For exercise to be effective in producing substantial health and/or performance benefits, it must be tailored to the individual and training approached with specific purpose. At healthpro, we emphasise the importance of goal setting with all our clients and use what was originally a business model, the S.M.A.R.T approach, to achieve structure and direction for exercise interventions.
- Set Specific goals – Vague and tenuous aspirations such as ‘get fitter’, or ‘lose weight’, are much better replaced by specific goals – ‘I want to run 10 km in under an hour’, or, ‘I want to achieve a body fat percentage within the healthy range for my age’. Setting specific targets provides motivation.
- Set Measurable goals – Measure and record your progress toward your specific goals. If your aspiration is to break the hour for 10 km, then your times for 4, 6, and 8 km on your journey toward that goal will clearly demonstrate if you’re on the right track or not.
- Set Adjustable goals – Factor the possibility of unexpected obstacles arising which impede progress toward your goals by making them adjustable. An injury for example, may mean that an original target of completing your first marathon in early summer can be revised for an autumn marathon. Equally though, if your progress is exceeding your initial expectations, you may need to raise your goals.
- Set Realistic goals – Make your goals ambitious but realistic. Setting the bar too high, too early, is a recipe for de-motivating failure. If you’re a novice runner with marathon completion as your long-term goal, then attainment of 10 km and half-marathon distances are feasible and progressive short-term objectives. Consider also that attainment of exercise goals that are too simplistic or easily accomplished may result in little or no sense of achievement and thus impede future ambition. Only you truly know what realistic goals are for you.
- Set Time-based goals – Commit to achieving your goals within well-defined time frames. Break down the achievement of a long-term goal into fortnightly or monthly interim targets to help maintain progress and keep you on track.
Achieving your SMART goals results in induction of positive adaptations in the body in response to the applied training load. For these adaptations to happen quickly and consistently, we recommend following the F.I.T.T principle.
- Frequency – For fitness to increase, the training stimulus must be applied with regularity. Good to above-average fitness can be developed and maintained by a consistent training schedule of 3 – 4 sessions per week. Higher levels of fitness require greater training frequencies.
- Intensity – The correct level of intensity, or effort, is essential for exercise success. Exercise intensity may be set using a variety of parameters, with heart rate a common measure. For example, if improvements in aerobic fitness and the use of fat as fuel are the exercise goals, then an intensity that corresponds to 50 – 70 % of age-estimated maximum heart rate is required. However, in circumstances where heart rate deviates greatly from accepted norms, due to prescribed medication for example, then subjective measures of intensity such as perceived rate of exertion (PRE) may be more appropriate.
- Time – The duration of a training session is dictated largely by your individual exercise capacity and your exercise goals. If you’re a beginner, working towards your goal of completing a 10 km road run, then you’ll need to start with sessions of 10 – 15 minutes, progressively increasing to sessions lasting in excess of an hour.
- Type - The type of exercise that you do needs to be specific to the goals that you’ve set. Whilst rowing challenges the cardiovascular system, specialising in this activity will do little to help achieve your running objectives, and vice-versa. However, the value of variety in any exercise programme should not be underestimated, as different activities and training modes help to develop a more ‘complete’ fitness, keep the body challenged, and help to reduce the likelihood of injury and potential boredom.