There’s a lot of people who will tell you all you need to do is X,Y, and Z for the next 30 days and you will be fit for the rest of your life. They may not say it in those exact words, but it’s what they’re implying.
I’m here to tell you the truth.
Getting results, in whatever sense that means for you, takes time and a lot of it. It doesn’t take forever, but it takes a decent chunk of time to see any sort of meaningful results that will stick.
Here are some of the most important truths that will help you see long term results. They may not be the most pleasant to hear, but you need to hear them anyways.
Consistency is the most important factor, but we already knew that.
Short term effort generally produces short term results. Results that are not sustainable. We want sustainability because otherwise what was all that hard work for?
Consistency is not the same as perfection. You won’t be consistent in that sense ever. We experience ups and downs constantly, but we can consistently be working on ourselves and improving our habits, stress management tools, and responses to life as we go.
You’ll probably tell yourself at some point that because you missed this day or didn’t do this well enough, you may as well not do the other thing. Start again Monday.
Let’s step away from that mindset for a minute and focus on creating better habits over time. Leave room for life because it’s there and it will screw up your plans. So allow yourself some wiggle room and aim to be consistent in your efforts more than anything else. That alone will put you light years ahead of most.
Nearly every new diet, training program, and fitness related product is going to tell you it’s the most scientifically backed, most effective, fastest working, or revolutionary thing to hit the fitness industry since the dawn of time.
Here’s the reality: It’s not.
You don’t need a $4900 piece of workout equipment or a diet that completely - or damn near - removes an entire food group. You certainly don’t need a new *insert product* from Dr. Oz to get in shape.
Get in the gym, use the strength training equipment, do some cardio, eat better than you were before - and be consistent about it. That will make the biggest difference.
When it comes to making changes, creating sustainable habits are essentially your only option - so lose the short term mindset.
Like it says, lose the short term burst of effort mindset and focus solely on becoming consistent in your efforts. This one is pretty straight forward. It’s so important, it was added twice (See the first example).
YOU'RE GOING TO FEEL LIKE YOU'RE STRUGGLING IN THE BEGINNING - THAT'S NORMAL.
Skills take time to build. If you’ve been to university, started a new job, or just lived in general, you likely know by now that it took you a long time to get really good at whatever you were doing. This is no different.
Like every new skill, you tend to be bad at it in the beginning. This usually ends up meaning that you won’t like certain exercises right off the bat. That’s fine because you can do the ones you really enjoy and sprinkle in some of the ones you need to work on over time.
You’ll probably end up hiring a professional to help along the way.
Just like you would go to university to learn the skills you need to be successful in your future career or better in your current one, learning from a skilled professional is almost damn near a necessity.
Sure, there’s a ton of free information online about fitness.
There’s also probably a ton of free information online about how to get better at almost everything, but how often are we actually understanding this information fully and able to apply it in a simplistic and straightforward way?
The internet is a wonderful place full of completely contradictory information, so how do you know what to believe? This is where someone with training and a lot of experience can help you sort through the noise of people trying to sell you their next mass gainer, diet pill, or toning device.
Meaningful Results never come as quickly as you want them to. It’s an unfortunate truth, but it’s still the truth.
The classic conundrum:
What do we want? Results!
When do we want them? Yesterday!
The reality of the situation: Magazines tell you how to lose 10lbs in 10 days or how to tone your booty with a simple, repeatable, no increase in difficulty or exercise selection routine for the next 15-30 days.
What they don’t tell you is that changing the way your body looks and feels takes a long time and simply repeating the same bodyweight exercise routine continously without any sort of progression will stop having a large impact on your body very quickly.
It takes time to build muscle, to get stronger, and lose body fat. Especially if you’re going to do it in a safe and sustainable way.
Results are...a result of a lot of hard work done consistently over a long period of time. The skills you need to get those results are learned over a long time - even with a trainer. They just help speed the process up a bit and remove the clutter of conflicting information you may hear around the web.
Your goals will evolve over time
Your mental image of where you started will keep changing unless you record where you start [pictures, measurements, current personal records, pain levels, eating habits, etc.].
Almost nobody likes the before. That’s usually why change happens. You’re not pleased with the way your body is looking or feeling at its current state. That, or you’re one of the few who is very content with your body and just wants to make it more awesome. If that’s the case, I applaud you. Most fitness goals start off because of a negative goal.
Your weight will vary depending on the day, your sleep, your eating habits the night before, your hydration, your menstrual cycle (women), stress, and many other factors. Expect this and learn to be okay with it.
If you want an accurate measurement of your goals, take your weight daily or once a week at the same time under the same conditions and plot a graph. There will be peaks and valleys all the way across the graph, but you should see a trend either upwards or downwards if one of those is your goal.
If your goal is simply body recomposition (changing the percentage of body fat and muscle mass on your body, but not necessarily changing your weight), then get readings of your muscle mass and body fat percentage. Both are important. Take notes or pictures of how your clothes are fitting along the way. It often amazes me when my clients tell me they look the same and yet the workout pants they started with are nearly falling off them because of their fat loss.
The mental image they have of their before is usually not accurate.
Keep relatively detailed records. They’re really important. Or at the least, take some pictures. Most people regret not taking pictures before hand.
Aim to be consistent in your efforts above all else
Don’t follow fitness trends unless you’re just doing it for fun. The basics work; use them.
Lose the short term, quick fix mindset and replace it for a long term game plan
You’re going to be doing a lot of learning as you go. It’s normal to feel like you suck at it. Don't worry because you’ll get better as you go, so don’t give up.
You’ll likely need to hire a professional (check references) to streamline the process
Results take time. Crash diets and fitness frenzies are short-sighted. Think about whether or not you’ll be able to do this for the next 10 years.
Your goals and view of yourself will change over time. Keep a record, whether it be notes or pictures, to have a reference point of where you started and how much progress you’ve made along the way.
James Harris is the founder of Titanium Strength Systems, as well as the head writer and coach. He trains online and in person in Chilliwack, BC. You can find his writing around the internet on websites such as Muscle & Strength, The PTDC, Fitness Pollenator, PTBIZ, and Deansomerset.com.