Just last week I turned 43 years old. It's crazy how time just flies. 2016 was a year of therapy and recovery for me. After I ran the marathon last year, I wasn't able to participate in any century rides or any other endurance events for that matter. I decided I was going to focus on truly healing my leg issues, (knee injuries, achilles tendinitis and plantar fasciitis). If you've been following my journey on social media and on my previous blogs, I have made a huge improvement. Since I was getting better, I decided to go see a therapist and get checked out to see if I needed orthotics to avoid future injuries. To make a long story short, I've been using orthotics for two weeks now and I began to develop a huge, hard, painful, bump on the top of both my feet. I developed tendinitis on a new area of both my feet to where I can barely move my fat toes because the pain is so bad. This really bummed me out because I was really praying I would be ready to run the L.A. Marathon this year. With this new injury, there's no way I'm going to put my feet and legs through that kind of stress with an injury so close to the event date.
I was so bummed that I came to the point where I just wanted to say, "the "F" with everything" and just stop. I composed myself and forced myself to go out and train, and man it was a hard workout that day, (it was a back and shoulder workout). This got me thinking... If I wanted to quit and throw in the towel, even for that moment... I can understand why so many people who have health and fitness goals give up. Here's a list of what I feel are the biggest reasons people fail in health and/or fitness.
1. It's not a priority
Most people don't have a big enough reason to make their health and fitness a priority. An example is all the people who make a new year's resolution and don't follow through with it. People just say what they want, but never act on it. It's a wish, a dream, something they would like to happen, but it's not important enough for them to act on that dream. For me, I guess I was lucky that I've been an athlete since I was born thanks to my dad. Baseball was my sport as a kid and through my high school and college years. But I also, ran, played soccer and I've always been an all-around type of athlete. In nutrition though, I was horrible, but there were a few big incidents that have changed that around for me.
I used to eat McDonald's breakfast before a mountain bike race and Twinkies and Honey Bee rolls after my rides. Now, I am certified in nutrition, specialized in fitness nutrition and I've gotten to the point where I eat organic, avoid gluten, GMO's, and processed foods as much as possible. I'm not perfect, but I would say a good 90% of the time, I eat pretty darn healthy. This started back in high school when I stopped drinking milk. After my dad's passing of a heart attack in 2000, then my mom survived breast cancer in 2013, and the most recent incident, my baby almost dying on us with pneumonia in 2015, I made drastic changes to my nutrition. Every event led me to take a step closer to eating and making healthier choices. I made it my priority because I wanted to be an example for my friends and family and I want to live a long healthy life.
To summarize, if you want to have a healthier and more fit life, then you must make it a priority. You must make the decision to make healthier choices when it comes to your eating habits and you must make the time to train.
2. Wanting results "yesterday"
It's nothing new that these days, people expect things immediately. From fast cell phone services, to fast internet services to fast food, this has now carried into people's health and fitness decisions. People want to lose 100 pounds in a week. Yeah, I know I exaggerated, but you get the point. There's so much marketing about "magic pills" that'll make you lose weight by sitting on your butt all day. Then there's all of these companies that have the 30 day challenges, 60 day challenges, and 90 day challenges, that push people to get "fast results".
"Magic pills" don't work, period. You can get quick results. But the damage done to your health and body with these products that suppress your appetite and claim to burn fat while you sit at your desk is not worth it in my opinion. In the long term, your body becomes resistant to these products and just like drugs, you need higher doses. By that time, you've already caused damages that make it harder for you to become healthier. Just because people have 6-packs and look good on the outside, doesn't mean they're healthy on the inside.
The challenges are cool. I was part of a company that promoted a challenge and I saw upsides but at the same time I saw many downsides to it. People lose weight quickly, but a few months down the road after their first challenge, they're on the challenge again because they regained the weight. Also, if they didn't win or didn't lose a certain amount of weight during the challenge, they'd give up or stop completely. Even if they lost 10 or 15 pounds during their challenge.
There's obviously the exceptions, but the exceptions are very few compared to the people who quit and go back to their previous states or get worse. Just look at the contestants from the "Biggest Loser". Most of them are worse off than when they started in the TV show.
When someone starts a business and invests $1 million in that business, I can assure you that this person is going to give it they're all to make their business become profitable no matter what it takes and how long it takes. One would think that our health would be priceless, but people's actions say a totally different story. We know that eating and drinking greens is healthy for us and they can give us unlimited health benefits. But if people don't lose weight, build muscle or even "cure" something like cancer after a week of eating or drinking more greens, most people just stop and go back to their lousy eating habits that got them the way they are in the first place. If people would approach their health and fitness like if they invested $1 million into their bodies, it wouldn't be a 30, 60, or 90 day "diet". On the contrary, it would be a lifetime journey and one would do whatever it takes and work as long as it takes to get the healthy results they're looking for.
