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The Smart way to train

What is the Smart way to train?

Making the commitment to get fit and live a healthy lifestyle is a big step. It might call for many changes to your lifestyle or it may call for a number of small adaptations. If regular exercise is not yet on your weekly schedule, then starting a new routine and sticking to a plan can be a big challenge.

If you join a gym, such as Outlooks, or sign up with a personal trainer, you are already committing to getting more active, increasing your fitness and leading a healthy life style. But how do you keep motivated to exercise regularly? What will stop you from slipping back into lazy ways? How will you maintain the impetus to get down to the gym or out for a run?

This is where Smart comes into play.

When you are training and living a healthier life, one of the best ways to keep improving your fitness levels is to set goals. By setting targets you are giving yourself the opportunity to achieve success. That in itself is a powerful motivator.

But setting goals can be difficult. What is appropriate? What is a reasonable challenge? If you set your goals too high, you will lose motivation as you fail to achieve them; set the bar too low and you will soon get bored of ticking each goal off.

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Smart principles

SMART is the acronym that helps us set appropriate goals. It is a system of motivation that is used regularly in business and elite sport. Smart can equally be applied to anyone seeking to improve their performance, in any field, through incremental goals.

Smart stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Specific and this is how you can apply them to your training routine.

Specific – make your goals specific so you can focus on them. For example, rather than saying ‘I want to be able to increase my upper body strength’, say ‘I want to be able to do 10 wide-arm pull-ups by December,’

Measurable – your goals should be measurable. Here the numerous devices that measure activity are useful, but you can also set your own measurable goals. For example, ‘I will do 45 minutes of cardio, three times a week.’

Attainable – there is no point in setting a goal that is too ambitious as it will leave you feeling disappointed and discouraged. Don’t say, ‘I’ve entered the marathon, I want to run a sub-three hour.’ Do say, I want to complete a marathon this year.

Realistic – your goals must be realistic. Planning to swim the Channel, six weeks after you start swimming is an unrealistic goal. Entering an open water swim in your local park might be very achievable. If you set unrealistic goals, you will never experience the pleasure of achieving them.

Time specific – set a time limit on achieving your goals. For example, don’t say “I hope to run five miles without walking one day”. Do say “By Christmas I want to be able to run five miles comfortably’. If you don’t set a time limit, your goals lose their focus.

By sticking to these principles when you set your fitness goals, you are far more likely to achieve success. But, there will be days when you just don’t feel like going for a run, and you slump by the television instead. The key is to not beat yourself up, but just adjust things slightly. If you eat more calories than you planned to, then eat a few less over the next few days to get yourself back on track. If you skipped a bike ride, go for one on your rest day. When it comes to fitness, it is important to realise that the goals and rules are not immovable.