Fitness Journey Fail
Tons of people embark on a fitness journey but struggle to get anywhere. Their "before" never becomes an "after." But why?
Here's what no one wants to talk about: Those who never see results think a certain way. And this thinking allows them to continue being out of shape. They make excuses, blame others, and let themselves off the hook.
It's time to address these issues so people can face reality and hopefully move in a healthier direction. If you relate to any of these descriptions, a reality check is coming. You'll know that one of these is YOU if it hurts to read it.
He never starts because he's milking the same injury he got a decade ago. Of course, injuries are nuanced, and the road to recovery is an individual thing, but that's still no excuse to sit idle on the couch. Research consistently shows that exercising is beneficial for working around and rehabbing injuries (1-6).
Not only can you exercise while injured, but you can also still get great results. Ask anybody who's gotten appreciably lean and jacked. I guarantee you they had to work around a few injuries. To put it bluntly, we all have injuries and mishaps. Yours isn't special.
Outside of some severe exceptions, anyone can find a pain-free exercise for each body part. Even in the worst-case scenarios, you can still train other muscles while letting your injury heal. Training one limb while the injured counterpart is healing can even boost strength in both (7).
Stop convincing everyone, including yourself, that you're too broken to even curl a dumbbell or do a bodyweight glute bridge. You're not.
He promises to start working out and eating healthy after a specific event. Heck, he might even start on Monday.
He's apparently waiting until after work settles down, after the holidays, after his brother's birthday weekend, after his wedding, after the Super Bowl, after his sister's baby shower, or after the holiday weekend. The list goes on and on... for years.
Here's the truth: Life never gets less busy. New people will enter your life next month. Responsibilities will accumulate every week. There will always be another event quickly approaching.
Thinking your schedule gets freer as you progress through life is like thinking your hair grows thicker as you approach your 60s. That's some cute wishful thinking.
Instead, proactively carve out a few hours each week to train and have healthy food readily available. These designated hours are precious, and apart from the rare exception, you must mercilessly fight for them to stay on track. It sounds extreme, but so is procrastinating for decades.
The picky eater consumes an excessively hypercaloric diet simply because he can't handle the thought of swallowing something green. He complains more about nutrition than a group of entitled third graders:
- "I only enjoy, like, two fruits. And all vegetables taste like garbage! Who eats rabbit food? Rabbits!"
- "Drinking water is so bland; I'd rather just drink soda or something from Starbucks."
- "Turkey bacon and cauliflower rice are such lame alternatives. They're not worth eating."
If you're a picky eater, you might think fit people are weirdos who jump for joy when they see chicken breasts and broccoli. Let me clarify it for you. Fit people can appreciate the exact same foods you do. We salivate over the smell of wings, fries, and donuts. We don't think turkey bacon is as good as regular bacon.
We eat the way we eat because our fitness is more important than a quick dopamine response from a jelly donut. We also like to think about how we're going to feel AFTER the sugar bomb. (Hint: It's usually not good.)
So we find ways to make food swaps, and eventually, nutrient-dense food and low-calorie alternatives become more enjoyable. You don't believe it, but they actually do.
Obviously, they'll never taste as good as a deep-dish pizza or a plate of gooey nachos, but picky eaters need to stop exaggerating how bad healthy foods taste when you've never given them a real chance.
We've somehow gotten to the point in American culture where we think that just because high-calorie foods are hyperpalatable, somehow nutrient-dense foods are unpalatable. Believing this lie will keep you dependent on junk food.
All it takes is some lifestyle change and a basic understanding of cooking and seasoning. There's an endless stream of internet cooking videos if you don't know how to make chicken and broccoli taste good. You can even make a healthy, protein-packed cheesecake.
You can complain about chicken breasts all you want. But it doesn't show that you have superior taste in food; it just shows that you're incompetent in the kitchen. If you still think healthy foods taste whack, you just need to stop being a child and eat like an actual adult.
Blue-collar workers are awesome. What they do is hard, no doubt. But I've met a lot of them who wonder why their bodies are soft, undefined, and don't reflect their hard work.
The answer is simple. General hard work is much different than the training required for your muscle to grow and look awesome. The construction site is your job, not your workout. Yes, you might lift heavy stuff, burn a lot of calories, and get sore from that work, but it still doesn't count as true training.
True strength training that produces results involves mindful muscle contractions in various rep ranges. It trains your body in a variety of patterns (many of which don't get performed at work). Also, true strength training doesn't value soreness much, so there's that too.
