Follow this step-by-step guide to discover how to succeed and reach your workout goals through the SMART-method.
Tons of advice on the Internet on how to create lasting workout goals are misleading and vague.
Taking advice from fitness gurus that advocate quick fixes will set your workout goals and workout routine up for failure. So let’s cut out all the noise and update your workout goals for victory.
With this said, in this post, you will learn how to set up successful workout goals by using the SMART-method which contains 5 easy steps:
BONUS! In the end of this guide you will learn about the 4 brain areas you have to engage in to reach your workout goal. By understanding this you will maximise your chances to succeed with your workout goals, as well as understand what goal directed behaviours you need to engage in to pursue your workout goals. Further this will help you to create a lasting workout routine as well. So make sure to not miss this part out. It can be life changing.
Let’s get started!
What are the 5 easy steps to set and achieve a workout goal?
Being vague with your workout goals will set you up for failure, you have to be specific to succeed.
By being specific you will know what actions you need to take to reach your workout goal and when your workout goal has been reached.
How to formulate a specific goal
If your goal is too vague it’s hard to understand what steps you need to take to reach your goal. Instead of saying ”I want to get fit”, say ”I want to get fit by going to the gym 3 times/week”.
If you notice yourself having a too vague workout goal, ask yourself the following question:
- What do I define as fit/strong/healthy/smaller/bigger? (or whatever your workout goal is)
One goal at the time
To get the most out of your workout goal and to not get too overwhelmed, the best thing is to focus on one goal at the time. So if your workout goal is to lose 17 pounds and to grow your glutes, I recommend you to go with one goal at the time.
By being specific, you will maximise your fat loss and muscle growth, as well as giving yourself the best opportunities to reach your workout goal.
But if you still want to go with multiple workout goals at the same time, I need to warn you, because it comes with a price. This price is that you won’t make as much progress as you would by working at one specific goal at the time.
To reach your workout goal you have to figure out the pathway, milestones and the destination and this can only be done by being specific and by working with one goal at the time.
Measurement is crucial for tracking your progress toward your workout goal.
Measurement will help you to identify improvement points, milestones as well as identifying when you have reached your goal.
Example of workout goal and measurements:
Goal: ’’Getting healthy by going to the gym 3 times/week’’
- How many times did I go to the gym?
- How fast did I recover between workouts?
- How intense was I able to workout?
- How fast was I able to run my intervals? (if you focus on cardio workouts)
- How many reps and what weight was I able to maintain during my workouts? (if you focus on strength workouts)
- How was my cardio and strength workout split this week (depends on what type of workouts you want to focus on)
- Have I noticed any difference in my mood and energy
I recommend you to aim for tracking your workout goals once a week for the best results. This will help you to boost your reward system which means dopamine will be released and when dopamine is released you increase your motivation to work towards your workout goal.
If you want to make sure to keep track of your workout goals and stay motivated, don’t forget to download my free workout journal here.
The more challenging your workout goal is, the higher the reward.
This will help you to figure out if your workout goal is too difficult or easy. So while your workout goals should challenge you, it’s also important that they are realistic.
Example of too challenging workout goal
Workout goal: ’’Break the marathon world record’’
If this is your workout goal and have never runned more than 15 minutes in your life and aren’t used to cardio workouts in general, you will most likely not achieve this workout goal.
So make sure to be honest with yourself, but at the same time be brave enough to aim for big workout goals. You are capable of much more than you think.
A good way to tackle your goals is to break your big workout goal into smaller workout goals. And remember, you can always modify your workout goal during the processes towards it.
Example of how to make a big workout goal to small workout goals
Big goal: Run 30 minutes without pausing within 4 months
- Run 5 minutes within 2 weeks
- Run 10 minutes within 4 weeks
- Run intervals for 20 minutes within 6 weeks
- Run 20 minutes within 8 weeks
- Run intervals for 25 minutes within 10 weeks
- Run 25 minutes within 12 weeks
- Run intervals for 30 minutes within 14 weeks
- Run 30 minutes within 16 weeks
Make sure to break your big goal down to smaller goals. And don’t be afraid to aim high when setting your workout goals, but don’t forget to be realistic as well.
