When fitness goals are designed correctly, they will help you reach greater cardio, strength, flexibility and fat loss achievements. Goals allow you to better tailor your workouts toward what you're focused on achieving, and will help you be better motivated to remain disciplined.

To setting quality fitness goals, it's best to follow the SMART criteria. The criteria are designed to help you create a framework for creating effective goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Specific.

SPECIFIC Goals: Pick an Identifiable Target

Rather than setting general goals, such as to "get in shape" or "build strength," select goals that are more specific. For example, what does "get in shape" mean to you? Is it to lower your body fat percentage? A specific goal would be to lose a specific number of pounds. Are you simply interested in exercising consistently? A specific goal would be to work out a specific number of times per week.

If you're hoping to "build strength", does that mean lifting heavier weights? Related specific goals would be to increase the amount of weight you can bench press or squat, or to be able to do more push-ups. If you're looking to develop cardiovascular fitness, a specific goal could be to increase the time you're able to run a mile or how long you're able to keep going on the elliptical machine.

Think about what exactly you want to achieve and make your goals as specific as possible.

MEASUREABLE: Make the Goals Objective

The goals you set should also be measureable, which means they should include a quantifiable component so that you're able to know exactly when you reach your goal. Take the specific goals you established and make them measureable. Perhaps you'd like to be able to bench press 80 pounds, squat 100 pounds, or complete 50 pushups in a row. If you said you'd like to be able to run a mile faster or increase your endurance on the elliptical machine, perhaps you'd like to run a mile in 8 minutes or be able to complete 30 straight minutes on the elliptical machine.

Affixing quantifiable values to each of your goals makes them objective. You know whether you've reached them or not.

ACHIEVABLE: Goals Should be Realistic

One of the most common mistakes when setting goals is to be unrealistic in what you can achieve in a certain amount of time. Your goals should be challenging, but possible. If you haven't been running in months, it's not realistic (or safe) to set the goal of running a marathon within a month. If you have a petite frame, you can't realistically expect yourself to bench press 200 pounds. If your schedule is extremely busy, you may not be able to exercise seven days per week right off the bat.

Setting achievable goals is important for maintaining your motivation. You know your goal is achievable if you truly believe it can be accomplished.

RELEVANT: Goals Must Matter to You

The fitness goals you set should be personal and important to you. If you select goals based on what others want to achieve, you'll quickly lose the motivation to remain disciplined. The real desire to achieve a goal that matters personally to you will be much more likely to help you push through a challenging workout or force yourself to still go to the gym after a bad night of sleep.

Goals require effort and commitment, so be sure that the ones you set are important to you so that you'll stay committed in the long run.

TIME SPECIFIC: Select a Deadline

When establishing goals, specific a specific date when you will achieve that result. Without an established time frame, you'll have no sense of urgency. Saying you'd like to lose 10 pounds but not including a desired date will allow you to take workouts off or be more lenient with your nutritional habits. Set a deadline for each one of your fitness goals and go after them.

Getting Started with Fitness Goal Setting: Examples of SMART Goals

Ready to set your own SMART fitness goals? Here are a handful of examples to get you thinking: