The biggest things that are holding you back

What you tend to see nowadays among “professionals” in the fitness industry is these completely polished individuals who have everything in check, from their training routine to their nutritional protocols resulting in what many people perceive as the “perfect” image of health. This quite often though, is not the case and in fact; when you scratch below the surface everything is not quite as perfect and controlled as it may seem. That is where the fitness industry is damaging people’s confidence and self-esteem levels but that’s another discussion for another day. What’s important to consider, is the fitness professionals who do seem to have it “together” in terms of their own personal goals, is how they got to that point in the first place? I mean, nobody wakes up one day and has all the knowledge and skills from both a training and nutritional perspective to suddenly apply stringently so within a couple of months can post rippling photos on social media for the world to admire and aspire to (kidding obviously). There is a pathway to that point. A “journey” if you like, and on that journey the honest people will tell you of the many mistakes that have been made.

Now I’m not as arrogant as to place myself in that category of fitness people you might follow or even look up to for that matter, but I have been training consistently for 15 years and studying the effects of both training techniques and nutritional manipulation on myself. I’ve reached a point I’m happy with and looking to improve on each day. Getting there wasn’t without its ups and downs though and I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way that may allow some of you to fast-track your way forward by avoiding some of them. I’ve also worked with my fair share of clients over the years and have noticed several of the patterns people tend to follow both in success and failure towards the achievement of their own personal goals. Again, some of this knowledge may help you towards your own goals by avoiding some of the pit-falls people tend to fall into. Here’s my rundown of the most common things people do wrong when starting a new training/diet regime.


So, you’ve decided you want to get fitter! Eat “healthier” and maybe shed some body fat. You’re excited about the potential results your new regimen will bring. You decide that you’re going to go to the gym five days per week, take the dog a long walk on three of those days and prepare salads for your lunch at work. Does this type of scenario sound familiar? This is a very common approach for people starting out on a new journey towards improved health and fitness. The main issue with this type of setup, is that it’s so difficult to maintain over a prolonged period. People will tend to sustain this type of routine for between 2-3 weeks before falling off drastically. Initially, motivation levels are high, the first week gets “smashed” and the person potentially sees and feels some positive results. The linear decline in motivation levels in line with the results experienced is rapid though. This is because in the first week, the new routine is such a shock to the persons system that it produces unrealistic results. Soon your body adapts to this and although results might still be seen, they are not to the same extent as the initial push and this further de-motivates the person in a horrible negative feedback loop.

For example, in week 1-person A (Joe) completed five workouts and three extended dog walks as well as eating salad for lunch every day that week. When they weighed themselves at the end of the week they had lost 6lbs and were delighted. Week 2 begins and they’re still feeling a bit tired from the efforts put out in the previous week. Still, though they must continue their fitness path and this time complete four gym sessions and only one extended walk. They take their salad to work only three days that week. They’re already feeling slightly less motivated and slightly more tired but when they weigh-in that week they’ve only lost 2lbs. Still a great result by any weight-loss programme standards however because of the unrealistic expectations set by week one, Joe is also then slightly less motivated. In week three Joe only gets to the gym three times, only walks the dog as much as he must rather than extending each walk and only prepares his salad one day that week at work. His weigh-in that week has stayed the same from the previous week. Never mind being de-motivated, Joe is pissed off. Pissed off with the lack of results that week. Pissed off with himself because he knows he hasn’t got anywhere near completing the exercise regimen he had previously set out for himself. The following week, Joe doesn’t do any exercise sessions, asks someone else to walk the dog, he goes to the Greggs around the corner from his office every day that week for lunch. The weight has started to creep back on.

The sad thing is, this type of scenario is happening every day and it just doesn’t have to. When I first start working with a client, quite often I’ll be the one pulling on the reigns in order to dial things back a bit. Not exactly what you’d expect from the trainer is it? The problem is though, that this 100mph approach towards your fitness goals quickly burns out and the reverse effect of this can be even worse than the initial behavioural patterns that led the person to be in the position they were to begin with. Plus, consider the basic numbers in the equation. Six months plus of 2-3 sessions per week will yield much better results than 2-3 weeks of six sessions per week! Research shows that once an individual train consistently for six months they’d be in the “maintenance” stage of their training lifecycle. This would mean that they would be unlikely to slip back into very little or no training at all because they have adapted and are used to the results that a well-structured, thought-out training programme has delivered. THEY WON’T WANT TO GO BACK TO THEIR FORMER SELF! This means that a sustainable approach is the best outcome because it means long-lasting results that can be improved and sustained over a life-time rather than a quick fix. I ask clients to be completely objective in their assessment of how many exercise sessions they could complete per week over a sustained period. This means a more realistic approach is taken because everything from work to family life and everything in between is considered prior to outlining you’re exercise and diet programme.

Something I also encourage with clients is variability. Switching up your routine can be a crucial factor in you sustaining your efforts towards health and fitness. Several of my clients besides from working with me, might take part in a Yoga, Circuit or Spin class, or even just go out a run or walk. You see health and fitness can’t purely be covered by a single pursuit. You have CV endurance, strength, muscle gain, flexibility, mental health. What does it truly mean to be a fit and healthy person? That’s why variety is so crucial in breaking up the monotony of doing the same thing day in, day out which may also encourage you to cease in your efforts. Mix it up. This will keep you engaged and motivated to continue in your pursuit.


