I often see people who fail to achieve their goals when it comes to strength training, fat loss, health or related subjects. I’ve decided to compile a list of some common reasons why these people tend to fail, and I’m not talking about ‘a bad training regimen’ or ‘bad eating habits’. In some cases, people just lack information, but in many cases that is not really the issue. More often than not, information is simply not enough to change behavior. I could give you the perfect diet and you’d probably not achieve much more than you do now unless underlying issues are addressed. If objective information were all to consider, no one would smoke, obese people would be a rarity -if not extinct- and we’d all be singing kumbaya around the campfire instead of being at each other’s throats all the time.
Obstacle: Lack of focus
Solution: If you want to lose fat, build muscle, get stronger in powerlifting, get stronger in weightlifting, want to be good at running and get rid of injuries all at the same time, you’re going to have a very hard time. Some people try to combine many goals in one by doing something like Crossfit and to some extent this can work. Whether this is truly efficient is up for debate. Even Rich Froning, one of the best Crossfit athletes in the world, mentioned that he does not work with ‘regular’ Crossfit style training, but works on separate goals in separate time periods eventually culminating in a peak performance. Focus on one goal or perhaps two if they do not conflict (getting stronger and building muscle is a wonderful combination) and make sure your program focuses on that. Get your priorities straight.
Solution: Having someone (a training partner, a family member, everyone on Facebook, a coach, whatever works for you) hold you accountable can help here. I once helped someone with a training regimen. I found out a while later that he did not see results after three weeks so he tried something different. THREE FUCKING WEEKS. A complete beginner may see some results within three weeks. Rehabbing an injury or improving a bad movement pattern can improve within three weeks. You can lose several lbs of fat in three weeks. Yes. But if you’ve spent some time under the bar, you don’t improve your strength significantly in three weeks. Contrast that with an online client of mine, who I occasionally check in with. She struggled sticking to the regimen and nutrition guidelines I gave her and admitted that she didn’t always stick to it. We talked it over, adjusted the program here and there and she’s well on her way to more progress (even though her progress was actually fine). Had she not had someone to hold her accountable, she might have given up because she simply couldn’t keep up with the program. In her initial enthusiasm, she simply got overwhelmed. Which brings me to:
Obstacle: Letting yourself get overwhelmed
Solution: Read my earlier article.
Obstacle: Relying on willpower
Solution: Rely on systems. The article I mentioned before touches on this subject, but let me re-iterate this point. Willpower is limited and habits will usually trump willpower. Just a few very simple examples of systems:
- Prepare your meals beforehand, preferably for several days. This prevents lack of time or lack of energy from urging you to grab some fast food.
- Go straight from work to the gym. This prevents the situation where you come home, sit on the couch and unwind from a long day at work. The situation where people usually don’t feel like going to the gym anymore.
- Put your workouts on your calendar and treat them like any other appointment you have. Don’t cram it in whatever evening you have off, or you might risk the “oh, I can do this workout tomorrow” mentality and mess up your long term habits and progress.
These examples may or may not be relevant to you, but I hope you realize that systems are sometimes nothing more than very little, nifty hacks that prevent you from having to expend willpower to stick to your methods to reach a goal.
Obstacle: Unsupportive environment
Solution: Read another earlier article.
Solution: Fear can come in many shapes and is not always easy to recognize, let alone admit, regardless whether it’s about stepping into a gym with husky, scary men yelling as they lift gargantuan weights overhead or just a fear of doing things wrong. The only commonplace that most fears tend to have is that they are irrational and that an experienced mentor-figure or peer that you trust can help you overcome these. Find someone who’s been there before, ask them for help. Fear of hard work does not fall into this category though. That goes with:
Solution: Although people often say that they (or others) are simply lazy, it’s rarely a problem in itself and there’s usually a deeper, underlying problem to tackle. If it really is just laziness… Well, frankly, if working out two times a week and making some minor diet changes -which is enough for most people to garner at least some noticable results- is too much effort, you should probably not be reading this. I’m fairly sure your time would be better spent doing something else, and you’ll just have to deal with the increased risk of a lower quality of life when you’re a little older. You will experience the meaning of ‘natural selection’ first hand. I am actually fine with these people if they do not whine about ailments or their unhappiness with their body, provided that they had a clear choice in changing their situation. Unfortunately, shifting blame, whining and making excuses is commonplace. So yeah, solution? None, really. Just take responsibility for any results -good and bad- you have gotten through your own choice.
“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.” – Muhammad Ali