what size pants are you aiming for - do you want more energy? Write it down and get as specific as possible.

M - Measurable - make sure you track your weight and measurements (the best way to track) so you can see the differences and stay motivated. You can't track what you don't measure. Keep a log and it will boost your efforts and you won't be sorry you took the time to write or log things in a journal.

A - Attainable - you might want to divvy up your big specific goal into small attainable goals each week, knowing that once these small goals are all added together you will see the big difference that has been made!! You can aim for 1-2lbs per week.

R - Realistic - this one is very important because if you aim too high and miss the mark, it is super hard to focus on what you have done instead of focusing on the fact that you didn't meet an unrealistic goal. Set yourself up for success not failure.

T - Timely - Set a schedule that fits into your life and make sure the time you do spend on fitness is on purpose and effective - it shouldn't matter if it is a 60 minute workout or a 4 minute workout (tabata!!) as long as you are working out on purpose and with your goal as the focal point, you will see the change you want!

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