Excuse the French, but they say you should call a spade a spade. I love Davina McCall. She’s great presenter but she doesn’t know and can apply the basic principles of training. Specificity, progressive overload, reversibility etc. The principles that, when applied correctly result in a linear progression in results for people in their training, especially when they first start out. Now, you might say, “surely doing a workout from a fitness DVD in the comfort of your own living room is better than doing nothing at all?”. Yes, in theory, but is your plan to work through every fitness DVD ever made? Or to repeat this one for the rest of your life? How long do you think it will last? What sort of results will it bring? Aerobic exercise is great. It strengthens the heart and lungs, improves circulation, reduces resting heart-beat, contributes towards weight-loss. However, it is only one aspect of fitness as previously discussed. Also, surely you would want to optimise your results? Let’s say your going to wash your car and all you have is a sponge and bucket. You can still technically give the car a decent clean. However, your super-kind, super-friendly next-door neighbour has a fancy power hose and his car already looks twice as good as yours does? Do you stick with the sponge and bucket out of principle, or tap your neighbour on the shoulder and ask if you can borrow it? The answer is obvious right? Or at least I think it is! In relation to fitness, what if I told you that you could do an effective conditioning workout from the comfort of your own living room, that improved your aerobic and anaerobic fitness, burned lots of calories and contributed towards improved levels of muscular strength and endurance. Would that be better than doing the “grape-vine” on the spot for five minutes to the beat of a specific soundtrack?

The thing is, it’s totally understandable. If you’re new to fitness, then you might not necessarily know what a good training session looks like. This would be where I’d point you to the various fitness professionals out there. If you need some help, ask for it. There’s plenty of qualified people willing to give it to you. You may not want to go to the expense of hiring yourself a Personal Trainer, but if you’re a member of a commercial gym then there should be some type of fitness staff available who can point you in the right direction free of charge. You could also go down the line of the latest phenomenon out there that is, the Online Personal Trainer. This shouldn’t cost you as much as an actual 1-2-1 PT but will still allow you to receive specific programming, macronutrient and diet support, as well as accountability and regular check-ins. Modern technology has made it easier than ever to get support if you need it.


Imagine your son or daughter isn’t doing so well at school. They’re struggling to understand certain topics and their teacher suggests them doing a bit extra homework. Any rational, decent parent would take immediate and effective action on this. They would source the extra homework if not provided by the school, take the time to sit with their child and go through every aspect of the topic with a fine-tooth comb to ensure they better understood what was being asked. They might not get it first, second or even third time but you persist. You stick to the plan. YOU DO. NOT. QUIT! See where I’m going with this? You see we don’t tend to give up on the ones we love but we do have a habit of giving up on ourselves for some reason? We don’t put as much value on ourselves as we do others. This can often be the case with our health and fitness. A lot of the time, people will begin a new fitness journey purely because they feel they should because at least if, on the surface, it looks like they’re really trying to better themselves then society won’t judge them. The problem with this is deep down they DON’T ACTUALLY WANT TO BE THERE! If you don’t truly want to be there, then it’s unlikely that you also believe you can achieve the results you truly say you want. You’re just going through the motions, turning the wheels with no true conviction in your actions.

At this point you might be thinking “this sounds like me” or “how would someone solve this? I mean, if you don’t want to be there you don’t want to be there!” That’s true. When working with a new client they’ll often ask me to estimate the length of time it will take them to reach their pre-set goals. My response is always generally the same. “Stick with it until you see your first small change and then let’s discuss again”. That small change could come in various forms. A low weigh-in, a compliment from a friend or family member, a new dress-size, being able to button your old favourite pair of jeans you hadn’t wore for over a year. It really doesn’t matter. Our follow up discussion always takes place with a new-found motivation and enthusiasm for their fitness goals. There’s a mental switch when this happens. Suddenly, the thought process isn’t “this exercise stuff is a lot of effort for something I can’t yet see or feel!” to “If I’ve dropped a dress size, what else could I achieve for myself if I really put my focus into it?”. This is one of the more rewarding parts of being able to work with people like this on a day-to-day basis. You see, results are what truly motivate people. It’s a great feeling to put all your effort into something and achieve a desired result, it’s addictive in a way. From this point the possibilities are endless and that feeling is what truly keeps people engaged to keep pushing to better themselves. I’ve worked with clients who have went from barely being able to perform a bodyweight squat to being able to back-squat their own bodyweight for multiple repetitions. Would it really be that inconceivable from where that person came from for them to then consider being able to repeat the same lift with 2X bodyweight? You must stick with it, you must give it a chance and throw yourself in head first until you see the initial signs of progress. You might not be at your desired end-goal but just making progress towards that point will be motivating for you to continue.


Ultimately there’s many more mistakes that could be made which would contribute towards a person not achieving their fitness goals but in the interest of simplicity I believe the three discussed above are the most important and where the most emphasis should be placed. Try to avoid jumping in and doing too much, too soon. Having high levels of enthusiasm at the beginning of a new fitness journey is great and should be commended but jumping in with a high volume of training sessions and very low calories is a recipe for disaster. Results may be experienced initially but the sheer intensity of the output being given in order to achieve them will result in the effort and motivation rapidly declining. Plan your attack, assess your approach and be objective and realistic in the assessment of the amount of exercise you can commit to each week. Eat to satisfy yourself by bulking up your meals with vegetables rather than trying to live off poverty calories. Seek help to ensure your training sessions are specific and effective towards achieving your goals rather than grabbing the latest fitness DVD on offer at the local supermarket. DON’T QUIT! At least not initially. Not before you’ve given yourself the chance to experience your first true result or change. This will encourage you to persist and reinforce the realisation that, the ends justify the means.


Author – Scott McBride

Scott McBrideComment