The reason you’re not achieving your fitness goals isn’t because you don’t know how. There’s plenty of information on how to get in shape out there already. Rather, it’s your motivation that’s lacking. You get on a program and then fall off it before you can really see results. The solution is to get out of your own way on the path to success. Here are the five keys to conquering any fitness challenge.
1. Know What You’re Fighting For
Before you set any goal, ask yourself why you want to accomplish it. Do you want to get in shape purely for vanity? Everybody wants a six-pack and a gun show, but is that really enough to motivate you when the challenges and distractions of modern life start to pile up? Usually, your reason is deeper than that, and you need to uncover it or you won’t stick with your training. Here are some of the things my most successful clients were fighting for:
• To put food on the table. Their sport or their physique was how they made a living.
• Serious health conditions forced a change.
• To avoid taking medications and dealing with the side effects. They understood that lifestyle changes could fix the underlying problems.
• To gain confidence and sense of self-worth.
• To stay sober.
• To improve energy, cognitive function, and focus so they could do their best work on the job.
• To set a good example for their kids, family members, or friends.
When you identify the real reason you want to do what you've set out to—even if it's just to feel loved—you'll be that much more focused on making it happen.
2. Be Accountable
A good coach can help you design the game plan and call the plays. But you, and only you, can run them on the field. You’re the one on the battlefield of life that has to face your foe—and everything it is going to throw at you—head on. Don’t hire a trainer or nutritionist expecting he or she will motivate you as well as plan your workouts and diet; motivation comes from within. Understand that any progress you make or setbacks you incur are yours alone. You don't share them with anyone else. Taking responsibility for what you do can be intimidating, but it's also empowering. Remember that if the risks seem high, so do the rewards, and they're all yours.
3. Know Your Enemy
You must know everything about the challenge you face. What are the specific skills and tools you need to succeed? How and when are you going to acquire them? What are some common roadblocks? Where have others failed in the past? Why did they fail? What are you going to do differently?
The better you understand what it takes to succeed and the more you know what to expect from the challenge ahead of you, the more prepared you’ll feel to take it on.
Also, you must know yourself. Identify the situations and triggers that tend to pull you off track. You should also try to identify your own strengths and see how you can use them to your advantage. For instance, if you have leadership skills, try to organize a group of friends who all want to lose weight, compete in a mud run, or whatever it is you’re trying to undertake. Use your social aptitude to built a support network that serves to keep you on track.
4. Stop Paralysis By Analysis
While knowledge is power, overthinking your plan is weakness, and stems from fear of failure. Second (and third) guessing yourself leads you to make changes before you’ve given any one approach ample time to work. You learn nothing and go nowhere. When you start anything new, you have to expect that you’ll make mistakes and learn along the way, so recognize this beforehand. Also, remember that even if there is an optimal approach, that doesn’t mean the one you’re doing doesn’t work fine as well. Believe me, the worst thing you can do is nothing at all because you’re waiting for everything to seem clear. (It won’t.)
Get a firm plan that makes sense to you and then act on it. Get started right away. Sometimes just putting the wheels in motion takes you further along your journey, and at a faster pace, than having the perfect route planned out from beginning to end but never starting the engine.
5. Embrace The Role Of Underdog
Only a few of us are born into privilege. Only a few of us are born with elite genetics. Only a few have every possible advantage handed to them. For most of us, the odds and obstacles are stacked against us right from the start.
If the odds always played out, there would be no true success stories. Yet I’ve seen numerous inspiring underdog stories in my lifetime. I’m sure you have to. So why shouldn’t you be one of them? And why not now?
The way the underdog wins is by having the discipline and determination to do whatever is necessary to get the job done. It doesn’t matter that you have a slow metabolism or lack athletic ability—or whatever you perceive your individual limitations to be. You can overcome anything with time, effort, and patience.
LESSONS FROM A REAL-LIFE BATTLE
You may be wondering where I learned these lessons. I learned them from my dad. In 2009, my father was diagnosed with stage-4 cancer. Patients with his condition last, on average, six months. He battled for four years. He faced some kind of challenge every single day, but he kept putting one foot in front of the other and marching on. He had his reason to fight—love for our family—and took the battle further than anyone expected.
In that time, he taught me more about what it means to be a man, and a warrior, than everything I had learned in 31 years prior.
If you’d like to learn more about some of these warrior strategies, I wrote a book throughout my father’s fight: The Way of the Cancer Warrior: 34 Strategies For Your Cancer War. A portion of every sale is donated to various cancer support charities.
I had to do something to make sure my old man’s legacy and lessons lived on.
This book was written for cancer patients, caretakers, and families battling the disease. But I believe the strategies are equally applicable to athletes, and to facing whatever challenges and struggles you are up against in life.