Thursday, November 20, 2014

From The Perspective Of A Fitness Professional

What a trainer really thinks you need to do

The Five Mental Factors Of Getting In Shape And Being Happy


By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here

As a fitness professional and a personal trainer, these are the attitude changes a person must make if they want to get in shape and live a happy life.

Want, Willingness, Adherence, Need, and Happiness


Wanting something, and willingness and discipline to get something are not the same. You may want to learn how to swim but you may not do all the things it takes to actually learn how to swim. Increasing want does not automatically raise all the other parameters needed to create change. The only thing that may go up with your want may be your sense of guilt and shame for not accomplishing your goal.

Being happy is paramount over any weight loss goal.

The battle is always with yourself
"I'm not in this world to live up to your expectations and you're not in this world to live up to mine."
— Bruce Lee

I really don't care if clients gain weight or not. If tomorrow they told me they no longer care and accept and love themselves however they are, I am completely on board. I'm not disappointed or angry if their weight fluctuates. I care about them as a person, I don't care about their weight nor does their weight affect my opinion of what kind of person I think they are. From my experience, it is people's bias and self-judgement against themselves that is the biggest thing holding them back.

Dogs have trainers, people have teachers.

This is why trainers need to become coaches because we should be more than exercise overseers, we need to deal with the mental aspect of change. The need is to become facilitators of change and managers of productivity. We should provide solutions not shame. Objective feedback not judgment. We can help to change their weight, which is not the same as changing their value as a person. Motivation doesn't work, it just increases want. What people need are strategies and solutions.

Want: have a desire to possess or do (something); wish for.


Sometimes I find people want to lose weight but are unwilling to change. Either change or accept who you are -- when your want to change is high but your ability to change is low, misery is the only possible outcome. Self acceptance is a path to happiness, so is change. Change your wants or change your behavior. The leaner you want to become, the higher the sacrifices, the more work you must put in. It's a trade-off and the benefits should outweigh the sacrifices, otherwise it's not worth it, nor is it even healthy (physically or mentally). In a society telling you to be extreme, you must find balance.

Wanting is the easy part yet wanting alone does very little, no matter how much you want it. A highschooler may really want to date a particular person, it does not mean they will get or should get what they want. They meet your qualifications, do you meet theirs? There's other factors and variables involved, often times it involves developing those areas you find so attractive in others. Imagine how easy life would be if the only qualifying factor to getting something is wanting it, and any barrier can be overcome if you just want it more. If this were true, everyone would be tall, thin, beautiful, rich, and live forever.

"I want to do it," someone might say.

"Do it. Or don't," a sage might say; but it's not that easy. The difficulty lies in discipline. Discipline is difficult because it requires a changing of the self, rather than a changing of the act. Discipline is not just about attaining what you want, it also requires discipline to let go of the things you want. It's a two way street.

What people want is high output for very little input. Get something great for very little sacrifice. What I'm telling you is, if you want high output, you must put in high input. If you want more, put in more, if you don't want to put in more, appreciate what you already have or rebalance your wants.

Willingness: free choice or consent of the will; freedom from reluctance; readiness of the mind to do or forbear.


It's easy to feel guilty if you're not successful, you begin to doubt how much you wanted it. Others question it in a pseudo attempt at motivation -- "oh you must not have wanted it bad enough." It has nothing to do with want. The mistake is thinking if you really want something you'll do all the things needed to get it done. That's not true. We're fallible. That makes us human and that makes us amazing.

If you want change, make changes. If you can't or won't, love yourself the way you are. Your mind will play the biggest role in physical improvement. Want and willingness don't come hand in hand. Maybe it's not the right time in your life, maybe you're not in the right state. Maybe your outlook on life is bleak and you're unwilling. Then change your outlook before you try to change how you look. When you have no self acceptance and no willingness to change, you go down a destructive path.

Willingness is more determined by level of difficulty than it is by want. Want tells us nothing about capacity and capacity is a better determiner of what you can accomplish.

You hear and see amazing inspirational stories, and they make it sound like it's all about want. Not just weight loss stories, stories from survivors, athletes, rags to riches, and more. We love hearing it because we can all want, and if that makes success, then we can all be successful. That's not what makes these success stories. All these people who have succeeded where others have failed, succeeded because they had an extraordinary capacity to endure. We were all born with the ability to have an unlimited amount of want. We all vary in capacity. Want alone won't change that.

