5 ways to achieve your fitness goals

Make your resolutions stick by setting realistic expectations

Published: February 05, 2015 05:30 PM

Whether you're just starting an exercise program or you want to switch up your routine, you need to be smart about it. And we don't just mean picking the best activity, choosing the right home exercise equipment, or taking precautions to prevent injuries. An organized and comprehensive strategy is required. The acronym SMART—Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based—was created to define the steps needed for successful goal setting. Though originally developed for use in business, the SMART approach can help you reach any objective. Here's how to be SMART about your fitness goals. 

Be specific

Saying "I want to get in better shape" is way too general. You need to dig deeper to find your true motivation. Are you trying to address an underlying health issue, such as diabetes or lower-back pain? Maybe you're preparing for the company softball season so that you can run faster down the first base line. Whatever it may be, a clearly stated goal will help you establish the steps necessary for success.     

Measure up

Assigning a number to your goal is the best way to make it measurable. For example, select a specific amount of weight you'd like to lose or a distance you want to walk or run. Technology makes this easier than ever. Many treadmills and ellipticals from Consumer Reports' tests work with apps that let you create specific training programs and track your progress. Activity monitors and pedometers can also be helpful.  

Make it achievable

Create interim goals so that you'll be able to celebrate small successes along the way to the big prize. If you're trying to lose 20 pounds for a wedding that's a few months out, dropping a couple pounds a week is reasonable. Dreaming about running a marathon is nice, but if you've been a couch potato for a long time, think more modestly, say first running a 5K, then a 10K, then a half marathon, and so on.  

Keep the goals relevant

Exercise can take many forms, and they don't all deliver the same results. To use the marathon example above, completing a 5K is clearly relevant to this endurance-based objective, but explosive or power-based activities, like power lifting or plyometrics, would be off track. Ensuring that each step you take is relevant to the next will eliminate distractions and keep you focused on your ultimate goal. 

Time it

Giving yourself two months to lose ten pounds or four weeks to jog non-stop for a mile sets a firm deadline, so that the pursuit of your goal does not become an endless endeavor. Your success can be celebrated at the end of your timeline, or if you've fallen short, you can learn from the experience, adjust your plan, and establish a new, more realistic goal.

Bonus tip

Keep going! Goals are a great way to initiate healthy lifestyle changes. But you don't want revert to old ways once you've reached them. Use the successful completion of each goal as inspiration to create a new one. Keep the goals intrinsically rewarding. Sure, it's nice to get compliments on your healthy appearance from family and friends, but knowing that you're taking care of your body and mind is the best motivator for sustaining healthy habits.

Landice L7 Cardio Trainer

Top exercise gear in Consumer Reports' tests

Our fitness experts test treadmills, ellipticals, rowing machines, and stationary bikes. Here are the top models from our latest tests. Read "Find a workout regimen that works for you" for advice on determining the best equipment for your needs.

Non-folding treadmill: Landice L7 Cardio Trainer, $3,800
Folding treadmill: ProForm Pro 2000, $1,250
Budget treadmill: NordicTrack C970 Pro, $1,000
Elliptical with heart-rate program: Diamondback 1260 Ef, $2,200
Elliptical without heart-rate program: Landice E7 Pro Sport, $3,600
Rowing machine: Concept2 Model D, $900
Spin bike: Diamondback 510ic, $800
Step-count pedometer: Mio TRACE ACC-TEK, $30
GPS watch pedometer: Nike +SportWatch GPS, $200

—Peter Anzalone, Senior Project Leader, Fitness

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