By Michael Krueger
You can put two people in the same situation with the same resources available to them and one succeeds and one fails. If you ask the successful people, they can tell you exactly what they have done to get to where they are, but they more than likely wouldn’t use the word success.
If you ask the ones who failed, they will be happy to tell you about all the bad breaks and injustices that have been heaped on them. They will tell you about how they haven’t the time, the money, or the advantages of those who were successful … ending with “it just isn’t fair.”
What really sets these two very distinct types of people apart and, most importantly, which one are you?
Keys to Fitness Success
Those who are ultimately successful in strength and conditioning tend to have certain traits in common. They possess a high level of discipline and they set goals and make plans to achieve them. They do research and figure out how to apply the information they find to their specific situation. They don’t follow the crowd; “trendy” doesn’t cut it for them. When something that “everyone” is doing doesn’t pass their smell test, they take a pass on it; they don’t overweigh the opinion of anyone else. These people follow through on their plans and when they reach their goal they analyze the results, set new goals, and begin again. They fully understand that their success is completely up to them and, most importantly, like it that way.
Discipline is probably the most difficult aspect of success in training. The old adage “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” really does apply here. It’s easy to miss workouts when you’re busy or having family or work drama. Sometimes you just don’t feel like working out, but this is exactly when you need to suck it up and tough it out, get in the gym, and make it happen. It’s situations like this that build not only physical muscle but mental muscle and character as well.
When you maintain focus on your workout, you get to spend some time in a quiet inner world where the problems of the outside world don’t exist. Training is hard work. It isn’t supposed to be “fun,” but you do it anyway because both the immediate and future rewards are so great. Life will throw all kinds of tests your way; intense physical training is one way to maintain control in the face of what may seem like a maelstrom. When you’ve finished your workout, your outside problems and dramas will still be there, but you will be calmer, more centered, and better able to cope with them. As if exercise needs more positives attributed to it, it’s recently been shown that actively building muscle through high-intensity training helps in preventing, not just treating, depression.
Successful people don’t need others in the gym to tell them they how they are doing. The praise of others is worth about the same as their criticism. When others offer advice, they listen respectfully to what they have to say and then go and do exactly what they had planned to do. They know from experience that what works for someone else may not work for them.
Successful people aren’t chronic program changers. They have done their homework and applied this knowledge to their particular situation. If the program is laid out for eight weeks, that is how long they are going to work it; quitting early isn’t even an option.
Successful people aren’t averse to new things; they just need to understand how a new protocol might benefit them. After experimentation with something new, they have the data to figure out if it provided the desired effect. They learn from their experience and from that knowledge decide if it is something that may be incorporated into their program as is or if it needs to be tweaked or simply discarded.
Successful people are willing to go it alone. They don’t need fancy gyms or the latest and greatest toys. The last thing they want is a cheering section or a lot of “you got it, it’s all you” type of encouragement. They have a job to do and they are going to do it, and that’s all there is to it.
Successful people are as mentally tough as they are physically tough. When they are struggling, they look within to solve their problem. They understand that no one can make them stronger than they can make themselves. They know that no one can push them harder than they can push themselves. That is why they are successful.
Successful people plan their meals with the same discipline they plan their workouts. They know that without proper nutrition they aren’t going to achieve their goals and that is simply not acceptable. They aren’t tempted by advertisements for some of the garbage that passes for food in our culture any more than they’re tempted to fool with their fitness program by some mass-marketed, celebrity endorsed, guaranteed-to-work DVD infomercial.
Lastly, they are a bit obsessed. When they are scheduled to train, they are there and ready to go. They don’t get distracted by whatever else may be going on around them. They don’t chat during their workout but may be quite friendly after they are finished. They do not miss workouts, period.
Making This All Work for You
This formula for success goes against most of what our culture celebrates. We tend to be a victim society where people have learned that if you don’t succeed it must be the fault of someone or something else.
Success in fitness is so obviously entirely up to you that to suggest otherwise is absurd. The health and fitness of your body aren’t the concerns of anyone else. If you succeed or fail, it is all on you. No one can set a goal and then achieve it for you. It all falls on you, and that makes it tough until you get serious and make a promise to yourself to take on this ultimate personal challenge and see it through no matter how long it takes or how hard it may be.
I’ve heard people say, “I wish there was a magic pill I could take to make me be in great shape so I wouldn’t have to do all that exercise.” This attitude is really sad because they entirely miss the point of fitness. Fitness is the training. Fitness is the work, the discipline, the wisdom you gain about yourself; it’s not about big muscles and a low percentage of body fat. Until you are able to accept this truth, that it is in fact the journey and not the destination that matters, you will forever struggle with success and failure not just in the gym but in every aspect of your life.
Physical training is the ultimate equalizer. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how fat or skinny, rich or poor; it all comes down to you and what you’ve got inside. So set your goals, map out your plan, and take responsibility for achieving your personal fitness success.
It‘s entirely up to you; be fearless, be strong, and do this for you.
Michael Krueger is an NSCA-certified personal trainer. He got his start in fitness training while serving in the United States Coast Guard. He works with firefighters and others in and around Madison, Wisconsin. He is available to fire departments, civic organizations, and athletic teams for training, consulting, and speaking engagements. He has published numerous articles on fitness, health, and the mind-body connection and was a featured speaker at the IAFC’s FRI 2009 Health Day in Dallas, Texas. E-mail him at MKPTLLC@gmail.com.