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Setting Goals that Work!

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Many people set themselves goals that that are too ambiguous and un-achievable. This can lead to a cycle of under achievement, and de-motivation. In this article I am going to look at the process of setting effective goals that have a clear direction, therefore act as a great tool to help you focus effort on your target.

The first thing to look at is making your goals SMARTER:-

Specific – Goals must be specific to what you want to achieve, a goal such as to ‘get fitter’ is too vague to be used motivationally. A specific goal needs to be along the lines of ‘to improve my fitness levels to a point where I can run a 10K’.

Measurable – All goals must have some form or measurable element such as a time, a weight or the completion of an event, so you clearly know when you have achieved your goal. A goal such as ‘to lose weight’ is useless as it has no clear end point.

Agreed – If you do not feel that you can achieve a goal, then you will have no ownership of it and therefore it loses it’s motivating power. Goals must therefore be considered achievable and agreed to by all parties involved.

Realistic – A goal must be challenging but achievable. If you feel you can’t achieve the goals that have been set by you then they will have no motivational effect.

Time Framed – If a goal is not time framed then it is easy to put it off, therefore increasing the risk for failure.

Exciting – Goals must excite you, if you are excited about it you are much more likely to get up and work towards achieving it.

Recorded – Writing down your goal allows you to fix and focus on what you are looking to achieve.

If I take the example of a runner who agrees with his personal trainer that a good challenge would be to run a 10K. The goal outline might look like the following:-

‘To run in the next 10K in Manchester on 20th May. Achieving a time of less than 60 mins’.

This goal meets all the criteria of the SMARTER principle, it is specific in that he wants to run the Manchester 10K, it is measurable as a specific time has been set. It has been agreed between the two parties who both think it is challenging but realistic. As the marathon is done on a specific date it is time framed.

Once you have set yourself a goal it is then time to work on your strategy that will help you achieve it. This is done by initially setting a number of sub-goals with motivating rewards. These should also follow the SMARTER principle!

So for our runner he might set the following sub goals. ‘Four months before the Manchester 10K date to a 2.5K during one of his training sessions in fifteen mins (a quarter of his goal time) or less’. He could reward himself with anything that would act as a motivator, such as a new pair of trainers. His next sub-goal could be ‘to take part in a 5K two months before the Manchester 10K and finish with a time of thirty mins (half his goal time) or less’. With a reward such as buying himself a book he wanted. These two sub-goals clearly help him build up to the main event, and mark defining steps on his journey to achieving his ultimate goal.

Once this goal outline is completed it should not be put away in a drawer to gather dust, read over it regularly place it somewhere prominent where you will see it daily. By doing this you are focusing your mind on the goal that you have set yourself and you are preventing deviation from it.

Although goal setting like this may seem like a lengthy process compared to the relative ease of just saying in your head ‘I am going to run the next Manchester 10K’, once you get into the habit of doing it you will soon start to see the motivational rewards of having a clearly defined goal and achievement.

Tom Godwin is the Managing Director of Foresight Fitness Services a Manchester based Personal Training company operating through out the North West. He has 10 years industry experience working with a wide variety of clients, currently specialising in weight management and exercise adherence. For more information about this article contact us today on or have a look at Tom’s blog at,