Last year, I really wanted to build some muscle and “get fit”. I was too cheap to pay for a personal trainer, so I got hold of a copy of the Bikini Body Guide (BBG). As you can tell from the name, it’s a self-run fitness program. For ladies.
I tried the first session and almost died. Somehow, I managed to stumble through 6 weeks of
hell training, but I hit a wall when it started involving weights (I was too cheap to buy them).
Over the years, I’ve tried to get fitter on my own. I’ve never been excessively overweight or anything, but I’ve always wanted to rock a tight T-shirt.
And so I’d bounce from one training regime to another. BBG was just the latest in a whole slew of self-run training programs that I’ve tried over many years: One Hundred Pushups, Gretchen Reynolds’ Scientific 7-Minute Workout, Bright Side’s 28-Day Workout, etc.
For every program I tried, I’d start off really strong and then give up halfway for various reasons: I wasn’t seeing results, I went on vacation, I got really busy… etc.
Taking the advice of productivity blogger Scott Young, I saw the circle: The cascade of behaviours leading me to give up whenever I tried working out from home. Something had to change.
And so in early Jan, I bit the bullet and joined a personal training gym. After 4 weeks of being on the program, here’re a couple of lessons I’ve learnt:
Trust The System
Fitness is one of those arenas where everyone has an opinion on everything (Kinda like personal finance, if you think about it). “Don’t eat carbs! Do heavier weights with fewer reps! Interval training is the most effective!” Yadda yada yada.
While researching on the internet, it’s easy to get confused by the 1,001 contradicting opinions. Often, I’d start a training program or diet regime, then immediately get disheartened when I read a piece of evidence claiming that the program was ineffective / harmful.
Well, joining a personal training gym forced me to trust the system. It didn’t matter what I read online, or heard from my friends, or how badly I thought my body was aching. Twice a week, I’d simply show up and do the day’s program. They told me what to eat and how much of it I should eat. While I was doing the exercises, they’d show me what was good form and I could get the most out of each rep.
In other words, I trusted the system. In a world of confusing, conflicted opinions, it was nice to be able to ignore everything else and listen to just one voice telling me what to do.
Accountability Is Key
I’m not gonna lie – this personal training thing is expensive! Years ago, I would never have forked out that kind of cash.
But now that I have, I’m now forced to show up or let those sessions go to waste. Lots of people use that argument as a justification to join a big box gym (Think Fitness First, True Fitness, etc), but being accountable to an actual human being is a whole new level.
Every week, my coach will ask me when I plan to show up next week. Then he keys the appointment into his Google calendar. I signed up for a set number of sessions, and after a certain deadline those sessions are gone and void.
There were days when I absolutely had to drag myself out of bed (remember that epic rainy Monday before Chinese New Year?), but I still got my butt down to the gym anyway – wet shoes and all – because I’d already signed up for it.
Sometimes, You Just Need Someone To Push You
I don’t know about you, but I hate the feeling when I can’t complete what I set out to do. For example, if I set out to do 12 reps, I’d stack the weights such that I can juuuust make it. Why? Because if I only managed to hit 10 reps, I’d feel like a failure.
My coach saw me do this, and promptly told me to increase my weights. “Every set should be just beyond your limits,” he said, “You should be dropping weights and dropping reps with every set.”
In other words, he was telling me to stop being a wuss and push myself. I increased the weights (trust the system, right?), huffed and puffed, and completed my 12 reps.
Sometimes, you just need someone to push you beyond your (fake) limits.
Which Other Areas Are You Stuck At?
The results? Four weeks into the program, and I’ve lowered my body fat percentage by 3% and increased my lean mass by 1.1. I also feel a lot stronger/fitter – but I’m not sure how much of it is a placebo effect. It’s still way too early to tell if this will truly be a sustainable success, but the initial results are promising.
I’m sharing my experience because it’s applicable in so many areas of life: Fitness, money, social skills, negotiation, persuasion, cooking, presentation skills, etc.
If we wanted to improve in these skills, we’d first try to do it ourselves: Read a book, follow an article online, watch a video, etc. BUT many of us remain stuck there: We try a couple of things before it peters out. We plateau at a certain level.
Self-help is great. But beyond the basic free material, maybe what we really need to get to the next level is a coach: Whether that’s an actual person, a premium online course, or an accountability partner.
Now, I’d love to hear from you: Which areas of life do you really want to improve on, and what can you use to help you break through? Let me know in the comments below.