Why do I work so hard but can’t ever seem to see any changes?
I was asked this the other day. It’s a question I’m frequently asked by those frustrated by their thwarted efforts to get fit, and even more so now, given the weird times we currently find ourselves in.
When the pandemic hit, it suddenly made getting in shape harder and easier at the same time. Harder because your usual routine was broken. The gym closed. You were stuck at home. Suddenly you’re not having to move like you used to. But the silver lining is that with technology, fitness is quite literally at your fingertips in a way it has never been before. You can jump on a Peloton in the living room with a live DJ/cheerleader to motivate you, you can hire digital trainers, or you can enlist a remote nutritionist to write your meal plans and have all those meals delivered to your doorstep.
So why is it, pandemic or not, that so many fail on their quest for fitness? How — in the age of information and in a society obsessed with health/fitness/image — does it feel no easier today than it was last year or last decade?
In my experience, people who struggle to get and stay in shape usually fall into at least one of four categories.
Those who don’t know what to do. For some, the abundance of information and options isn’t liberating. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s overwhelming. Without the knowledge to separate the wheat from the chaff amidst the mountain of choices, it’s easy to feel paralyzed and ultimately do nothing.
Those who feel plateaued. Others feel stuck. What used to work no longer does. Either because what was working was only a short-term solution or because some other factor is at play and they don’t know how to work around and overcome it, like getting older or injured or some other variable of life. So they get discouraged and stop altogether.
Those who can’t stay motivated. And then there are people who know exactly what to do but just can’t seem to get themselves to do it. They lack the motivation to keep going long enough to see the results they want, so they play a constant game of one step forward, two steps back.
Some are just doing it wrong. And finally, there are those who have all the motivation in the world but are applying it to incorrect methods. Perhaps they’ve been convinced that some fad or miracle pill a snake oil influencer peddled on Instagram was the solution to their problem. And so they are running really fast in the wrong direction, ultimately leading themselves into a frustrating plateau (see above).
So what does one do when they feel like one or all of these apply to them and their efforts thus far have failed them?
The first step is to understand that all of these stumbling blocks stem from lacking four key ingredients needed for achieving dramatic results with fitness.
Clarity. In order to get where you want to go, you have to know where you want to go, why, and when you want to get there. This also means being clear on what you’re willing to give up in order to get it.
Structure. Once you know where you want to go, you need structure. One that has weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly benchmarks, clear pass/fail behaviors that will allow you to clearly move forward towards your goal each day/week/month/year.
Accountability. Once you have a structured plan in place, you need someone who is there to support, guide, and provide the course corrections needed to keep you on track and on the road to achieving your desired aim.
Community. And finally, you need to be surrounded by people all rowing in the same direction. Pain tolerance is higher in groups because people with similar goals push each other. The tailwind effect can either pull you forward or backward, depending on who you decide to surround yourself with.
It’s these things that most people miss, and instead, they jump on the next fad of the month to get the results they want. So as we hopefully come out of the pandemic and into a semblance of normalcy, what approach will you take in your quest towards fitness? spt