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Rev Up Your Exercise Routine with SMART Goals

When it comes to exercise, knowing that you need to get out and move is a lot easier said than done. In the cold, dark and rainy winter months, that promise you made to yourself on January 1 can be hard to stick with. If you’re having trouble staying motivated, identifying a goal can help.

“Before you can set a goal, you need to be upfront and real with yourself about what is attainable,” said Joann Markham, ACSM-CPT, a personal trainer and health coach at SamFit in Albany. “Getting motivated and staying motivated is one of the hardest things to do, but setting the right goal can help.”

Write It Down

Instead of pulling a goal out of thin air and keeping it in the back of your mind, commit it to paper.

“Unpacking the what, why, where, when and how of your goal can help you problem solve how to make it work, and keep you accountable,” said Markham.


Markham is an advocate of SMART goals, which outline your goal as: Specific; Measurable; Action-oriented; Realistic; and Time-bound. She shares these tips for setting a goal that keeps you motivated.

• Specific

 Whether your general goal is to exercise more or get healthy, making it more specific will help you figure out how to get there. Frame your goals in terms of what, when and why. “I want to walk a mile three days a week so I can go to the park with my grand kids without becoming breathless,” is a specific goal. So is, “I want to improve my time and finish a 5K in 45 minutes.”

• Measurable

How many days you go to yoga class, how much weight you lift, how far you walk or how fast you finish a mile are all measurable. A fitness tracker or old-fashioned checklist can help you keep track of meeting your daily goals.  

• Action-oriented

Examine your goal to determine what steps you need to take to make it happen. Do you need to buy comfortable shoes? Join a gym? Find a workout buddy? Move dinnertime back a little? How will you complete these things to meet your goal? 

• Realistic

It’s important to be excited about your goal. Losing 50 pounds or completing an iron man triathlon may not be realistic to you and where you’re at in life. You know your own body and limits, and the things you enjoy doing, so don’t set yourself up for failure with unrealistic goals.

• Time-bound 

Give yourself a deadline for when you will have met your goal. Make it close enough to keep you motivated. If your goal is large you may need to break it down into smaller pieces.

On your way to success, Markham notes that accountability can be the boost you need.

“It’s okay to have help,” she said. “Whether you use a workout buddy, a personal trainer or just text a friend when you start your walk, having someone who knows your goals and encourages you when you’re down can make a big difference.”

Reward Yourself

Once you’ve met your goal, celebrate! Send a selfie of you meeting your goal to a friend, or post it on Facebook or Instagram and watch the “likes” roll in. Or you can treat yourself to a new pair of shoes or the fancy running outfit you’ve been eyeing but don’t really need. This is the time to reward yourself for a job well done.

Get help meeting your goals no matter where you’re at. Download a SMART goals worksheet or make an appointment with a health fitness specialist at SamFit.