As the new year inches closer and closer. Many are beginning to panic about their figures.
They look back on their year and wonder why they waited this long to take better care of their body and health. They talk themselves into getting a gym membership and getting in shape.
Maybe they've tried a couple diets before and didn't see them through. Maybe they've even hired a trainer in the past, but didn't see the results they were looking for. This is unfortunately the norm when it comes to fitness.
The problem is...we don't treat fitness or our health the way we should. We treat it like everything else we do. I pay for A and I get B. We take fitness for a simple business exchange of money for results. Which it is, and it isn't.
Here's a conversation between a new client and a trainer summed into something more blunt:
Client: "Here, take my money and help me get fit"
Trainer: "Awesome. So, based off of our conversation, I've identified some areas we can work on to get you what you want"
Client: "Wait, what? I just paid you. It's your job to get me fit, not mine"
Trainer: "My job is simpler for you to get to your goals by helping you overcome obstacles and teaching you the skill sets you'll need to get where you're trying to go. I also make it more manageable by helping you do in small, more management increments?"
Client: Oh. So I still have to do all the hard things to get in shape? This doesn't sound like something I want to do. I was hoping I could just pay you and you would do it all for me.
As comical as this sounds, it's not far-fetched. While most people don't directly say "Yes, I was hoping that by hiring you, you would do all the work that I'm supposed to do to get in shape", but it's more common than you'd think.
We tend to approach fitness as a quick purchase instead of an investment in ourselves and our trainer.
Here's a more realistic approach you should consider if you actually want to get results:
Long Term Dedication
You know that old saying "if it's worth having, it's worth working for"? This is the epitome of that statement.
There is no quick fix, 30 day program, or miracle trainer who is going to give you long term results.
A trainer can get you in better shape than you were in 30 days ago, but to teach those skills - and they are skills - that you'll carry with you for the rest of your life requires a decent amount of time. Just like any skill, it doesn’t develop overnight and you’ll be building multiple skill sets including:
- Learning proper technique
- How to progress your workouts safely
- How to find exercises that fit your body, movement, and skill level that don't put you in harm's way
- How to listen to your body when it’s telling you it’s okay to push harder or back off a bit
- Learning about how your nutrition affects your ability to get results
- How to make better choices when eating on the go
- Learning meal preparation and how to make it work for your lifestyle
- How to recognize habits that hold you back
- How to make changes to those habits and be successful with them
- How to be retrospective on what you’ve done well and what still needs work
- Learning to say no to uncomfortable social pressure - especially related to food and lifestyle choices
- Learning how to say yes to having something other than chicken and broccoli and rice for every meal
- How to have balance in your life so you don’t go crazy to get results
- How to deal with hiccups, bumps, and disappointments in your fitness journey
- How to set realistic expectations for yourself
- How to be kind to yourself when you “screw up”
- How to move on from that situation and get back on track
Just to name a few...
What you’ll need is the mindset that you'll be learning and working on this for the rest of your life. I don't mean learning to get shredded - although if that's your goal, then yes - but learning how to manage your lifestyle to get where you want to go.
The Learning Process
What do you love? Whatever it is, it's probably something you spent a lot of time learning about. It's because of this learning that you love it, or you could say it's vice versa.
Either way, one comes with the other. Health and fitness is no different.
The more time you spend learning about how your body works, all the amazing things you can do with it, and how to take care of it, the more love you feel for it.
There are certain frustrations that happen when you start working out.
The expectations you have of your yourself in terms of progress and goals are likely going to change as you continue. Initially, as most lifters - including myself - have done, is to expect results the second you touch the weight rack or expect that because you picked up some weights, you should already be at your goal. Meanwhile, it's been a month and that's just simply not enough time to see palpable results.
You may encounter some frustrations with your friends who don’t follow the same lifestyle as you. They may encourage you to indulge a little more often than you’re comfortable with, skip your workouts, or at the very least, make you feel awkward about your lifestyle choices.
In the beginning [the honeymoon phase of lifting], all you feel is awesome and sore. Eventually you start to realize you don't know very much; at which point - you get frustrated.
Here you were feeling like the world champ of fitness and suddenly you realize you don't know much. That’s call the Dunning-Kruger Effect. We think we know everything when we start because just like math: a2 + b2 = c2, right?
Fitness is just another pythagorean theorem but it’s more like Exercise + Nutrition = Results.
While this model is correct to some degree, it leaves out a lot of other variables that play a large effect on your results, including sleep, stress, mindset, long term dedication, and how much energy you burn outside the gym to name a few.
We later realize that fitness isn’t just a simple equation, but a whole change in your lifestyle and who you are as a person.
The good news is, this frustration is usually short-lived because you realize you have a long way to go and the attitude towards learning changes.
You focus on finding people to learn from who have a higher knowledge base than you. I don't mean the bros in the gym. The days of getting your workouts from BodyRock TV are over. Now you get your info from the real experts.
There's a long way to go and you'll still hit the occasional frustration here and there, but you're making progress.
It Becomes More Fun and Easier to Stick With As You Continue
As you grow -literally and figuratively - you'll find yourself enjoying the process a lot more.
Every new personal record, every improvement in your technique, every new nutrition skill, and every stress management tool you learn will be a new and exciting venture.
You'll find a support system of friends who enjoy lifting and learning about their health and you'll start making positive changes to those around you.
This Gets You Fit
This long process is the more realistic version of how you change your lifestyle to get and stay lean for a long time. One of the main distinctions between those who succeed in their fitness endeavors and those who don’t are their willingness to learn and be taught.
Occasionally, your trainer will give you advice and it’s your choice whether or not you want to follow through on that advice or not. It should also be mentioned that great trainers don’t give you more than you can actually handle when it comes to changing habits.
You should not feel pressured to change every aspect of your life the second you meet your trainer. Instead, they should help you find barriers that are holding you back and help you find ways to overcome those barriers.
That being said, no matter how good a trainer is, the desire to change still has to be there. The oweness is still 95% on you to make changes. Their job is mainly to help you find a way to help you and help arouse and encourage your desire to change.
If you happen to be one of those people who expect results just because you’re paying someone to train you, think this through:
If the trainer is doing all the work, once you stop training with them, you’re screwed. So it would make better use of your money to learn and develop the skills being taught to you so down the road, you don’t need a trainer anymore.
- If you want results, you still have to put in the work. Trainers are simply here to guide the way and help you get their in quicker and simple fashion
- Changing your lifestyle is damn near the only way to get in shape, unless you want to struggle a lot
- You're going to be learning about how to take care of yourself for the rest of your life
- Treat it like a skill set you're developing. It makes it more fun and worthwhile
- There will be frustrations, but there will also be bouts of joy and happiness
- It's fun when you start learning and developing your skills in the gym
- Don't wait for your trainer to do all the work for you because it simply won't happen
- Get results by learning from them and setting them in place yourself
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.