The good news? Strength training will help you on the job, and your job may actually give you an advantage in the gym. You know what it's like to strain, and you've got the work ethic needed to succeed.
Find time for the gym even if you have a strenuous job. Just a few weekly hours in the weight room on top of your demanding career is sufficient. Make it happen.
Forever thinkers are those who've started a diet and an active lifestyle many times but give up quickly because they irrationally fear their sacrifices are permanent.
They agonize over training hard, reducing calories, and giving up their favorite foods because they feel like the suffering will last forever. They see a commercial for cheesecake and immediately start binging because they worry cheesecake won't ever touch their lips again.
Sounds pretty illogical, but people who think this way. The good news is that the sacrifices it takes to maintain a lean body are different than the sacrifices it takes to get there. The other good news? You may start to like the sacrifices (and the results they produce) and not want to return to your old ways.
If you're a forever thinker, you don't have to stay in a miserable deficit forever, just long enough to get to where you desire. You might not be able to have your favorite pizza while trimming down, but it will still exist after your diet's over. And over time, you can learn how to have it in a sane way that allows you to hang on to your results.
The minutiae worshipper loves trivial things that make marginal differences while avoiding crucial foundational practices because effort and sacrifice are involved.
These people love to discuss (and debate) fitness semantics, GMOs, microwave radiation, pesticides, celebrity diet trends, gimmicky gadgets, and conspiracy theories while their health and body composition remain poor year-round.
They'll talk your ear off about how the pH of your water is unhealthy, yet get really quiet when discussing regular exercise, a balanced diet, and caloric control. Minutiae worshippers never experience any results because they're experts at missing the forest for the trees.
The obstacle searcher doesn't train or eat healthy because no solution is good enough for them. They'd rather search for obstacles than accept a solution and put in the work.
The obstacle searcher will often complain about not having enough time to exercise. If you suggest they train on the weekends, they'll say that's family time. If you suggest they train after work, they'll say they're too tired. If you suggest they train before work, they'll say they're not a morning person.
The same goes with dieting. They'll say they want a simple diet. If you show them how to go low carb, they'll say they love carbs too much. If you show them low-fat diets, they'll then say they love fat too much. You might suggest eating a balanced diet while sticking to whole foods to ensure a deficit... and they'll call you crazy and say they can't live without cake.
Finally, you suggest they track macros so they can still fit cake into their diet while losing weight, but they'll still complain about having to track.
This cycle of complaining repeats itself ad nauseam. Obstacle searchers don't want solutions. They want more obstacles to avoid the fact they're unwilling to make any sort of compromise regardless of how many solutions are provided.
People are now offended when they see the question, "What's your excuse?" anywhere on the internet. And those who take offense are either chronic excuse-makers or sycophants who enable the excuse-makers to get in worse and worse shape.
The solution? It ultimately comes down to taking ownership of your health and physique. This starts with ignoring the enablers and recognizing whether you fall into one (or more) of these profiles. Facing reality stings a bit, but you'll be better for it. The sooner you get honest about it, the sooner you can change.
- Andersen LL et al. Effect of Physical Training on Function of Chronically Painful Muscles: a Randomized Controlled Trial. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2008 Dec;105(6):1796-801. PubMed.
- Nielsen PK et al. Effect of Physical Training on Pain Sensitivity and Trapezius Muscle Morphology. Muscle Nerve. 2010 Jun;41(6):836-44. PubMed.
- Nikander R et al. Dose-Response Relationship of Specific Training to Reduce Chronic Neck Pain and Disability. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Dec;38(12):2068-74. PubMed.
- Ylinen J et al. Neck Muscle Training in the Treatment of Chronic Neck Pain: a Three-Year Follow-up Study. Eura Medicophys. 2007 Jun;43(2):161-9. PubMed.
- Coppack RJ et al. The Effects of Exercise for the Prevention of Overuse Anterior Knee Pain: a Randomized Controlled Trial. Am J Sports Med. 2011 May;39(5):940-8. PubMed.
- Tyler TF et al. Rehabilitation After Hamstring-Strain Injury Emphasizing Eccentric Strengthening at Long Muscle Lengths: Results of Long-Term Follow-Up. JJ Sport Rehabil. 2017 Apr;26(2):131-140. PubMed.
- Andrushko JW et al. Unilateral Strength Training Leads to Muscle-Specific Sparing Effects during Opposite Homologous Limb Immobilization. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2018 Apr 1;124(4):866-876. PubMed.