Setting SMART Walking Goals for the New Year

Every year, during the last couple of weeks of the year, people start thinking about their New Year’s resolutions.  They throw out things like “I want to lose weight” or “I want to get in shape” or “I want to write the Great American Novel.”  So, when January 1 rolls around, they throw out their junk food.  They join a gym.  They buy some new notebooks and colorful pens.  And then, by the time February 1 rolls around, they’re back to donuts for breakfast, they haven’t been to their gym in a couple of weeks, and they’re back to scrolling through social media instead of working on that novel.

Making New Year’s resolutions is easy.  Sticking to them is hard. 

In order to get a goal and make it stick, life coaches will tell you that you need to set goals that are SMART.  It sounds like a cliché—because you’ve heard it over and over again.  But, really, it just makes sense.

Setting goals that are SMART means that they are:






In other words, instead of saying “I want to lose weight,” you need to say “I will lose 10 pounds by my birthday in June.”  And then you need to set a plan in place to make it happen.

Last year at this time, I was already planning to complete my first half marathon.  I had a distance that I needed to be able to reach.  I had a date that I needed to be able to reach it by (though that date later changed, due to circumstances beyond my control).  I even had the training program printed out.  It was all very SMART.  This year, though, I don’t have another first-half-marathon goal.  I’ve already achieved that.  So it’s time to go back to the drawing board to come up with something new to work toward.

Why Should You Set a Goal?

I can already hear you asking: “Why should I set a goal at all?  I just want to walk.” And yes, if you just want to go out every once in a while for a stroll with your family, that’s fine.  You don’t need to set a goal.  But if you want to make it stick—if you want to make it a habit—you’re more likely to keep it up if you’ve got a goal in mind.  If you’ve got a weight loss goal in mind…or an event coming up in a few months…or a number of miles that you’re working toward—and especially if you’ve written it down and put it in a place where you see it every day—that goal will help motivate you to get out and keep moving.

Also, having a set goal in mind will give you a challenge.  It’ll help you push yourself a little more.  And it’ll give you something to look forward to.  And when you achieve your goal, it’ll give you something to celebrate!

Before You Look Ahead…Look Back

Before you even sit down to come up with your goal (or goals) for the year, it’s time to do a little bit of reflection.  Look back on the past year—or even the past five years or more.  What have you achieved?  What’s worked for you?  What hasn’t worked for you? How far have you come?  How have your priorities, your thinking, your methods changed?  What do you want to continue, and what you want to change?  Also…who are the people who have been supportive, and who clearly doesn’t have your back?  Knowing all of these things will help you set your goals and make a plan to achieve them in the coming year.

How Do SMART Goals Work?

Let’s take a closer look at the parts of a SMART goal.


When you set a specific goal, you know exactly what you’re working toward.  “I want to get in shape” just doesn’t cut it.  What does it mean to get in shape?  How are you going to do that?  Why does it matter?  And, most importantly, how will you even know if you’ve achieved your goal?

Instead, think: “I will complete a 5k” or even “I will finish a 5k in under an hour.”


Again, “I want to get in shape” doesn’t work here.  You need a way to measure your goal—to know how you’re progressing and when you’ve actually made it happen.

Measurable goals include things like: “I will lose 15 pounds” or “I will walk 500 miles.”


Be realistic!  Don’t set a goal that you know will never happen.  For example, if you’re working two jobs and are used to an entirely sedentary lifestyle, “I will walk 2,024 miles in 2024” might not be achievable.  And even if you do your very best to find time to walk, yet you find yourself exhausted, sleep-deprived, and with 70 miles logged by the end of January, you may get frustrated and give up completely.  Because what’s the point of walking at all if there’s no way you can reach your goal? 

Keep your health in mind, too.  If your doctor says that you shouldn’t push your heart rate above a certain level, don’t set a goal of being able to walk an 11-minute mile.

Instead, think about what you can accomplish if you put in some extra work—but not an impossible amount of extra work?  Is there a race that you can complete?  A number of races you’d like to finish?  A specific distance that you’d like to be able to reach—whether all at once or throughout the year? 


While you’re working on your goal, think about whether it’s something that makes sense for you.  Set a goal that will help you take steps in a direction that really matters to you and your long-term plans.  For instance, if you’d really like to become stronger, a weight-loss goal probably isn’t exactly relevant—but setting up a regular strength and conditioning routine would be.  Make it something that matters to you!


