picture of setting simple fitness goals

The journey of a thousand miles may begin with a single footstep, but sometimes that first step can feel like walking off the edge of a cliff.

When we make a decision to start an exercise routine after months, years or decades of inactivity it can be a daunting task. Here are some steps to set smart goals based on the work of Dr. Edwin Locke.

In order to set goals that are successful they must have:

1. Clarity
2. Challenge
3. Commitment
4. Feedback

1. Clarity:
Clear goals are measurable and unambiguous. When a goal is clear and specific, with a definite time set for completion, there is less misunderstanding about what behaviors will be rewarded. For instance, "get in shape" will have less success than "lose 10 pounds". This also includes clearly defined time periods to re-evaluate.

2. Challenge:
When setting goals, make each goal a challenge. If a goal is too easy then the effort exerted to attain it may not be that impressive. Make sure that goals are attainable but not too easy. Losing 100 lbs in a month is not realistic but losing 100lbs in a year (1.92lbs a week) is.

3. Commitment:
Goals must be understood and agreed upon if they are to be effective. If you are working with a trainer, dietician or outside program (weight watchers) make sure you have input in the goals set for you. In the end you are really only competing against yourself. So don’t let someone else's expectations affect your commitment to completion.

4. Feedback:
Feedback basically means that you have quantifiable steps that allow you to gauge if you are on track. Weekly weight loss goals, distance on the treadmill, upping resistance on the elliptical. Essentially any measure to help you grade how things are working so you can make changes if needed. Feedback also provides opportunities to clarify expectations, adjust goal difficulty, and gain recognition. It's important to provide benchmark opportunities or targets, so you can determine for yourself how you’re doing.