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Applying SMART goals: Scenarios

Read about these SMART goal scenarios.
Decorative image of an athlete crouched at the starting blocks for a track race.
© Photo by Andrea Piacquadio:

Fitness is an area where people like to set goals personally to achieve certain health outcomes. Personal trainers often use goal frameworks such as SMART in order to set goals for their clients. Let’s see how the SMART framework is applied to two fictional examples of personal fitness training.  

PT Universe, a local personal training organisation, has shared two goal-setting examples from its clients. Here’s what happened: 

Example 1

The first client, 48-year-old Mihaly, wanted to get fitter and healthier. When pushed to narrow this goal down, he said he wanted to run a 10km marathon (specific). Mihaly was in good health and had been able to run a 5km marathon previously, but he was a little out of shape after having spent a long holiday in the Bahamas with one too many pina coladas.  Mihaly’s personal trainer, Angela, was familiar with Mihaly’s track record and knew that 10km was certainly within his limits (attainable), so she set about helping her client achieve this goal by employing the SMART framework. 

Setting a timeline of three months (time-bound), Angela asked Mihaly to run to a set schedule for the 12 weeks, measuring how he felt after each run and documenting this (measurable). Both Angela and Mihaly knew that running long distances was a matter of developing endurance over time, which could be achieved by gradually increasing the running distance (relevant).  

After 12 weeks of training, Mihaly was delighted to report that his goal of running the 10km marathon was achieved.

Example 2

Another client wanted to build muscle mass. An inexperienced personal trainer, Arnie, sat down with Jane and did not use the SMART framework to set her goal. Jane was encouraged to attend the gym three to four times a week, and each session would be monitored. Great! But after a few months, Jane was disappointed to discover that she’d actually lost muscle mass. What went wrong?

Try this 

As an experienced personal trainer, you decide to help Arnie diagnose the issues with his goal-setting approach with Jane and come up with a new plan.  

  • What do you think was missing from Jane’s goal?
  • If you were to reformulate Jane’s goal using the SMART framework, how would you do this? Use Example 1 to guide your answer. You can record your answer in the SMART goal template.  


3. University of California. 2017. University of California SMART Goals: A How to Guide [Internet]. University of California. [cited 2022 Dec 22]. Available from:  

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