"SMART" Goals, Set Yourself Up for Success

"SMART" Goals, Set Yourself Up for Success

With the new year just passing, millions of Americans set resolutions that they want to accomplish, many being fitness related. There is typically a boom in gym memberships and physical activity in January, with 12% of new signups occurring this month, however 50% of these new gym goers will quit within the next 6 months1.  

When one goes from not exercising frequently to nearly every day, that can be too big of a transition and can cause them to quit the work that they've started, instead of scaling back to something more realistic and manageable. The same can be applied for competitive athletes; setting too unrealistic of a goal within a certain timeframe will only lead to disappointment, falling off the routine, or overtraining and injury. Instead, we can implement SMART goals and build sustainable habits that will improve your athletic performance and let you compete at an even higher level. 

So what are SMART goals? SMART goals are statements of the important results you are working to accomplish2. SMART goals stand for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound, but let's break down each letter further so we know how to write a SMART goal.

S: Specific

First, A goal can only be effective if it is also specific, and a specific goal can address questions such as 'What are you trying to accomplish?', 'Who needs to be involved to achieve this goal?', and 'What steps do you need to take to accomplish this goal?'. Include your coaches, trainers, sports dietitians, and anyone in your interdisciplinary team that helps you achieve your athletic goals, including establishing a training and nutrition plan leading up to a competition/race.

M: Measurable

Second, you want to make your goals quantifiable which will make it easier to track your progress. For example, if you are trying to shave down some time in the 10K or trying to improve your splits, use apps like Strava or watches from Garmin to aid you.

A: Achievable

Third, make sure that your goal is achievable. If you are running a 10K, trying to cut down your time by 2 minutes does not make any sense, but setting a 10 second PR is much more attainable. The longer you've been competing in a sport, especially endurance sports like long-distance running, the less gains you can make on time. Make sure to not set super unrealistic goals that were easier to achieve when you first started running versus after 10 years of running experience.

R: Relevant 

Fourth, the goal that you are setting needs to be relevant, so it is important to look the big picture. Why does this goal matter to you? Why is this the objective being chosen? Your SMART goals should be relevant to you and should not be created or influenced by other factors or people because the goal will not resonate the same and may not matter to you as much.

T: Time-Bound

Finally, any goal needs to have a deadline, and the timeframe you set to achieve this goal needs to be realistic considering other commitments you may have going on besides training. The good thing with races is that they are on a specific date, so this makes setting a deadline to your goal much easier as a runner, but every other step in a SMART goal is completely up to you to rise to the challenge.

We hope embracing SMART goals for your 2024 endeavors leads to being able to accomplish great things! You've got this!


Blog article by Yana Gurevich, B.S. Clinical Nutrition, UC Davis.
Photography by Steven Mortinson


  1. https://www.ihrsa.org/publications/the-2020-ihrsa-global-report/
  2. https://www.ucop.edu/local-human-resources/_files/performance-appraisal/How%20to%20write%20SMART%20Goals%20v2.pdf


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