By Soji James, CPT, CSCS
They say if you want something bad enough, you will find a way to achieve it. I’m a firm believer in the fact that hard work and determination are undefeated when it comes to achieving your goals. On the flip side, there’s an opposite phenomenon that exists. In my almost fifteen years of training, I have seen that the same obsession with excellence can lead to many people quitting long before they reach the finish line. The truth is, no one is perfect and things will never work out exactly how you expect them to. If you start a fitness journey and anticipate everything to go according to plan, you will be in for a rude awakening. Instead, if you are flexible and prepared to part ways with many of these common fitness pitfalls, then your long term goals may be well within your grasp.
The key to long term success is the implementation of habits that you can stick to during any “weather.” There will be times in your life where everything will seem like it’s falling right into place, and there will be times where you will feel as if you can’t catch a break because nothing is where it should be. This is where perfectionism can crush your goals. The perfectionist starts with what they believe is the perfect plan (many even remain frozen and never begin their journey because the stars haven’t aligned yet) and is only prepared for things to go directly according to it.
Take diets, for example. We have all battled emotional eating or simply fell prey to an unhealthy food binge at some point. So many people live out a cycle of strict deprivation, overindulgence, guilt, and frustration. They adopt nutrition plans that they can’t stick with, they eventually go “off-plan” because they feel miserable, and then they mentally punish themselves for not having enough willpower. A lot of people continue in this fashion until they eventually quit trying.
I see this same all-or-nothing mindset leak over into the gym as well. So many people adopt a “60 minutes, 4-5 days a week or it isn’t fitness” mentality and they suffer when scheduling gets tight or life gets unpredictable. If you are looking for long term results, you need to adopt an “always something” mentality. Instead of looking to be perfect, ask yourself, “What’s the best you can do with what you have?” If you can sneak in smaller, but more frequent exercises of 15-20 mins, this will compound to something greater over time. If you can eat “right” 80% of the time, and leave some room for indulging in the other 20%, then you are much more likely to enjoy what you are doing and stick it out over the long haul.
Patience. It’s one thing that you will need more of if you are looking to win in the long term. You have probably heard that nothing easy comes overnight. This is especially relevant when we are talking about changing the number you see on the scale. The equation that I want you to remember is: Time + Consistency = Results. Too many people obsess overseeing results quickly and end up throwing in the towel long before they get any. It’s hard to blame them when the fitness industry constantly attempts to market to and benefit from our desire for instant gratification.
Long term results require you to be the tortoise instead of the hare. Instead of driving yourself crazy by focusing strictly on a scale number, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. In actuality, you probably started your wellness journey to feel a certain way as opposed to being a certain number. Don’t lose sight of that. The scale is a data point that only tells you a small part of the story. Lose the tunnel vision, and open your eyes to all of the change that is happening. Keeping a journal of all of the good news in one place can be extremely helpful.
Are you sleeping better and experiencing more energy throughout the day? Losing inches and fitting into clothes better? Feeling stronger in the gym and mastering new lifts? Cooking more or eating healthier more consistently? These are all reasons to celebrate! Actions make the scale move, so if you want to see long term change, focus on obsessing on the processes and systems that will make you healthier. The results will follow with consistency.
If you only take action when you’re feeling great, nothing magical will happen for you. Remember that motivation comes and goes. Stop obsessing with finding the right Instagram post from that celebrity that inspires you or waiting for the next fitness challenge to motivate you to work out. Instead of looking outward, I challenge you to look within. We have all overcome adversity at some point in our journey and racked up wins. Whether large or small, these victories can serve as awesome fuel to push you through points when you think you’ve run out of gas.
One exercise you should try is to keep a gratitude jar. Think about when you receive a compliment, break through a plateau, or implement a new habit. When these things happen, you feel like you are gaining ground. So, write it down on a piece of paper and dump it inside the jar.
When you feel like throwing in the towel, I challenge you to return to the jar for inspiration. We tend to be humble when it comes to our accomplishments, but the truth is many of us are success stories and possess the magical quotes that we need to read about. We just need to find a magnifying glass to bring this greatness to light and to uplift ourselves.