An important role of fitness professionals is to help clients set and agree on goals. Without goal setting, you can’t demonstrate the results you are helping your clients to achieve so it is fundamental to the services that you offer. Setting realistic goals using the SMART goal setting process can help with client adherence, motivation, progress tracking, and reducing relapses. A lot of instructors think they understand the concept of SMART goal setting but unfortunately, this isn’t always the case; therefore, it’s good to take some time to refresh how to do this most successfully.

Let’s refresh our knowledge on SMART goal setting…


The goals must specifically state what is to be accomplished. They must be clear and easy to understand and should not be ambiguous. For example, rather than your client stating that she would like to “improve fitness,” she can create a more specific goal such as “I want to walk a mile”


The goals must be measurable so that a client can see if he or she is making progress. For example, a goal of “I want to lose 5 pounds” has a measurable component compared to “I want to lose weight,” which is more ambiguous.

Achievable / Attainable

A goal should be realistically achievable for the client. This will allow for healthy change and encourage adherence. For example, a goal of “losing 30 pounds in 1 month” is not an achievable goal. However, “losing 1 to 2lb a week for a total of 4 to 8lb in a month,” is attainable.


The goals must be relevant to the particular interests, needs, and abilities of the client. The goal must be one generated by the client, not the fitness professional, so that it has enough personal meaning to motivate the client.


The goals must have an estimated deadline for completion. These can be short, medium and long-term and should help the client stay focused and on track. It’s important to set goals for each time period as they act as stepping stones towards the overall goals. As a guide:

Short term goals are usually achieved within 1-8 weeks

Medium term goals are usually achieved within 9-24 weeks

Long term goals are usually achieved in 6 months+

SMART goals should also incorporate outcome and process goals.

  • An outcome goal is something achieved or the end desired result, like weight loss, or a specific resistance lifted on a strength machine.
  • A process goal is something a client does (e.g., a behaviour) to achieve the outcome goal. For example, “I will walk for 10 minutes every day 5 times per week,” may be part of the procedure of completing an outcome goal, such as walking a mile. Or, “I will eat 5 portions of vegetables a day,” may be the process of completing an outcome goal of “I want to lose 5 pounds.” Typically, a process goal is part of the specific component of a SMART goal.

Make the goal SMARTER and consider the External Resources needed to support the client.

Consider what and who can support the client in achieving their goals such as people, products, places and practices. Examples include:

  • friends and family
  • tracking apps and diaries
  • healthy eating guides and food logging apps
  • free classes and walking groups

Use relevant assessments and recognised protocols to set goals and objectives. For older adults and exercises referral clients this could include:

  • BMI
  • Step in place
  • Up and go
  • Sit to stand
  • Chair sit and reach
  • Waist circumference measurement

Finally, when goals have been agreed, record, sign and date them.


People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going.
– Earl Nightingale