The SMART way to get fit!

Lots of us start January determined to stick to our New Year's resolutions, only to stumble along the way, and this year it's particularly hard to stay motivated. The way to keep that motivation going is to use SMART goals, which help to give you direction and a proper plan to work to. SMART stands for SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ACHIEVABLE, REALISTIC, TIME BOUND

SPECIFIC - it's no good saying "I want to get fitter" or "I want to run further", as that's far too vague. You need to have a specific goal that you can work to such as "I want to run 5k", "I want to lose 2 stone", "I want to do 3 workouts every week", or whatever else your goal may be.

MEASURABLE - how will you measure success? If you've got a specific goal you can see week by week that you're getting closer to that 5km, or the 2 stone weight loss, or that you're either working towards, or actually doing, those workouts each week. Being able to track your achievements will also help motivate you to continue.

ACHIEVABLE - your goal needs to be something that's possible. Try not to set goals like wanting to be the best at something (unless of course you're already an elite athlete!). Generally, measuring yourself against others isn't a good thing; you want to be the best version of yourself that you can be, rather than better than somebody else. Aim for a goal that's a challenge, but something that you'll be capable of achieving if you put the effort in. It might be best not to make your first running goal an ultra, if you've never run 1km yet and don't even know if you'll enjoy it! Do you have the time for 3 workouts a week? Will it fit in with a busy schedule?

REALISTIC - losing 2 stone may be an achievable goal, but make sure that you're realistic about how long it will take you to do it. The same goes for running - if you really do want your goal to be an ultra, be realistic about the time and effort it will take to be able to do that, and maybe start off with a lower mileage goal, and work your way up. You can always add more goals along the way! If you're aiming for 3 workout sessions - how long will they be and what sort of session is realistic for your level of fitness?

TIME BOUND - it's no good setting a goal if you don't decide a time frame for it. If you're aiming for weight loss, get advice on a healthy weight loss plan, so that you can see how much it's sensible to aim to lose each week. Then you can work out where you'd like to be at different stages on your journey towards your goal. The same with running - maybe check out a couch to 5k program to give you an idea of a reasonable time frame. If you want to work out 3 times a week, do you need to gradually work up to that? And decide how long you want to work out for as well - will you perhaps increase the length of your sessions as you get towards your goal?

Of course, once you've achieved your goal, don't simply stop! If you've achieved your ideal weight, then continue to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly; if you've managed to run 5k (especially if you find that you enjoy running), keep running, and maybe set your next SMART goal for 10k - or, who knows, possibly even that ultra? If you've been able to maintain 3 workouts each week, keep up the good work! Set a few other goals within those workouts as well. The other important thing is that sometimes life gets in the way of our goals - and especially in these strange times. If this happens, don't beat yourself up, don't say "What's the point?" and give up. Just adjust your SMART goal a little, and get back to it - and be proud of yourself for your effort and tenacity.

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