Be honest with yourself and have an overview of your day-to-day commitments in your life and create a workout goal that fits into your everyday life.
This will help you to get an overview of your everyday life commitments, which will help you to figure out how much and when you can commit to your workout goal.
How to figure out an realistic workout goal:
- How many hours/week do I need to dedicate to work/occupation?
- How many hours/week do I need to dedicate to my family?
- How many hours/week do I dedicate to my hobby?
By figuring this out, you will get a great overview of how much time you can dedicate to your workout goal and understand what is realistic for you and your lifestyle.
Write down when you estimate to reach your workout goal.
This is crucial to understand the actions you need to take to reach your workout goal, as well as to track the progress and to celebrate when you have reached the workout goal!
What to include in the regarding time:
This will help you to create an action plan and to understand when you have reached your workout goal and when you can crush the next workout goal.
The 4 brain areas you need to engage in to succeed with your workout goals
Does not matter whatever workout goal you have -> all these brain areas need to be involved and stimulated.
1. Amygdala – Anxiety and Fear
How is the Amygdala involved in goal directed behaviour?
A lot of our goal directed behaviour is to avoid punishment such as embarrassment, disappointment or financial ruin. This means that we need some anxiety and fear to stay motivated to work towards our workout goal. These feelings are produced by the amygdala.
How to use the Amygdala
- Think about things you fear
- Connect the things you fear towards your goal
‘’If I don’t reach goal X I will lose all the money I invested in my health for nothing’’ (fear trigger = financial ruin)
2. Basal Ganglia – Go and No-Go
How is the Basal Ganglia involved in goal directed behaviour?
The basal ganglia helps us to do things and not do things in the favour of our workout goal. So for example the basal ganglia helps you to run 5 miles every second morning. But it also helps you to resist that cookie while you are on a diet.
How to use the Basal Ganglia
- Be aware of that you have a part of the brain that helps you to and not do things in favour to your workout goals
- Put reminders on your phone, on post it notes or in a workout journal about you having this brain area working for you and your goals
3. Prefrontal Cortex – Planning and Thinking across different Time Scales
How is the Prefrontal Cortex involved in goal directed behaviour?
It helps us to think further than the current moment. So this helps us to take actions in the current moment that will benefit our workout goals (which is in the future).
How to use the Prefrontal Cortex
- Break your big workout goal into smaller once
- Create an action plan of what actions you will be taking on a weekly basis to reach your workout goal
4. Orbitofrontal Cortex – Emotions Connected to the Now and the Future
How is the Orbitofrontal Cortex involved in goal directed behaviour?
It helps us to identify where we are emotionally currently vs. where we will be emotionally when we reach our workout goal.
How to use the Orbitofrontal Cortex
- Think about how you would feel if you did not reach your workout goal
- Think about how you are feeling today and how you desire to feel in the future (when the goal is reached)
Summary – how to set and achieve your workout goals
Setting and achieving a workout goal does not have to be difficult with the right tools.
It’s the consistency and long term investment that can be the tricky part when working towards your workout goals.
But if you follow the steps and tools you have been given today I guarantee you that you will succeed with your workout goals.
To recap the 5 easy steps (SMART-Method):
- Have specific goals
- Measure your goals
- Make sure your goal is achievable
- Be realistic over your everyday commitments
- Make sure to set a time of when you expect to reach your goal
Recap the 4 brain areas for goal directed behaviour:
- Amygdala – Anxiety and Fear
- Basal Ganglia – Go and No-Go
- Prefrontal Cortex – Planning and Thinking across different Time Scales
- Orbitofrontal Cortex – Emotions Connected to the Now and the Future
However, the method for creating and achieving your workout goals is simple, but it’s not easy. That’s why the right strategy and support can be crucial to give yourself the best conditions to succeed for a lifetime.
And now when you are getting started with working towards your workout goal, don’t forget to download my free workout journal here.