Everyone’s fitness story is different. We’re all doing this for different reasons, using different methods to achieve different goals, but over my few years of training and committing to this lifestyle, I’ve found that patterns have emerged. And anytime that I feel I’ve been plateauing, I haven’t kicked and screamed and stomped my feet and stormed into the gym yelling IT’S NOT WORKING. I’ve sat back, I’ve assessed. What am I doing wrong?
And you know the problem that I find 9 times out of 10?
I’m not working hard enough.
I’ve been training on my own for around 3 years now. Occasionally I’ve had the pleasure of training with people who are more experienced than me and who gave me advice with my program but, for the most part, my team has been me, myself and I. I’ve loved doing it like this and I still do, but training by yourself takes another level of discipline. It’s a lot easier to push out 2 or 3 more reps when you’ve got your training buddy behind you pushing you on. But when it’s just you? It’s very easy to go easy on yourself. To think “okay, that was a warm-up, I’ll do more reps on the next set” or “maybe I’m a little tired today, I’ll skip this exercise.” It’s easier to underperform when you’re the only one who’s watching the show.
The number one reason that you are under-performing and therefore not making progress is because you are underestimating yourself, regardless of who you train with. Lifting weights, running miles, attending fitness classes: these things aren’t supposed to be easy. We see these people on Instagram doing workout videos looking like they just walked off a movie set, so you think it’s okay if you saunter through your workout without breaking a sweat.
Wrong. Here’s a simple rule: if you want to progress, you gotta get ugly. Sweaty. Red in the face. You have to train hard and you have to push yourself. You have to struggle.
It’s difficult to know your limit, I know. It’s difficult to know which pace to run at, which weight is “heavy” enough, but the only way you will find this out is through experience and pushing yourself. I know what weight is right for me because by the last few reps I’m really struggling, but I manage to finish. I know what running pace is right for me because it makes my heart go wild, but I manage to finish without stopping. You’re not supposed to place your weights down after 10 reps and think “oh, that was easy”. If it’s easy, do more. More weight. More reps. More volume.
There are far too many people in the world getting mad about their mediocre results when they’re putting in mediocre effort. Do you really think that the bikini comp champs or the founders of Gymshark or the World’s Strongest Man got where they are by sitting down after a day’s work and NOT feeling exhausted? NOT feeling like they gave their all? Of course they didn’t. They committed to their goal every single day and worked until they achieved it, pushing themselves at every stage.
Now, if you’re happy to cruise along with what you have, that’s fine. But don’t ever complain. Do not ever moan about what you have when you are not willing to execute the required action to make a change. There’s some days I know I don’t put my all in but I’m okay with that. There’s days where I don’t study or I don’t work as hard at the gym because there’s other things I want to focus on: there’s other parts of me which I feel need more attention. But I don’t ever then complain about the effect that has on whatever it is I’ve neglected. If I were to fall behind in my studies, I wouldn’t complain. I wouldn’t blame the universe. That shit’s on me. If I were to lose my level of fitness or put on loads of weight because I’d been too lazy or hadn’t been working to the best of my ability, I wouldn’t dare sit and whinge about it. Because it’s under my control. Because I taught myself years ago: I shouldn’t have the right to complain about things which I have the ability to change.
So you want to know why you’re not progressing? Ignorance. You are completely unaware of your abilities and you are repeatedly underestimating yourself. And instead of analysing your actions, you stomp your feet and say it’s not fair, which doesn’t get you any closer to your goal, does it?
So here’s my advice.
Stop what you’re doing. Assess. Ask yourself “What am I doing right? What seems to be working?”. Great. Fantastic. Keep doing that. Then, perhaps most importantly, ask “What am I doing wrong? What is holding me back?”. And whatever it is, stop it. Right now. Change. And then, perhaps most importantly of all, ask: “Am I really giving my all?”. You are a human being and you are capable of anything, so quit underestimating yourself. Do not live a life so far below your true potential, only because you never bothered to explore exactly what you were capable of. Push yourself to the edge, in all aspects of your life, and you’ll never stop progressing.