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SMART goals in action: get me to the ski fields!

Are you struggling to find the motivation to go out there and achieve? Or are you like me and have started something but find that you are not following through, or have given up completely? Then it sounds like you need to read this post.

Have you heard about writing down your goals – I’m sure you have, but how many times have you followed through? And just how effective are your goals?

To be effective, goals need to be SMART. These are the ones that can get you back on track or start your journey, they are in essence a goal hyped up on caffeine.

The S stands for Specific

The M stands for measureable

The A stands for attainable/achievable

The R stands for Rewards based

The T stands for a time frame,

Okay so you may have heard of SMART goals before – but if you haven’t put them into action, then it’s likely you haven’t succeeded and you’ll have put in a whole lot of hard work with nothing to show for it.

By setting a goal that isn’t SMART we really set ourselves up to fail. Don’t get me wrong, any kind of goal-setting is a great start – let me give you an example, I recently wrote an article about knee rehab. One of the main reasons why I wrote this article was so that I would motivate myself to get out there and work on my own knee rehab. Making my knee stronger was the goal that I set, and I should have known better. Increasing my knee strength sounds like a pretty good goal, but here are a few things to think about – what does ‘I want to get my knee stronger’ actually mean? Have I given this a time period by when I want to achieve this? How will I know that I am getting closer to achieving the goal, when will I know I have achieved the goal?

Argh! so many questions right? What I’ve just highlighted is that we need to include more information to help us succeed with our goals and that’s where SMART goals come to the rescue.

Let’s look at my goal and then let’s make it specific, I want to increase my knee strength – lame, okay here’s a revised specific goal: I want to increase the current strength of my thigh muscles so that I can snowboard all day at the mountain this season.

Hmm I can hear you saying – is that it? Well no, lets add the measurable part to this goal, you may need some help here from a professional in order to steer you in the right direction. My goal is made up of two components one is thigh strength and the other is the ability to repeatedly move while on the mountain, we are talking about aerobic conditioning here. I can measure both of these; thigh strength can be measured while performing bodyweight movements or using gym equipment such as the leg press. My aerobic base can be measured by participating in a sub-max V02 test (generally gym based). There are of course easier measures, simply recording the time I can run a given distance and aiming to improve on the total time taken, or setting a time for a specific distance run and aiming to increase the distance within the same time – an improvement in either measure would suggest that my cardiovascular systems (heart/lung) function is improving because it’s easier to do.

Let’s recap, so far I have added the S and the M, this is where I like to jump to the T – the timeframe. Many goals can be achieved if we have the right amount of time given to achieve them, but too short a timeframe and there’s no chance of achievement.

I know that I am heading down to the snow in eight weeks time so that is the timeframe within which I must achieve my goal. I want to increase my knee strength and increase my aerobic base in eight weeks – by lifting the maximum weight I can move on the leg press 10 times (10 rep max) and completing an Astrand cycle test, both of these tests will measure my current level of strength and fitness. I know that for any real changes within the body to occur it is going to take at least four weeks. I will perform the tests again along the way to see if there is an increase in knee strength and aerobic base, at weeks four, six and eight. Now the reason I have added these additional tests is because they are indicators that I’m on track towards achieving my goal, the tests can also provide additional motivation to do more.

Right the big question is, is this goal attainable – are the time frames too tight, is this goal achievable for my current level of fitness? These are some serious questions you will need to ask yourself when you’re setting your own goals. Another question to consider is whether you have the right support in place to attain your goal?

Here’s an example, if you were asked to go climb Mount Everest in six weeks, would this goal be attainable/achievable? There is a fair amount of reality checking needed in this part of goal-setting. Perhaps consider starting small and building to a big overall goal and every six to eight weeks writing down the new SMART goal.

Here’s the fun and final part the R, yes the reward. I am a big believer that you need intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to achieve certain goals. Some goals I have no problem with achieving – but this one is going need a large reward. Of course there is personal satisfaction and a feeling of happiness associated with achieving your goals and that goes without saying, but this being a big goal for me I am going to buy myself a snowboard jacket when I achieve my SMART goal.

Now the SMART goal has taken shape I’m going to write it down for you:

Specific
Measureable
Attainable
Reward
Time frame

My SMART goal is ‘to increase the strength in my thigh muscles and increase my cardiovascular base in eight weeks’, so that when I go snowboarding this season the only issue I will have is my riding ability – which is poor. I am going to measure my thigh muscle strength and cardiovascular base this week by performing the maximum amount of weight I can move 10 times on the leg press and by completing a Astrand sub max cycle test. These tests will be performed at week zero, four, six and eight. And finally when I achieve this SMART goal I am going to reward myself by buying a new snowboard jacket!

That’s the process involved to create a SMART goal, and will increase your chances of success – now give it a go, you can write down as many as you like, as long as they don’t affect each other!

About the author

Kaz Thompson (PgDip SpExSc, BSPExSc) is a lecturer at Wintec’s Centre for Sport and Human Performance. Kaz is a specialist at injury prevention, rehabilitating injuries and strength and conditioning. He has 15 years of experience working alongside athletes and the general population facilitating and creating individual training plans that achieves goals. Kaz has played competitive sports across many codes, with touch rugby and rugby sevens being his favorites.