As the sun sets earlier and earlier each day, the seasons are rapidly changing as we get closer to the fall holiday season. That means cooler weather, less activity, and more ways to fall off the wagon in terms of your wellness. An effective way to prevent these challenges from taking over as we head our way into the Holiday weight gain threats and the end of another year, is to set effective goals. How do we do that? As a Fitness Professional, I work with clients everyday to not only set goals, but to set them in way that will allow for success. A technique we utilize in the Health and Wellness field is SMART Goals. The term SMART is an acronym that stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. To breakdown each term as it relates to a common health goal such as weight loss, let’s use the example that I encountered earlier this month with a client. They had a long-term goal and wanted to lose 10 lbs. through exercise/proper eating before going on a holiday vacation later this year. I talked with them and recommended that we needed to SMART-IT-UP!
The first step to complete was to make the goal Specific. Keeping it detailed to answering the following questions of who, what, where, and why brings to light the base of the goal. The “who” in this situation was my client. Next, the “what” was the weight loss…But “what” does that mean? When I talked with my client we discussed successful weight loss and two key variables. Lean Body Mass vs. Fat Mass ---- Lean Body Mass is a component of body composition that encompasses all of your skeletal, muscle, organs, and connective tissues. Fat mass consists of adipose tissue “FAT” between the organs also known as Visceral Fat or Subcutaneous fat located beneath the skin. My client needed to define it more specifically so that we could keep it on the SMART track. We set a goal “to lose 10 lbs. with the vast majority being body fat.” With this client, the” where” was a combination of our personal training studio in Mission Hills so they receive support and at home where they also have exercise equipment. I asked my client “why this goal was important to them personally?” This is very critical in the goal setting process. Finding that deep intrinsic motivation and inspiration will drive the success over the long-term goal. They stated that accomplishing this goal would make them “feel happy” and “be confident” when they where on vacation. A strong foundation, especially the “why” component, is the effective way to set the framework of a successful goal.
How did we plan to measure this goal? In the fitness world, we have multiple tools that we use to set baseline assessments in body composition and overall fitness/health levels. The traditional weight scale never lies and is easy way to set a baseline and track weight loss along the way. Assessing body fat percentages is completed by a variety of modalities such as; Hydrostatic Testing (underwater weighing), Skin Fold Caliper Testing, or Bioelectrical Impedance Assessment (BIA). In this case, we decided to use the traditional weight scale and the BIA to measure the long-term goal. This ability to set baselines and demonstrate, then evaluate the extent this goal’s achievement is imperative in this process.
The safe, effective, and long lasting weight loss goal recommended is 1-2 pounds per week. Many individuals make a critical mistake with setting unrealistic weight loss goals initially, which set them up for failure. Make the goal achievable! With this particular client, a challenging and true-to-life goal of 10 lbs. of weight loss before their vacation would be realistic and hence attainable, therefore SMART. This step puts our action into place. The way my client and I planned on losing the excess weight was through proper nutrition and exercise. We kick started their program by writing down what they were eating for a week and then discussed/modified their food intake to the proper quantities based on the science of weight loss relative to their calorie needs and their calorie burn rates, which we established in our baseline protocols. With nutrition, the timing of meals, portions of macronutrients, and serving sizes, along with the relative calorie counts of those meals, will be important for success. Our main component for exercise was set to complete circuit style resistance training at the studio 3 times per week and to complete cardio 2 other days at their home. The nutrition and exercise guidelines were within their ability, and their desires, thus enabling accomplishment of these tasks successfully for their weight loss goals in the timeline to beat the vacation deadline.
The last 2 steps in the SMART goal setting process is to make sure the objectives are relevant to the overall goal and to make sure they are time-bound. Checking the relevance of training modality, frequency, intensity and nutrition to that of your goal will allow the key responsibilities and components to produce overall success. Is what you are doing consistently “relevant” to goal attainment. With this client we used this checks-and-balance process to make sure our exercise and nutrition protocol remained within the framework of the goals achievement. Lastly, make your goals Time-Bound! Giving a specific duration to complete a goal allows the ability to monitor the general success of the progress toward the goal and set an end point to its realization. In this case, we gave the 10 lbs. weight loss goal a 10 week span, that keeps us guided towards success and completion in a timely fashion.
Utilizing the SMART goals technique gives a framework to follow to set up any health and wellness goal for success. It allows for a detailed and step-by-step process to breakdown each component of the goal, offering guidance, reinforcement, and overall multi level support. When you are thinking about what you want to accomplish coming this fall for your health goals, try to SMART-IT-UP! Think deep about your base motivation and what is driving you accomplish this goal. Use the acronym to setup a very solid frame work, write out the details, and take charge of your goals for the near future. Work SMARTer, not harder!
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