Fitness Fails: Getting Real and Getting Help

Why can’t we take care of ourselves?

And, where are our priorities?

These are two questions I ask myself a lot these days.

I see people doing one or two personal training sessions and quitting because of “finances.” Not to cast judgment, but these same people have smart phones, eat dinners out, and go skiing. These same people are also carrying way too much extra weight and lack lean muscle mass.

Why can’t they take care of themselves, or more accurately, why won’t they?

Quick Fixes and Denial

There are plenty of well-known risks with being overweight: diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, to name a few. And there are just as many risks with being “skinny fat” or simply not having enough muscle mass – osteoporosis, poor posture, poor metabolism, and injury, for example. You’d think our rational selves would assess that we need to take serious action.

And sometimes we do take action. We try a quick fix like a fad diet or cutting calories drastically. We decide we’re just going to avoid lifting heavy things and moving in certain ways. Or we make the decision to accept our low energy level and chalk it up aging.

Some do meet their goals, with or without help. But in my job as a personal trainer, I see many who either never seek help or quit shortly after. I see them on the cardio machines but not losing weight. I see them on the cardio machines but not in the weight room. And many times I stop seeing them at all as they fall off and quit working out.

What Exactly Does It Take?

When someone who hasn’t been able to lose weight comes in for a couple of personal training sessions and then says, “I can do it on my own,” their chances of success are slim. While I give them credit for coming in, one, two, or three sessions isn’t enough to change lifelong habits and teach new skills. Sure, the highly motivated can succeed, but even then, it’s tough going on your own. Still, many people who need it the most don’t want to spend the money, even though in the long term, their medical bills could cost them much more.

When you (1) know you need to lose weight or gain strength, (2) have tried it on your own and failed, and (3) still think you can do it yourself, you just might be saying, “My health is not a priority to me.”

At some point, we need to know when to get help and commit to it. Starting a tried-and-true weight-loss program such as Weight Watchers and sticking to it. Researching science-backed data and mapping out a proven plan. Saying no to fads and quick fixes and acknowledging that this is a lifestyle change. And paying for – yes, I said paying for – a personal trainer and/or nutritionist to keep you accountable and track your progress.

Here are some pretty good indicators that it’s time to get help:

You lost weight but gained it back.

This would make you in the majority; eighty percent of people who lose at least ten percent of their weight gain it back within a year (according to Apex Fitness Group). We all know how hard it is.

It’s all about lifestyle changes, not injections, pills, or a fat cell-sucking spa treatment. You need to keep a temporary food diary to understand what you’re consuming. You need to know your daily calorie requirements so that you know how many calories you need at a minimum and how many you need to cut back. You need to be on a regular exercise program. You need to be very aware of your actions and know nutritional data about the foods you eat.

If you can’t seem to lose the weight with these tried-and-true methods, isn’t a long, healthy life worth paying a personal trainer or nutritionist as much as you’d pay for a year’s worth of junk, dinners out, or movies? Think priorities here… you really ARE worth it.

You avoid certain movements because it hurts.

While it’s nice when you can rehabilitate your own ailments and it’s even nicer if you can ignore them, many times it only gets worse if you don’t address it. You need a doctor’s visit and/or physical therapy for that “bum knee” or the ankle that never healed properly after a sprain. After making these appointments, a personal trainer can safely progress you through a program that gets you back to 100%.

When you avoid doing certain things (like raising your arm above your head) or start favoring one side over the other, your body begins to dysfunction. When you move this way for prolonged periods, you’re setting yourself up for weaknesses that lead to injury. Don’t avoid movements because you want to avoid pain; fix the pain.

You aren’t seeing any progress.

Clearly you may need some help if you’re not getting stronger or bigger (if that’s your goal). Or if you’re training for an event and you can’t seem to meet your goal.

You simply don’t know where to start.

There are plenty of people out there who have never strength trained. They have absolutely no idea what exercises to do or how to do them. Others are misinformed about a healthy diet or have never stepped foot in a gym. But they have a feeling their body is weak and a ticking time bomb for osteoporosis or injury.

I see this frequently with people who are over the age of forty. They become aware that they have very little muscle tone, feel weak or injury prone, or are losing the ability to do things that were once easy.

