Check Off These 3 Boxes to Set Any Fitness Goal

Having ideas of what you want to do, of what you want to look like, and of what you want to achieve, is great. Ideas are important. But when it comes to goals, ideas get you nowhere. Goals are what make ideas, and dreams, come true.

In order to achieve your goals, you can set yourself up for success before your idea-goal journey even begins. This is the art of goal setting. Using the S.M.A.R.T. paradigm, incorporating mental health goals, and keeping goals within your budget are all part of the art of making great fitness goals.

S.M.A.R.T. Goals




Relevant or realistic


If you have an idea of racing a half marathon this spring, great! But you can do better than “race a half marathon.” Your goal needs to be more specific, i.e. “break 90 minutes in a half marathon.” It is even more measurable than just finishing the race or not.

This being said, if you’re starting from zero in terms of running, then maybe in order to make your goal realistic and relevant, it needs to be simply “finish a half marathon race in May.” And to make it even more specific, choose the race, and register. So your idea of “racing a half marathon” morphs into “break 90-minutes in the Muir Woods Half Marathon in May.”

Don’t Forget Mental Health Goals

Keeping these goal-characteristics in mind, remember not to overlook the importance of mental health in achieving fitness goals.

If you’re unhappy due to a work scenario or relationship and it’s preventing you from executing your fitness goals, go back to square one.

Order your priorities, which will likely begin with any pressing emotional situations. Develop a clean canvas emotionally and mentally before holding yourself accountable for big fitness goals. Of course, exercise can alleviate emotional stress, but you cannot tackle marathon training or 10 pounds of weight loss if you’re chronically unhappy.

Sticking with S.M.A.R.T. goals, don’t just say, “I want to be happier.” Make goals specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-oriented.

Instead of “I want to be happier,” make your goal “I want to look forward to going to work by summertime.” You can ask your boss to be put on projects you’re more passionate about. In order to measure if you look forward to work, ask yourself the question every morning in a month-long period. Tally your emotions.

Is this attainable? If you fear this goal of looking forward to your work isn’t even an attainable goal, then you might need to reconsider your job.

If the question isn’t relevant because you’ve committed to school or a difficult job that will have rewards greater than your present unhappiness, then change your goal.

For time-oriented, set your goal for six months from now. That should be enough time to rediscover happiness in your job. Or enough time to get a new job.

Ensure Your S.M.A.R.T. Goals Are Affordable

Your fitness goals may require steps like joining a gym, taking exercise classes, or hiring a personal trainer or a coach. Yet, it’s important to consider your budget. The last thing you want is to be cruising your way to fitness success in a biweekly yoga class and then you realize you cannot afford the $30 classes and have to stop going, abruptly halting your fitness journey.

When checking if your goal is attainable, ask yourself if you can afford it for at least one year. If everything from joining a gym to buying a treadmill isn’t within your financial sphere, try running! You know: the old-fashioned running outside, which is always free.

What fitness goals do you have for 2017? Do you have any mental health goals? Can you categorize your goals as S.M.A.R.T goals?

About the Author

Clare Gallagher is an ultrarunner for The North Face and travels extensively for races and philanthropic work. She studied coral ecology at Princeton University where she also ran cross country and track. Clare has taught English in Thailand where she started a non-profit environmental stewardship program, she has scribed in emergency rooms across Denver, and she writes regularly for various running blogs.

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