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When I was working 6-8 hours straight with clients, I thought I was doing well.

I had a pretty high resign rate meaning that well over half of my clients were continuing to work with me month after month. We were having fun! We would laugh, they would sweat, I would get paid. Seems like everyone got what they wanted.

Almost.

I’d say that maybe 60% of my clients were making progress towards their goal. That’s not great when you’re paying $100+ an hour for a workout.

Truth be told, I could have done better. Looking back now, there are several things I would have changed to increase their chance of success. I want to share those items with you now. Whether you’re at the peak of your fitness or just getting started, I think improving your health is simpler than you might imagine.

Going back, here are the four items I would emphasize for someone looking to get in shape.

Build small habits that yield big results.

Whenever someone sat down with me and said they wanted to lose weight, I would launch into an all out assault on their lifestyle.

They were too sedentary.

Their diet wasn’t good enough.

They weren’t lifting enough. And, the lifts they were doing? Don’t get me started.

They weren’t sleeping enough throwing their hormones all out of whack.

No wonder they left the consultation confused.

Fitness doesn’t need to be super hard. You don’t need to eat a perfect diet. You don’t need to do that one particular exercise. It’s really just a matter of building a few simple habits that culminate with you living a healthier life. Here are a few:

  • Don’t eat out for a month. Force yourself to cook every meal.
  • Go to bed at the same time every night and make sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep.
  • Drink 80 oz of water a day on top of whatever else you might drink.
  • Sweat for at least 20 minutes a day for five days out of the week.

Practice each habit for two to three weeks until you can master it 90% of the time. Then, move on to the next one while maintaining the first habit. The habits will eventually become routine.

Find something you’re interested in that moves you.

I really don’t care what it is. You just have to sweat while doing it.

Racquetball? Hell yes.

Rock climbing? Of course!

Running? Go for it!

The sport doesn’t actually matter at all. One sport isn’t necessarily better than the other. The point is to get involved with a group and find a community of individuals that are interested in being active.

Fact: If you the majority of your friends are sedentary, you’re more likely to be sedentary.

So, get involved with a new group. Join a group ride if you want to get involved in cycling. Join your local running club on Sunday mornings. Sign-up for a powerlifting competition and find others to train with.

Whatever you’re doing, find someone else to do it with you.

Fix the rest of your life first.

If I had to put the various factors that play into your health in order of importance, it would go something like this:

  1. Personal sanity
  2. Support system
  3. Nutrition
  4. Workouts

Even the hardest workout in the world doesn’t do you any good if you are stressed to the max, the house is full of screaming kids when you get home, and your dinner consists of Cheetos and a diet soda.

Trying to get in better shape without addressing the other areas is a bit like filling a flat tire with air but not removing the nail that caused the problem. You’re addressing the result of the issue, not the cause.

More often than not, you didn’t get out of shape because you skipped a gym session here or there. Missed workouts were probably the icing on the cake on top of a mountain of other poor choices.

When people fail at losing weight or getting in better shape, it’s not usually due to their workouts. It’s normally due to the combination of the other items mentioned above. They aren’t getting enough sleep, which screws with their hormones. They come home for dinner, and their spouse has fried chicken and mashed potatoes on the table.

Certain times are just better than others for losing weight.

Before you starting kicking your ass in the gym, make sure you’re actually ready to be serious. Make sure you have your other ducks in a row. Talk to family and friends and be sure they’re onboard. Tell your boss you can’t take on that extra project that leaves you working until 9pm at night.

Being successful at improving your health is the result of an entire game plan executed well, not one particular play going perfectly.

Favor consistency over everything else.

I once had a client that absolutely refused to go to the gym on his own. Considering we only worked out together twice a week for 30 minutes at a time, we weren’t making much progress.

He really had no excuse for not coming to the gym. He lived close enough. He had the time. His wife was already coming most days.

Rather than berate him for not coming, I thought of a different strategy. I challenged him to come to the gym three days a week and have lunch. His office was close. We had a great cafe full of healthier food than he was going to find at the neighboring restaurants.

Within a few weeks, he began adding a few minutes of cardio to those lunch visits. In his mind, it was a wasted trip if he only ate. Success.

In the beginning, it matters less what you do while you’re in the gym and more that you establish a habit of going to the gym or working out in the first place.

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Building small habits, joining a group, fixing the rest of your life, and favoring consistency are far more important than whether you’re doing high reps or low reps in the gym. Getting in shape doesn’t have to be that complicated. Make the above choices and let the rest take care of itself.

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