Over the 12 year’s that I’ve been a personal trainer in London, I’ve asked all my new clients what’s been holding them back from achieving their fitness goals. Here are the 10 top reasons they gave (in no particular order), and how I helped them overcome their obstacles:
1. Other people
One personal training client in north London, a young guy in his twenties, told me that his friends held him back from achieving his weight loss goal. He was very sociable, and his social life revolved around going to the pub with his workmates during the week, and with other friends over the weekend.
Peer pressure is a powerful obstacle to achieving your goals. If your social group values partying and boozing above all else, it’s hard to break away. I encouraged my client to cut down on his pub visits by joining a tennis club and using that as his new social circle, one which revolves around sport. He persuaded a work colleague to join too, so he got the best of both worlds.
Alcohol-centred socialising is one of the biggest challenges this country faces if our population is to get fitter and healthier.
A lot of my personal training clients in London tell me that they’re so busy at work, they have no time to exercise. Many of these people are cash rich, but time poor. That’s why personal training is the ideal solution: the trainer comes to your home for an hour, at the same time each week, so you can schedule in a session in the convenience of your own home.
If you don’t exercise regularly, your physical fitness and mental alertness will suffer. Same goes for a poor diet. The less efficient and effective you are at work, the more time it takes to complete each task. By scheduling in some exercise each week, you’ll become more alert, and able to do more work in less time.
Clients tell me they lack the energy to exercise, but you’ll find that if you get into the habit of regular exercise, it actually boosts your energy. It’s always hard at first, but if you start forming a new habit of becoming more active every day, you’ll find it gets easier, and you’ll start to see and feel the benefits.
One of my personal training clients is an investment banker in London EC2. He comes home from work exhausted. So I suggested he exercises in the mornings, and takes a walk during lunch. Now he walks to and from work, which makes him feel far more alert for the day ahead, and far more relaxed and refreshed when he gets home.
If you can’t afford a personal trainer, there’s always the option of exercising on your own or with a friend. That’s why I set up the Fitness Buddy social network, which is totally free to join and use to meet up with other fitness buddies in your part of London.
You don’t even need any equipment to get fit. It’s free to run outdoors, and you can build muscle with push-ups, squats, and core strength exercises at home in your lounge.
I also provide 2 weeks intensive online nutrition coaching for a one-off fee of £25.00. In these 2 weeks I’ll give you an eating plan based on your replies to a detailed questionnaire, and review your food diaries. Great value for money if you want to get your eating sorted.
5. False beliefs & lack of knowledge
“I can’t lose weight because of my hormones” is a common excuse not to exercise or eat healthily. The truth is that lack of exercise and poor diet are the cause of piling on excess fat, and your hormonal balance will improve when you start exercising and eating healthily.
Another false belief is “I’m overweight because of my genes”. While genetics can play a part in your body composition, it’s never the decisive factor. You can always overcome any genetic disposition, you just have to try harder.
Another false belief that some clients have is that they want total body transformation in a month. Sadly this simply isn’t possible, but some clients quit training if they’re not totally transformed after just a few sessions. Getting fit and healthy is a long term project, and you have to put in consistent effort over a period of months, and in the case of morbidly obese clients, sometimes years. Body transformation takes more effort than most people realise, but it’s well worth it.
Many new clients complain to me that there’s so much conflicting information out there, both about exercise and diet, that they’re totally confused and don’t know what to do. That’s why a good personal trainer will never go out of business! I show my clients the best exercises and food choices to match their goals.
One of the biggest misconceptions about healthy eating is that it’s boring and tastes of cardboard. Check out my recipes page on this website for ideas.
6. Lack of desire
To achieve any challenging goal, you need to have strong motivation to do the things you need to do to reach that goal. Some of my personal training clients say they want to lose weight, or build muscle, but they don’t want it strongly enough to stay the course.
How do I help them overcome this obstacle? Visualisation is a powerful tool. If you visualise yourself at your goal weight and ideal physique, it sets up a target in your subconscious mind. The more vividly you can visualise the new you, the more emotionally attached you’ll get to the goal.
7. Past experience
“I’ve tried to lose weight in the past, but it didn’t work.” This is one of the biggest obstacles to making a fresh attempt to lose weight. I had a new client in Chelsea SW3 who’s previous personal trainer had given her nothing but cardio exercise, combined with a very restrictive diet. She found it exhausting, and gave up after a few months. This almost put her off hiring a personal trainer ever again, but thankfully she read my website and saw that there were more effective ways to lose weight.
8. No goals
Lack of goals is one of the most common obstacles to success in any endeavour. Just saying “I want to lose weight” is not a goal, it’s a vague hope. You need a time-scale, a specific amount of weight you want to lose, and an effective action plan.
Just because you’ve set a goal, doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. Part of effective goal-setting includes reviewing your progress at regular intervals, modifying your approach, and even modifying your original goal. One of my personal training clients in central London came to me with a goal to reduce his weight to 70 kg. He had his heart set on achieving that weight. He was a tall guy, and around 90 kg. I suggested to him that a healthy weight would be around 80 kg, as he also wanted to increase his muscle mass, a worthy goal in itself. When he reached 80 kg, his body fat was down to healthy levels, around 16%, and he was happy with his appearance.
When you set a goal, you’re not a slave to that goal. You’re in charge. The goal is a tool which helps you make progress, a road-map and also a deadline-setter to prevent procrastination and endless drift. But it’s a flexible and evolving tool, which you can modify as you go along.
Fear comes in many forms. Fear of failure, fear of injuring yourself, fear of being seen by others when you’re huffing and puffing in the gym, even fear of effort itself.
The most successful people know that failure is simply a temporary setback on the road to success. If your goal is to lose 8 lbs in a month, and you only lose 4 lbs, it’s not a reason to give up, it’s a reason to review your efforts objectively, and make the necessary adjustments the next month. Maybe you missed a couple of training sessions, or maybe your portion sizes are still too large. Don’t beat yourself up over it, learn from it and move forward.
Fear of effort is caused by a whole range of things, some mentioned above. If you don’t have strong enough desire to achieve your goal, effort may seem pointless. If you don’t set a goal with a deadline, effort may seem more onerous because there’s no end in sight. If you don’t visualise your ideal outcome, you’ll have nothing to inspire you, and all you’ll focus on is the effort. The philosopher Nietzsche said that if you have a strong enough ‘why’, you can endure almost any ‘how’.
10. The environment
Some of my clients used to blame the environment for their lack of fitness, or their obesity, but I always have a solution to their roadblock: “It’s too dangerous to cycle in London” (get an exercise bike and work-out in front of the TV, or jog round the park). “Healthy food is too expensive” (spend less on alcohol, eating out, designer gear, and spend that money on healthy food), “There are temptations everywhere: MacDonalds, KFC, cake shops; and nowhere healthy to eat out” (strong desire to achieve a fit body can overcome all these temptations, and you can cook healthy and tasty food for yourself).
Another big excuse is the weather. “It’s too hot to exercise in the summer” (buy a fan and exercise in front of it, or wait till the evening and exercise then), “it’s too cold and wet to exercise in the winter” (exercise indoors!). You can overcome any excuse if your desire to achieve your goal is strong enough.
One underlying cause that is common to all 10 things I’ve discussed above is your subconscious mind, and a key element of your subconscious: your self image. It is nearly always the self limiting beliefs that reside deep in your subconscious which hold you back. More on this in future blogs…
Dominic Londesborough is a personal trainer in London.