ARSE Objectives: A Smarter Way To Set Health And Fitness Goals

No doubt goal setting is something you’ve already done before, either in project management or personal development? Then you might already be familiar with the term 'SMART' goals.

The acronym SMART was originally introduced to aid management processes in business. However, it’s been widely adopted for use in the fitness industry too.

For personal trainers, goal setting has become part and parcel of the job. And depending on your motives for training, there may be very good reason to follow the SMART goal setting approach.

For example, you’re getting married in 3 months’ time and you want to loose 5kg before the big day. Or you’re competing in your first bodybuilding competition in 12 months time and you need to build muscle and drop your body fat to 10%.

In other words, if your goal is easy to measure and there’s a fixed timeframe in which you want to achieve your goal by, then you could go right ahead and follow the SMART approach.

But: SMART goal setting fails to take into consideration what happens next.

And in my opinion, this is the part that's massively letting us down when it comes to the longevity of our health and fitness.

Did you know that only about 20% of overweight individuals that successfully lose weight then maintain that weight loss for at least 1 year?[1},[2]

As an industry we’re failing the very people we claim to care about… and who pay our bills.

Rather than feeding you ‘quick-fix’ diet and exercise plans with zero consideration to the sustainability of our recommendations, we need to take more responsibility to ensure the long-term success of our clients.

And so I want to offer you an alternative to SMART goal setting: Introducing my ARSE approach to establishing training objectives.


Are your plans adaptable, do they take into consideration that there might be setbacks along the way? There’s nothing quite like a time-bound expectation that you subsequently fail to deliver on to dash your self-esteem and make you feel like giving up altogether. Appreciating and accounting for the fact that life can throw the unexpected will help you weather the setbacks and encourage you to focus on the progress that has been made so far.


Why flog yourself continually for x number of months, only to have a blow out right at the end? The likelihood is that you’re in this for the long haul and you’ll be achieving right the way along your fitness journey. So recognise these wins and celebrate them spontaneously as they occur.


Unless you really don’t mind what happens after you’ve achieved your SMART goal, you’re going to want a health and fitness programme that you can maintain. Rather than one of those top-down, crash-diet, flog-yourself-silly in the gym routines so many of us have tried before, I’m talking about a bottom-up, habit breaking and habit reforming process, where we steadily introduce new practices that you can maintain for life.


There’s no point in aiming for something that feels like a penance. You should be able to enjoy the process. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be smiling through every workout, but on balance it needs to be a positive experience. The health objectives you set must enrich your life, which means that at their core they have to come from deep inside you. You’re not doing this for somebody or something else; you’re not doing this because you feel obligated to; you’re doing this for you.

Thinking more carefully about the training objectives we set ourselves - and the reasons we're setting them for - is a really important part of your health and fitness journey. It will dictate the path you take, the degree to which you're going to enjoy the process, and ultimately how long you're able to stick with it.


If you're ready to embark on a fitness programme that’s sustainable and delivers long-term results, check out my online coaching.

This is not simply a workout programme; My goal is to empower you, to arm you with the know-how and the skills to take control of your health and fitness, so that you can achieve lasting results and enjoy the process along the way.

For more information check out the details on my website.



[1] Wing, R. R., & Hill, J. O. (2001). Successful weight loss maintenance. Annual Review of Nutrition, 21, 323-41.

[2] Wing, R. R., & Phelan, S. (2005). Long-term weight loss maintenance. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 82(1), 222S-225S