I wish people would have this realization earlier, because everyone needs strength training, young and old. Whether you’re inactive, a runner, a workaholic, a parent, or a teenager, you need strength training.

These are only a few signals that you should get help. So let go of resistance. Look at yourself critically and then compassionately. Sometimes you just need help and it may be now.


12 thoughts on “Fitness Fails: Getting Real and Getting Help

  1. Excellent article! This term sums it up: “lifelong habits.”

    So many people aren’t yet ready to accept that building good health (and yes, a better body) means permanent changes in our way of eating and exercising. So many people want a quick fix—some new miracle diet or drug that will give them permanent results without commitment.


  2. Awesome article!! It is all about a lifestyle change. There is no shortcuts or pills out there that is going to make you lose weight and keep it off with out changing your eating habits and exercising.
    It comes down to the law of thermodynamics of eating less and moving more. Also having the right balance of macro-nutrients such as Protein, carbohydrates and fats. Also sodium and sugar intake are two other areas everyone needs to monitor.

    Vince Lombardi said it the best, “Dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price.”


    • Lombardi’s quote is right on… our society encourages easy solutions but those aren’t the ones that are long-lasting. Thanks for articulating this so well yourself!


  3. Suzanne, you have made me think about the times when I could do a Cossack dance with my baby daughter balanced on my lap….when I could vault onto the kitchen surfaces and retrieve those hard to reach items from the top cupboards….when I revelled in my strength and fitness.

    I see no reason why I can’t do that again, albeit in a slightly more dignified manner. My fitness diminished when I broke an ankle and then snapped a ligament and was much less mobile – getting back to confidence after injury, when you’ve taken all your assets of youth and strength for granted for so long can be a challenging path, but you’ve sparked me off to get started, thank you.


    • Vaulting on kitchen surfaces is impressive indeed! Ah, but I know what you mean… moving in life without fear of tweaking. I’ve heard of an injured ankle affecting one’s fitness more often than I’d like. I am happy that reading this sparked something in you, Christine. Please let me know how that path treats you!


  4. Love this! Great post! I got a “hater email” today about how lifting weights was narcissistic! I wrote back & said fall down when you are older & see what happens to your bones & then some & talk to me! Well, did not say it exactly that way but handed out the facts! 🙂


    • Well I’ve never heard THAT one before! If I can’t motivate people to lift based on injury prevention, I see if they have any vanity desires. Because if they want to do it for narcissistic reasons, I SAY MORE POWER TO THEM. Lifting weights changes your body AND prevents injury and bone loss… Who can possibly see that as negative?!


  5. This may sound as though I’m taking this lightly when I say that as a start I bet everyone who comes into your gym could learn to fidget again and lose at least some extra padding that way! Parents and teachers who exhort kids to sit still have a lot to answer for…

    Once people have made it to your door (presuming the prices are prominently enough displayed outside it), and then disappear after a couple of sessions, I’m guessing that maybe they had unrealistic expectations of what they were going to achieve for the effort they were prepared to put into it?

    Alternatively, after a couple of goes they may have realised they just plain weren’t enjoying themselves and the results, though nice to have, wouldn’t be worth it to them?


    • You would think people would refuse to waste their money this way, wouldn’t you. It’s SO easy though to put off the gym even though you’re paying for it. Time goes by and before you know it, you’ve wasted several hundred dollars. I do this myself with my Netflix subscription… rarely watch the movies sitting in the drawer and don’t think twice about the $8.99 spent every month. I think the reasons you list for stopping are spot on. People think they can lose the weight by themselves (even though they haven’t or regain it) and don’t enjoy it to boot. That’s why if someone REALLY wants to reach a goal they’ve been unable to reach on their own, getting help is the smartest path.


  6. I suspect most people don’t really understand the long-term benefits of exercise and don’t actually realize the benefits until sometime down the road.

    I exercise regularly because I do think about what is at stake. If I want my quality of life to be a certain way when I’m 70, 80 and beyond I need to do something about it now. Most people are short sighted.

    I guess that just means I’ll have less competition in my age group when I hit 80!


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