What are SMART goals?
Everyone makes goals; whether large or small, they are part of everyday life. They help us focus and direct our efforts, by clearly laying out what we want to achieve, how we will do it and by when.
SMART goals, the subject of this blog, are used in the corporate world for such things as time management, but they can also be a useful tool for a personal trainer to motivate their clients.
What does SMART stand for?
There are a few variations, but generally SMART is considered to stand for:
- Achievable / Agreed
What is the benefit of using SMART?
Using SMART helps a personal trainer to ensure that the aims and objectives set out are specific to a client’s needs. The more carefully targeted the aims are, the more likely a client is to achieve them.
By setting measurable goals, the trainer will have a benchmark for the client’s progress and will be able to feed back positive results or offer encouragement if they are not moving forward as fast as they would like.
For the best results, fitness instructor and client should ensure the goals are achievable and therefore agreed in advance. They can range from weight loss, to muscle gain to more general health benefits.
All aims and objectives should be realistic: for example, a client may want to lose weight but could get disheartened and abandon their training if their expectations are set too high.
Finally, making goals time-framed gives them a clear start and end, which makes them more achievable.
What should SMART goals achieve?
The most common goal for a personal trainer’s clients is likely to be physical fitness. This can include any or all of the following:
- Cardiovascular Fitness
- Muscular endurance
- Muscular strength
- Motor skills (eg. power, balance, co-ordination, speed)
However, there are other kinds of fitness goals that can be targeted, including medical fitness which may include the use of the BMI test and the Blood Pressure test as well as mental, emotional, nutritional and social fitness.
A SMART goal plan might include specific exercises to increase strength, lose weight and improve flexibility by fixed amounts over a set number of weeks, as well as goals such as drinking a certain amount of water a day and attending the gym a fixed number of times per week.
A qualified personal trainer should be able to identify what sort of information should be collected from a client and understand how to do this, using suitable methods.
Open Questions and 'Motivational Interviewing'
When establishing a client’s goals it is important for a personal trainer to ask open questions. Open questions promote more than a "yes/no" answer and will require your client to give an in-depth answers about their lifestyle, diet, goals etc
Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a client centred communication technique that promotes collaboration between the personal trainer and their client, with the aim being to manage and promote behavioural change by encouraging the client to increase their motivation and commitment to specific goals.
Some example MI techniques / open questions would be:
“I appreciate the effort it has taken you to come down today. What has made you want to do something now?”
“Why do you think it is important to lose weight? What is motivating / scaring you?”
“Exercise guidelines recommend that you exercise between 3-5 days a week, what is best suited for you? How long could you train for? What sort of exercise would you like to do and when?”
“Can you tell me what you have / should have for breakfast? How do you think that can be improved?”
Example SMART Goals
Attend the gym and complete your programme 3 days a week for the next 2 weeks
Attend one spin class a week for the next 4 weeks
Be able to run without stopping for 20 minutes on the treadmill in the next 6 weeks
Lose 8lbs of body weight in 8 weeks