To summarize, go into a health and fitness plan understanding that it's for the long term. You're investing in your health so that you can live healthy and be fit for the rest of your life and not just for the next 30 to 90 days. If you enter a challenge, that's great! Use it as a kick starter, but whatever your results, get on a plan that is sustainable for the long term.
3. Approaching health and fitness like if you were an expert
I've been an athlete my whole life. But it wasn't until I studied, got certified, did some extensive research and on top of that I practiced and trained in my craft that I actually learned how to train correctly. I learned how to train specifically for different sports and I learned how to get results, like weight loss, muscle gain, strength, speed, power, endurance, etc., and I'm still learning. I'm still taking courses and seminars about health, nutrition, the body, exercise, kinetics and I plan on learning more and more everyday.
Most people think they know about health and fitness because they saw a YouTube video or read something online. They go to the local supplement/vitamin shop and load up on protein powders, bars, pre-workout drinks and supplements. In reality they have no clue about what they're doing and worse, they have the wrong information and don't know it. Then when they don't get the results, they get frustrated and quit. In business I learned that if I wanted to be successful, I needed to learn from the people who had already done it and had success. If I want to become a millionaire, I need to learn from a millionaire and not from someone who's making a couple thousand, right? Well, it's interesting how people will follow health and fitness advice from people who are out of shape, sick, obese, never played a sport before or trained for anything. Unfortunately, so many people will go to the gym and have no idea on how to train. Most people workout so hard their first couple of days, get super sore and stop working out within a week. Then they get on a diet that just doesn't make sense. It's not sustainable. They lose weight the first week or two, or they get a little muscle, then like 3 weeks into it, they start to feel like shit. Then they stop losing weight or they stop seeing gains; so what happens next? Most people quit.
Am I saying you have to get certified in fitness and nutrition to get started? No. But creating a plan personalized for YOU is necessary. Talking to an expert, a personal trainer, or someone who has gotten the results you're looking for so that you can at least get started in the right direction would be a smart thing to do.
To summarize, do some research and talk to an expert or someone who has gotten the results you're looking for and create a personalized plan to help you get started in the right direction. Creating a plan is part of getting started. When you start a business, you create a business plan and prepare before you begin to sell products or services, right? Approach your health and fitness the same way. It doesn't take that long to create a nutrition and fitness plan compared to a business plan.
4. Making the wrong plan and/or an unsustainable plan
When people start their nutrition and fitness plans, their expectations are to look like the fitness models on the cover of magazines or to run like the Kenyans. There's nothing wrong with shooting for the stars, but people will make plans that start off too fast or too hard. They go from one extreme to another and expect immediate results. They want to go from drinking 6 Diet Cokes a day and hamburgers or burritos everyday to all of a sudden becoming vegan. Again, I'm exaggerating, (actually I'm not), I know someone like this... but you get the point. Yeah, this person didn't last a week as a vegan. Why? Again, there was no preparation, especially in this case.
A 400 pound person wants to lose weight, but the mistake I see often is that they get on a diet plan and a training plan that's suited for a body builder. A good trainer or nutrition coach wouldn't make such a drastic change. Depending on the person's habits, abilities, will power and urgency, sometimes it's best to start with baby steps. An example would be to take away the Diet Coke and replace it with water or instead of drinking 6 Diet Cokes a day, bringing it down to 1 a day. Then a week or two, or even a month later, make another small adjustment or two. The same with fitness. Maybe starting with walking 50 to 100 meters would be a better option than to begin training like a body builder. I have personally seen examples like this and people get discouraged and/or injured. Back in the day when I used to eat McDonald's, my wife started working with a trainer at the local gym. My wife never did sports and weighed over 200 pounds. The trainer failed to make an initial assessment and on her first day, the trainer gave her exercises that involved her jumping... since then, my wife has had knee problems that have limited her to this date. She never went back to that gym.
People will go from being a couch potato to wanting to go to the gym 5 days a week. I can appreciate the wanting to work hard and getting started, but it's not often that these people have success. Most people quit within their first month. Why? Because they went from one extreme to the other. The idea looks great in your mind and on paper. It feels good in the beginning, but once the hard work begins, the feeling of excitement and motivation is gone, so they stop.
In summary, create a sustainable plan that fits your lifestyle. Take small steps to start off. As you progress, increase the intensity and make small or big adjustments depending on how you feel. It doesn't mean to go easy. It means to make it sustainable and progressive.
5. Lack of Motivation
Not having an "Urgent Why". Most people don't know what their "Why" is. If they have a "Why", it's not Urgent enough to make them move and do whatever it takes to make it happen. If you saw a man drowning in a pool that had a shark, would you jump in and save that man? If it was your baby, would you jump in and save your baby? Did you hesitate in any of these two questions? Which one had more urgency? I would have to guess that your baby had more urgency. Most people don't have a "Why" this urgent and it's the reason why people don't do the things they say they want to do. So if you don't have a "Why", how can you stay motivated?
