The path to reaching your fitness goals is a simple one and a hard one at the same time. It is simple in the sense that there is a straightforward plan of action that will drive you toward your goals. Yet that path is hard in the sense that following the plan can be difficult mentally for many people.
Let’s think about that for a moment. If the path is so simple, why is it hard for people to follow? The answer to that question is motivation. Motivation separates the successful from the unsuccessful, the winners from the losers. The people with the drive to succeed and willingness to follow the plan will generally outlast and outperform the people who have less motivation.
For example, a person may want to increase how much he or she squats. The plan for doing so may require someone to squat on a regular basis, to increase weight progressively over time, and to adjust for issues that arise. This same plan expects that person to commit themselves to training and nutrition every week, making the time to complete the tasks outlined in the program. The approach might be as simple as squatting 1-2 times per week and including other forms of exercise 1-2 times per week, while making sure to consume 3-4 meals per day that meet the nutritional needs of the person.
In the given example, the individual in question may have hired a professional who created the plan for them. The plan includes detailed workouts and meals for each day. There is no question about workout frequency, volume per workout, times to eat, meals to make, etc.—the trainee just has to follow the plan. Therein lies the problem. Many people cannot stick to the plan.
There can be many reasons why a person does not follow a plan. The most common is they just do not want to, that is, they do not have the motivation. However, other reasons can arise. For example, some people think they know better than the professional they hired, which is laughable since the trainee is unable to achieve the goals alone, while the professional likely has helped many people achieve such goals and has achieved many goals himself/herself. These ideas apply whether you work with us, another professional, or utilize a program you found online.
As hard as you make it
The path to reaching your goals is as hard as you make it. If you have a good plan in place and follow it, the road will have difficulty. How hard that road is depends on the loftiness of your goals, unexpected life issues, and other factors, such as work-life schedule, but you will reach your desired outcome in time.
The path becomes harder if you choose not to follow the plan or only follow part of the program. For example, a common error people make is believing they “only need to workout, not focus on nutrition.” We hear/read this statement or very similar comments from people all year long. There is no truth in this idea. Sure, a person can see some progress without changing their nutrition if they workout hard enough. However, without proper nutrition, they will either never reach their goals because their workouts are not sufficient, or they will see lackluster progress, or progress in only some areas, since their workouts are sufficient for some change, but their nutrition does not fuel the maximal change possible.
Good training and nutrition plans are created with purpose and meant to be followed. If you do not follow the plan as laid out, you affect the results you receive. While it is your choice to follow or not follow a plan, understand that everything you do or do not do affects your rate of progress or determines if you will ever see progress. To be successful, you must diligently put in work over time in the necessary areas, including but not limited to, following the training and nutrition plan.
These ideas apply whether you work with us, another professional, or utilize a program you found online.
A few additional thoughts
When thinking about following a program, many people look at one portion, and because they are completing that portion, state they are following the program. However, as noted above, if a person only follows part of the program, then they are not following the program as laid out—it’s really that simple.
Let’s think about some of the aspects of the process we have clients follow. At the simplest view, the process includes a training program and/or nutrition strategy. However, there are aspects of each that must be adhered to for the process to be effective. Some common areas where people fail to follow the process are:
Workout stat tracking—if a trainee does not track stats, we have no data noting what that person is capable of and do not know where to make appropriate changes. For example, if a person does not track completed reps, we have no idea of what they can do and if or how we should change the reps to help them progress.
Workout comments—tracking workouts stats is only part of the process, and we need to see comments to understand more. For example, a person might complete a 100-pound back squat, but not leave comments. Without the comments, we do not know if the squat was easy, moderate, or hard. Simply noting “the squat was easy today” gives us an idea.
Body stat tracking—if a person wants to achieve body composition changes, that is changes in fat mass and/or lean mass, then we have to see stats. Otherwise, we have no idea if their body composition has changed. Therefore, we do not know if the program is effective and can be continued as-is or should be changed.
Communication via messages—feedback from clients is essential to the process as are responses to questions or feedback from us, questions asked by them, and general communication about the process. Since we are not face-to-face with you, the messages take the place of the communication that would occur during training sessions.
Making use of video reviews—many people do not understand good form. With few exceptions, every time we receive a video, there are errors in form that must be addressed. Failure to review issues and address them affects performance as well as progress and puts the client at risk of injury.
Not completing all scheduled workouts—it should go without saying that if a trainee does not complete workouts, then he or she will not see results. In that same vein, if a client only completes some of the workouts, then he or she will see limited results.
Only completing part of individual workouts—see the last point
Changing the order of workouts—we program workouts the way we do for reasons we cannot explain in a simple message since the thought process is supported by our formal education and countless hours working with clients. If we place one workout before another, it is for a reason. If we place exercises in a certain order, it is for a reason. There are always some exceptions, meaning instances where things can be changed without altering the effectiveness of the program, but these areas are limited and should not be changed on a whim.
These ideas apply whether you work with us, another professional, or utilize a program you found online. You may not understand why all of these points are important but know that they are. The most successful trainees are the people with high program compliance. Indeed, if you were to look at the best athletes in the world, you would find that those people follow the programming laid out by their coaches and trainers, whether the coaching is for nutrition, training, or another aspect of the process. The same is true for us. The reason we succeed is that we follow our programming and put in the work day after day. The path to reaching your goals is as simple as sticking to the plan. If you want to be successful, then put in the work. If you don’t, then do whatever you want.
Nathan DeMetz holds degrees in Exercise Science, Business Administration, and Information Technology as well as certifications in strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, run coaching, and other areas. His credentials come from organizations such as Indiana Wesleyan University, Ivy Tech College, Utah State University, and the ISSA College of Exercise Science. Nathan has 20 years of personal and professional experience in the health and fitness world. He works with people from across the globe, including locations such as Kuwait, Australia, and the USA.