They say there’s no replacement for experience, and I’d have to agree. I know I wouldn’t trade my 18 years working in the health and fitness industry for anything.
Sure, having a solid, formal educational background and supplementary certifications is fundamental to lay the groundwork, and give you the ability to weed out the fact from fad. But it’s really the knowledge that you gain in real-life situations with clients – and knowing how to interpret and apply that knowledge – which shapes the type of trainer you become. I’ve now worked with over 1,000 clients, and I thought it would be a great time to step back and have a quick look at some of the common elements that add up to success, while also examining the typical pitfalls that can put the brakes on your progress and prevent you from reaching your fitness goals.
Here are 10 best fitness tips I’ve picked up along the way that will help save you from wasting time, achieve the body you want in an efficient way and get results that last.
Pick something and stick to it.
Far too often people get started on a new fitness program and then quit before giving it a fair shot. We’ve become too impatient. We expect results overnight, we want the scale to change daily and we want our clothes to fit differently after the first week on the program. Well, it doesn’t always work that way. The truth is, you should really be giving a new program an honest, committed effort for at least a month to properly evaluate its effectiveness. It takes time for your body to adjust to a new change in diet or training program, and some of the initial changes might not be visible to the eye or the scale. You’ve got to put some faith in the program or trainer that things are happening, your body is adapting and in time, and your hard work will start to show.
Stick to something for at least 21 days straight and it becomes much easier to make it new habit. The problem is that most people will quit prior to this 21-day period, because they didn’t get the results they were hoping for. But were the expectations too high and the goals unreasonable? If these people were to have pushed through and stuck with the program for a month or more, they would have probably seen at least some of the results they wanted… instead of wasting a few weeks on a program and then quitting.
Don’t mix and match opinions.
There’s more than one way to get to a destination, but if you try to follow bits and pieces of different people’s versions of how to get to that destination, you’ll end up lost and never make it there. That’s essentially what ends up happening when people with good intentions start researching things online and reading different opinions and theories. They get caught up in some new approach and take it upon themselves to start making little deviations off the original course. Guess what? All these little changes will throw off the original plan and could be working against other variables on the program. What was once a pre-programmed course for success will now have you left somewhere in the land of diminishing progress.
When you hire a trainer or start on a new program, try not to get caught up in the latest trend or some new approach your friend just started. There will always be some trendy new diet, seemingly easier approach or catchy training system that pops up every month. It’s how people make money in this industry – always coming up with something that has that ‘cool’ factor, appears to be a little easier and more fun. Learn to put those things on mute while you focus on your own program and goals. All that I ask from my clients is to pick one person and follow their advice from the start to the finish. Yes, I’m aware there are other opinions out there, some that might even contradict my own, but I would hope my track record and reputation speaks for itself and clients can put a little trust in the process. Any other way to do it is just a waste of everyone’s time.
What works for some, won’t work for all.
There’s a reason coaches like myself are still in business after nearly two decades. When you can very easily go online and download workout programs, free diets and even watch demo videos on YouTube, why would you need a trainer or coach? It’s easy – many people have already figured out that when a program hasn’t been customized to your specific goals and individual make up, you don’t get the same results. Every client has their own history, body type, metabolism, insulin sensitivity, dietary restrictions, macronutrient preference, previous injuries, health conditions, digestive issues and personality characteristics. All these factors and more should be considered when a program is customized for a client.
Starting on a program you found online hasn’t even started to look at one of these variables. It’s kind of like buying a running shoe from a large department store. Sure, you can run in it and might feel like everything is fine, but because you haven’t looked at things like arch support, foot width or individual gait pattern, that shoe will eventually lead to chronic strain injuries, break down in the wrong places and have you looking to replace it sooner than later. It’s not until you try running in a shoe that’s been more customized to your own individual preferences from a real running shoe store that you will see how it should have felt the first time. Starting on a fully customized program from an educated trainer is well worth the investment if you plan to make fitness part of your lifestyle.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
If you’re looking for a training program or diet that requires minimal work or self-discipline to follow and produces incredible results that last, I can save you the time right now and let you know it doesn’t exist. Never has, never will. If you want to produce real changes in your body, be prepared to work and understand that there will be some moments that might challenge you and require self-motivation to push through. The good news is that people who do train their body to endure a very small amount of ‘suffering’ soon come to realize they’re working for permanent results. If it takes effort to get there, you won’t regress as easily. For instance, you might have already gone down the zero-carb crash diet route, lost some weight, and then watched it all come back just as quickly, as you started eating those delicious carbs again.
Any diet, training program or supplement that promises rapid results with minimal effort or much change in your regular lifestyle should be questioned and met with at least one raised eyebrow. When you’re evaluating a new program, ask yourself this question – can what I’m doing right now be maintained over the long term (or at least 80% of it?). If the answer is “no,” then you should get off that program sooner than later, because you’re setting yourself up for regression. Choose a program that challenges you and produces steady results that can be maintained over the long term. Nothing worth having comes easy.