If you don’t give yourself a timeline—a deadline to work toward—there’s just no motivation to get to work now.  There’s no urgency to keep working every day.  It’s so easy to procrastinate if you don’t have an end in sight.

So instead of saying, “I want to finish a 5k,” find a specific 5k and sign up for it—or, if registration isn’t open yet, at least put it on your calendar.  Then you’ll know exactly when you’re going to achieve this goal.

Put It All Together

Now that you’ve thought through all of the important parts of a SMART goal, let’s put them together. 

For instance:

“I will complete the Honolulu Marathon on December 8, 2024. To do so, I will walk at least four mornings each week, either in my neighborhood or at the gym.  I will also follow the marathon training program offered by my local running store.”

Now you have a specific end goal (completing the Honolulu Marathon) and a specific end date (December 8th).  You have a plan put in place to achieve this goal (your running store’s marathon training program), and you’ve laid out a relevant plan, stating when and where (at least four mornings each week, in your neighborhood or at the gym) you will work toward this goal. 

Stick To It!

Now that you’ve got a SMART goal—and even a plan in place to achieve it—you need to work every day to stick with it.  Even if you thought through your goal and your daily (or weekly) plan, finding the motivation to keep going is key—and it can be so hard.

So here are some tips for sticking to your goal:

  • Write it down!  I find that a goal isn’t really a goal until I write it down and keep it somewhere that I can see it.  Check out the school supplies section of your local dollar store and find some bright, colorful shapes.  Write your goal on it in bold marker.  And put it where you can see it.  Maybe that’s on your bathroom mirror, where you can be reminded that you’re supposed to walk in the morning instead of hitting snooze.  Or maybe it’s in your office, where it can taunt you from behind your computer monitor.  If it’s there, in bold print, in your own handwriting, you’re more likely to take this goal that you set for yourself seriously.
  • Tell a friend—or a lot of them!  There’s nothing like a good friend—someone who really believes in you and will support you along the way—to hold you accountable for your goals.  If she keeps asking you how your marathon training is going, you might just do it to keep from disappointing her.  Or you might just look forward to filling her in on your progress. 
  • Find an accountability partner.  If telling a friend isn’t good enough (or, let’s face it here—if you don’t have that kind of friend who can be sincerely proud and supportive of your achievements), find an accountability partner.  Find other walkers to walk with you each week or find someone else to check in with on a regular basis to share your goals and your progress.  Knowing that you’re not alone will keep you motivated.
  • Set up checkpoints.  Having a marathon training plan to follow definitely helps—because you have things to check off for weeks before the big day.  If you’re not doing a marathon, though, you’ll need to create your own plan.  Break it into smaller parts—and celebrate when you reach each checkpoint along the way.
  • Track your progress.  Reaching that goal is so much easier if you can see how far you’ve come!  I love being able to cross things off a to-do list or color in boxes until I fill in a whole grid.  Print out that marathon training plan.  Buy yourself a special planner for tracking your mileage.  Or even find an app that can help you track your progress in your phone.  And as you make progress, you’ll feel like you’re really getting somewhere—and you’ll work to reach that goal. If you want a great way to track your goals throughout the year, check out my printable walking planner! You can find it in the Will Walk for Coffee Etsy shop!
  • CELEBRATE!  When you set your goal, plan your celebration, too!  What are you going to do when you reach your 1,000-mile goal?  Dreaming of that celebration—that dinner at your favorite restaurant, those expensive leggings, or whatever you’ve planned—will give you something to look forward to as you slog through another 5-mile walk on a cold February morning.  If you need a little extra boost, plan to celebrate your milestones, too!  Celebrate each 100 miles with an extended coffee break at your favorite shop.  And maybe a donut, too.

Setting those New Year’s goals isn’t always easy—and it’s often something that we do on a whim.  But if you’re really passionate about achieving your goals—whether they’re completing your first 5k or finishing a marathon every month—you need to be SMART about it!  Take the time to think through your goals—what they are, why they matter, and how you’re going to make them happen—and you’ll soon find yourself celebrating your huge achievements!

Have you set a goal for 2024?  I’d love to hear about it!  Share your goals and your plans for the year below, so we can cheer you on along the way!  And maybe you can even find an accountability partner here, and you can achieve your goals together!


Kristin has been hitting the trail (or the treadmill) for a walk almost every day for the past several years, and she recently completed her first half marathon. She loves sunny fall days, cushy walking shoes, and coconut caramel iced coffee from Dunkin.

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