For me the best thing to do is to join clubs/teams and/or events like running, cycling, or triathlons. There's other clubs/teams and events like Cross Fit, Mud races, Spartan, Body Building, Martial Arts, and there's a long list. Running and endurance events are the easiest because there's no need for equipment, except for a good pair of running shoes and/or a bike. In all my years of competing and being around the fitness and nutrition industry, I have seen more success stories with people who put their focus on participating or competing in an event, like a 5K, 10K, half marathon, etc. For the most part, people want to lose weight, but when that's their only focus, it becomes boring. When there's no immediate results, it becomes discouraging. When you sign up for an event, first you work hard because you paid for the event. But as the date gets closer, there's excitement, the focus is no longer on how much you weigh, but on training to complete your event. Then after you complete your event, you tell yourself, it was tough, but man it felt great! Then you tell yourself, I know I can beat my time, or I can do better, so you sign up for another race or event. Even better, you begin to meet people, new friends, and people who are on a similar journey as yourself. All of a sudden, it becomes about how good it feels when you're around other people who are going through the same struggles as you and are doing something positive in their lives to become better. Then you add the friendly competition. It becomes fun. Then you realize you found your "Why"! Believe me, it won't be about your weight, but about something more important and meaningful in your life.
In summary, when you get involved in a sport, a team, a club, or an event, and put your focus on something else other than your weight, it becomes your motivation. I have seen more success stories about health and fitness in environments like running, cycling and triathlons, (endurance events), than in any other sport or with people who have tried dieting and exercising at a gym alone. When I say "success stories", I'm referring to results that are long term and sustainable. Not the 30, 60, 90 day temporary success stories we hear about that soon turn into people going back to their old ways.
I believe the people who get involved in clubs or sporting events achieve the long term, sustainable results because the focus goes from the person's weight to the event. Just by being active and eating better to have better recovery and better results, that alone will have a huge impact on a person's health. Wanting to be better prepared for your event is also motivation for you to go to the gym and train. Plus there's the people you meet along the way that begin to help and motivate you. To achieve long term, sustainable results, in my opinion, becoming part of an active environment, like running, cycling or triathlons, becomes a lifestyle that can be fun, bring excitement, adventure, challenge, growth, and so many benefits that one doesn't get by just dieting and going to the gym. That ongoing motivation is a great way to keep you from quitting and failing in your health and fitness journey.
6. Setbacks and Injuries
The inevitable setbacks and injuries that even the best of the best run into. We can take all of the steps to help us prevent injuries, but one movement, or loose rock or a bad move on the field all of a sudden leaves you with a sprained ankle, or shin splints, or broken bones. It happens even to the professional athletes. Then life happens, our baby gets sick or you have to travel for business and your training plan gets interrupted or challenged. Then there's the weddings, birthday parties, quinceañeras and company parties where you eat all kinds of food, drink and you get off your nutritional plan. I know a handful of people that one setback will throw off their psyche. They see it as a sign that it's not meant for them, they lose motivation, so they throw in the towel. I felt like giving up when I woke up with two big, painful, bumps on the top of my feet and my therapist friend told me I had tendinitis and recommended I lay off running for a few days. After a year of recovering and training, I get a new unexpected injury with only 3 weeks of the L.A. Marathon. I was heart broken. Not being able to participate in the L.A. Marathon this year was a big downer for me.
The only thing I can say is to remember that we want to be healthy and fit for the rest of our lives. There's always ups and downs in every aspect of our lives, but I've learned to live with appreciation. So everything that happens to me, I appreciate the experience and do the best to learn from it. For me it's simple. Do I get frustrated or upset when I have setbacks? For a moment I will, but I'll remember that God is giving me a lesson. So if I get off my plan for a day or two or even a week, I'll just start where I left off, or make the necessary adjustments to continue. If I have an injury, there's always different ways of staying active, even while watching TV, or sitting at my desk. If my feet and legs are injured, I can work on my upper body. If my arm or shoulder is injured, then I can work on my lower body. I take the necessary rest to heal, but once I can move, I'll get active in one way or another.
To summarize, setbacks and injuries are a part of life. It helps us grow as people and it's what makes life exciting and keeps it interesting. Even plateaus can be seen as setbacks. Plateaus are when you stop seeing progress and sometimes it feels like you're going backwards. When setbacks happen, if you're not injured, just continue your plan where you left off. Many times, small adjustments are needed, which is part of nutrition and fitness anyways. If you get an injury, take the days needed to heal, but you can always stay active in different ways.
To get long term, sustainable results, remember that we want to be healthy and fit for the rest of our lives. Create a plan that fits your lifestyle and make the proper adjustments so that you keep progressing even when you have setbacks. Finally, have fun and enjoy your journey to a healthier and fitter YOU!
Thank you for reading!
Jose Nilo aka Coach Nilo