Don’t follow diets, make lifestyle changes.
When I work with clients not preparing for a competition and just looking to make positive changes to their body, I prefer not to just pass out super strict diets from the start. Instead, I’ll ask them to write down everything they’re currently eating in a week. I’ll review it, take the average, and then re-send them their own diet with one to two improvements implemented per month. Some might think that’s not enough, but it always is. Change just one or tow things about your diet per month and you can and will see changes in your body. It’s not about being on a new diet promoted on that talk show with the catchy name. It’s about improving dietary habits from your own life.
Also Read: The Best And Worst Diets, Ranked
How many times have you started on a new diet only to realize that after the first day you felt horrible, tired and weak? It’s too dramatic of a change all at once for most people to maintain. It makes far more sense to take baby steps working toward the ‘perfect’ diet. This teaches people that the real cause of their weight gain is mostly related to a few key habits. Break those habits gradually and ease them into a semi-strict meal plan over the course of months, not days, and it’s much easier to follow, not as hard on the body, and produces longer-lasting results.
Follow the 80/20 rule for diet.
I have some clients that refuse to eat any fun meals that aren’t on their meal plan, and this always troubles me. Not only do I encourage this kind of indulgence sometimes, but I enforce it in almost all cases. Teaching people that there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods isn’t the way to go. There are foods you should emphasize and then foods you should eat less frequently and in moderation. As a general rule, I have regular clients follow their meal plan 80 per cent of the time, while allowing for some room to deviate from the diet 20 percent of the time. This could be a “whatever-you-want” dinner out with your spouse or maybe a work event with delicious catering or a best friend’s wedding The point is that it’s not even healthy, physically or mentally, to be too strict on your diet all day, every day for months at a time. Try to go 100% , with 0 % room for flexibility, will cause many people to get way too hard on themselves and eventually give up, because they convince themselves they’ve failed. That’s not how it works at all. Work hard and earn your 20% fun meals while building them into your normal life.
Accept slip ups and correct them.
One reason people give up on a program is they have a few ‘off’ days, think they’ve ruined everything and throw in the towel. Everyone has their own daily challenges or things that pull them away from their fitness goals. Sometimes they can be prevented and other times they can’t. What’s important is what you do when you have that moment of defeat – do you give up and have a few more days off the gym or indulge even more, or do you come back the next day and train a little extra, or make the effort to stick to your eating plan that week? The body works in a balance. It’s not so much about messing up one meal or missing one workout, as it is about what you did that week as a whole. We’re lucky: In fitness, there’s always something you can do to correct a slip up, make up for something you weren’t suppose to eat or workout you should have done.
Don’t go at it alone.
Working towards the body you want can be hard enough without having people in your life that drag you down and interfere with your goals. Co-workers, some friends and even family members can at some point or another be a source of negative energy. My best advice is to choose a few people in your life that will be your reliable sources of positive energy for you. This could be a coach or trainer, friend at the gym or your spouse. Let them know you need their support and appreciate them. You may not even end up requiring much of their time at all, but simply putting them on notice is enough to remind them to be there for you if needed. As for the others, the haters, the downers, try to distance yourself from them where possible and just accept that not everyone will be as excited as you are when your body starts changing for the better. Take it in stride and know you have your support system in place if needed.
You can’t out train a bad diet.
What you do in the gym is the stimulus and your diet is the foundation for how your body will look. No matter how hard or long you train, you’ll never get the results you want if your diet isn’t in check. You may be one of those types that trains just so they can eat whatever they want and aren’t too concerned with whether they have abs – and I’m not talking about you. You can keep doing your thing and enjoying those meals! I’m talking about the people that are training to achieve a certain look and maybe feel confident on a beach.
Most people should be looking at it like this – your diet is responsible for about 70% of how you will look with the remaining 30% coming from your training and cardio regimen. That’s a more accurate way of thinking instead of how the average person tends to think of it like a 50/50 even split. If you think you can eat what you want as along as you’re working out and then start to wonder why you haven’t achieved your ideal body yet… there’s your answer.
Get your mind and emotions working for you.
I’ve written several articles on how the mind can influence how the body looks. This is always a tough concept for many clients to grasp because we tend to dissociate the two and don’t think of them as being that closely interconnected, but those that can learn to control their mind seem to make progress just a little quicker and easier. It starts with things like controlling stress, managing anxiety and being positive and also things like self-regulation relaxation techniques and mediation. All these things can influence the regulation of hormones which can either help or hurt your physique goals. For example, in a stressed out, anxious client that’s doing very little active relaxation techniques, the body can start to store more fat, build less muscle and be less likely to mobilize the fat that’s stored, despite exercising. When the mind is positive, all sorts of positive things happen in the body. If people starting paying a little more respect to the influence of the mind, they would find results come a little easier. It’s tough to get your body to cooperate when you haven’t taken care of the basics and it will eventually start working against you.
You never stop learning, and these are just a few of the things I wanted to share to hopefully make someone’s fitness journey a little easier.