SMART Fitness Objectives
Are you SMART in your objectives when preparing a training programme?
Are you someone who goes to the gym and completes the same routine over and over again?
Do you put yourself down because you don’t feel you are making any progress with your current workout?
I’m sure this strikes a chord with many of you. I too have been guilty of this in the past. But there’s a simple answer and it’s all about being SMART!
Firstly, let me give you a reason why people fall into this trap. Exercise enthusiasts often fail to realise they are repeating the same exercise routine without improving. For example, it’s very easy to go to the gym and do the same repetitive 3 sets of 10 reps of bicep curls at the same weight every Monday. Or, for the runners amongst you, to go out every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for the same 30 minute run along the same route. The reason why this stops working is that your body becomes accustomed to this level of exertion. Yes, initially you did see an improvement but after a time your body becomes acclimatised to the same level of output. People forget the role psychology plays in a routine. Let’s take the working environment as an example. When you start a new job you initially have a desire to prove to your line manager and co-workers that you are able to fulfil your duties as an employee. Eventually you will become used to the routine and you will reach a plateau. This is why people often ask for more responsibility or move jobs. It’s the same in your workout, your body becomes used to the intensity when you perform the same monotonous workout week in week out. The impact negatively affects your level of progression. People often get stuck in an exercise rut that is hard to shake off.
How Can I Improve?
The answer is in SMART objectives: Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Relevant. Time.
State what you want to achieve. For example, run a 5km. My aim is to complete the Barcelona Ironman.
This needs to be numerical. Saying you want to improve is too vague, you need to have a measurable goal. For example, running a 5km in 30 minutes. Mine is to beat my previous time of 13 hours and 45 minutes.
You have to be realistic otherwise you will end up becoming demotivated and you won’t achieve your goal. My advice is to have small incremental targets which help to achieve your overall goal. For example, you may set your targets every four weeks, so your first objective is to complete 4km in the first month, then after 8 weeks 5km. Then you can start to introduce timed targets such as completing 4km in twenty-five minutes. By breaking down what you want to achieve it helps you psychologically as you do not put too much emphasis on that final objective. This year my targets include; achieving a 1hr:20min 3.8km swim; 5hr:30min 180km cycle and a sub-four hour marathon.
You need to address whether the targets are right for you. This is where you have to be realistic and focus only on yourself and not what others can lift or run. It also means devising a routine that is relevant to your needs.For example, if the overall goal is to do the 5km then there is no point in setting yourself the target of putting on 10kg in mass and spending all your time lifting barbells because this will be detrimental to your running times. It’s also important to take on board what level of commitment you are able to make. Luckily, my training consists of a variety of workouts; from running, to yoga, light weight gym sessions, elliptical training, core stability exercises, the list is endless.
You need a time frame. For example, if your aim is to become more toned in preparation for a wedding or holiday then put the date in your diary. By seeing the countdown to your deadline on a calendar can help to create a training programme which is sustainable, realistic and time specific. This will not only give you focus, it also allows you to structure your training around rest days and periods when you have other commitments. For me, I use a website called TrainingPeaks.com where my coach is able to upload all of my routines which helps me to plan my week. For example, when I have a swim session I can check online in advance to see when the lane sessions are open. So before my swim I can nip to the gym and do a warm-up.
Another tip is to keep a log. Whenever you go to the gym take it with you. I must admit that in the past I have been guilty of making fun of those avid recorders of their endeavours.Two good friends of mine, Elliott and Greg, both record in detail their exercise progress. Their log books are their Bibles, and you do not see either of them in the gym without their log books. The benefits are clear to see, as it has been an invaluable means of developing Elliott and Greg’s level of training to an even higher level. The motivational benefit comes from seeing the levels where you started from and the progress made. For example someone who goes to the gym each week and does the same thirty minute run without looking at their training in terms of what they want to achieve and what they have achieved are missing on the joy of reflecting on the progress they have made. This can result in people giving up and not continuing with their exercise routines.
I know this can sound blindingly obvious but sometimes seeing how we have got to where we are can be both rewarding and satisfying and gives an extra dimension to the benefits of exercise in our lives.