If any of the following five things are causing you to get in your own way, here’s how you can stop yourself before it’s too late.
As a personal trainer, I listen patiently as people tell me about their fitness goals every single day. They’re going to lose 50 pounds, do a muscle-up, hit a triple bodyweight deadlift, or run a marathon. Those are all fantastic goals, and I don’t doubt the sincerity of the people telling me they want to reach them.
Sometimes, however, it’s the same person telling me that they expect to achieve all of those things…in the next six months. Usually they’re explaining this to me on their first day in the gym, while drinking a sugary sports drink.
While it’s great to dream big—and all of those goals are absolutely achievable—they are probably not achievable in your first six months of training. And probably not all at the same time, either. You’re often better off focusing on a single objective and dedicating yourself to that one target until you reach it. Then, you can move the goalposts back a bit farther.
Just make sure you set your sights someplace reasonable to begin with. If it’s your first day—or even your first month in the gym—the only real goals you should be focusing on are learning decent technique, and building the habit of exercising regularly.
It’s easy to watch workout videos on YouTube and think that 600-pound deadlifts and full planches are common occurrences. They’re not. What you don’t see is all the hard work that goes into reaching that point. Though it only takes a few seconds to watch one of those videos, it takes many years of hard work behind the scenes to perform such advanced feats of strength. And plenty of otherwise strong people never touch them.
The funny thing is, while those feats may only be achieved by about 1 in 100,000 people, the majority of the people who achieve them will post a video of it on the web. Can you blame them? I can’t. I’ve sure posted my share of show-off feats of strength over the years.
However, with billions of people in the world, that 1 in 100,000 starts to add up. You can find hundreds of videos of people doing one-arm pull-ups on the internet! But that doesn’t make it any easier to achieve. Years of hard work and dedication always have been, and always will be, the only way.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s great to gain inspiration from these types of videos. The problem happens when we start to feel bad about ourselves because someone else is capable of something that we aren’t. Especially if that person makes it appear simple and effortless.
The solution, of course, is to only compare yourself to yourself. Are you stronger, leaner, faster, etc. than you were a few weeks ago? How about a few months ago? If the answer is yes—even a little bit—then you are on the right track.
Don’t worry about trying to be like someone else, just try to be a better version of you.
We’ve all been there: You set a goal to nail a personal record in a specific timeframe, and you’ve got the perfect program to get you there. You follow everything to the letter, yet still, things are not going as planned. You start to get frustrated that progress isn’t happening quickly enough and then you think, “Maybe I need to add more to my program?”
So you add more. And a week later, you’re feeling some minor pain in your shoulder, knee, or back. You think, “I’m hardcore; I’ll push through it. Besides, I’ve only got two weeks left before my deadline. If I don’t reach the goal I set for myself, then I’ll have failed, and I’ll feel like a failure.”
So, you push through. And after a few more sessions, that minor pain has become a full-blown injury. Now you have to take several weeks off from training in order to let it recover and rehabilitate.
The solution, of course, would have been to make sure you were getting enough rest all along—even if that meant taking longer to reach your goal than you had originally planned.
Rest is just as important as the training itself. Just make sure you don’t rest forever, which leads us to our next issue…
With more distractions than ever in the world today, it’s all too common for people to start things, but not see them through to fruition. Whether due to personal issues, increasing workloads, or just plain procrastination, the amount of people who start an exercise program is far greater than the number of folks who complete one.
You know the cliché: The big box gyms stay in business because they sign up new members every day who never actually come to work out. If everyone who paid for a gym membership actually showed up three or more times a week, the facility probably wouldn’t even be able to handle it.
And even when you do finish a 30-day or 12-week program, that doesn’t really mean your work is done. Crushing a new PR or running one marathon won’t make you fit for life. Fitness is all about what you’ve done lately. It’s an ongoing journey, and that journey doesn’t end until you’re dead.
5. Expecting Too Much
When you go from leading a sedentary lifestyle to seriously dedicating yourself to fitness, it’s amazing how quickly you can see some progress. All of a sudden you feel great, look better, and the strength gains are like magic. But anyone who’s trained consistently for long enough eventually sees that progress flatten out.
It’s simply a matter of diminishing returns. Your second workout might feel a lot better than your first one, because two workouts is twice as much exercise as one workout. But your 200th workout might not feel much different from workout number 199, even though they are both only one more session than the previous one. Going from zero to one—nothing to something—that’s the big chasm. Everything after that makes less and less of a difference.
Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to affect change and get stronger for years to come, it’s just not going to happen as quickly when you’re a few years into the process as it did in the beginning. So, what’s the solution?
For me, the answer has been to forget the goal altogether and embrace the process instead. I train for the training itself. My advice to you is to exercise consistently, rest adequately, and stay with it for the long haul. If you can do that, all of your goals will eventually fall into place.
Take it one workout at a time. Good things come to those who train!