If you asked a room full of overweight people in a fitness class to raise their hand if they want to lose weight, every hand may go up. If you took an hour to outline and explain all the factual things it takes to lose and maintain weight loss without sacrificing health, and didn't sugar coat the difficulty level or how monotonous it may become -- then you asked these people to be truly honest with themselves and raise their hand only if they are 100% willing -- far fewer hands will be raised. No hands may be raised. They may leave the class and go to another class where they're told everything they want to hear. Fitness lies and telling people what they want to hear works because often times people are unwilling unless it's quick, simple, convenient, and easy. Fitness industry makes money, less people get fit.

There's another way, look at your willingness and see if you can change your attitude of quick and easy. Your attitude must change before you can change your aptitude. You can't change the fitness industry from using quick and easy to make a quick buck, you can however change yourself.

I once had a prospective client tell me she didn't think it was fair that she needed to change to see results and said she would find a trainer who wouldn't need her to change to get her the weight loss she desired. Change happens internally. If you don't change as a person, who will be the one to maintain all the external changes you're making? Who's lifestyle will manage your health? Who's habits will make sure the weight never comes back? You can't solve problems with the same mindset that created them.

She wanted a high amount of results but was only willing to put in a low amount of change. High input = high output. Another way to say this is, high change = high change. She wanted low change to equal high change. That's not possible. Best practices = best outcome, not even best workouts can create best outcome, you have to do more than just work out. You have to be willing to put in more than just that, unless you just want to get good at exercising.

Even shortcuts have a high amount of sacrifice, the sacrifice is to your health, well-being, and psyche.

Even Venus must reconcile who she is with how she wants to look

Even Venus must reconcile who she is with how she wants to look
Venus At Her Mirror by Diego Velázquez c. 1647–51.

Adherence: to stay attached; stick fast; to be devoted in support or allegiance; be attached as a follower or upholder; to hold closely or firmly.


You want it, you're willing, but you now need to adhere to the plan, you need to actually do it. At the end of the day, there are no more worksheets to fill out, seminars to attend, and self help books to read. You need to start and stick to it consistently.

No matter what, discipline and plain stubbornness will always be a part of the equation.

Only you can predict how well you can adhere. You need to take a leap of faith, you need to have trust in yourself and the process, and you need courage. None of these things can be provided for you. If you never pick a process -- just test the waters, look around for a better dance partner, you'll be stuck in a cycle of always looking for a person to dance with but never dancing.

Let's say what you want is on the other side of a giant tree. You're the lumberjack, you'll always be the lumberjack. No one can bear that responsibility for you. People can help sharpen your axe, teach you better ways to swing, encourage you, but only you'll know how hard, how often, how dedicated, and how committed you'll be to chopping that tree down. Every fitness program can only help in sharpening your axe. If they pretend like they can swing it for you; they aren't doing their job, your axe gets dull, and the results will speak for themselves. The thing about objective reality is, it always catches up to you.

It'll always be on you. You and I both know this to be the truth. You can address this fact and make informed decisions around it and create your ideal plan of attack that works around what you're capable of, or you can keep pretending and throw more of your time and money away.

The fitness industry will tell you it'll be easy and to leave it up to them. That your incapable of becoming mentally stronger, so you'll always need to rely on them. That's not empowerment. That's how they sell you stuff.

If you think you can come in and just ask how long it would take to get results, you're asking the wrong question. It would be better to ask, what are the things you can do to make things work more effectively? What changes can you make to be more consistent and maintain any of your gains? How can you be a better client so you can have maximal results in the most efficient amount of time? Then you do these things. Then you see your body and health change. Even the exercises you do won't be nearly as important as the mindset and attitude you bring to the table.

Based on your starting level, the further you have to go, the more steps involved. The more steps involved, the harder it becomes to adhere. The things it took to lose the first three pounds will not be the same steps to lose the last three pounds. How difficult it was for your friend will not be the same difficulty you'll have. What's your natural aptitude to adhere? We all have an extremely high aptitude for want, we all start with very different aptitudes for adherence. As you progress, you must constantly develop your ability to adhere. It's a skill and with practice it increases.

Adherence is built on discipline and you can't bypass discipline. Don't try. Instead cultivate discipline and make it your strongest character trait. If you do this, not only will your health improve, everything else including love and finances will improve. As a former financial advisor, what often separated a strong investor from a weak one was discipline. What defines weakness in general is lack of discipline.

Leaving it all up to someone else implies you're a machine ready to be programmed; you only need to be provided the right information and you'll do everything perfectly. People fail when they don't put failure into the equation. Take into account the length of your journey, if it's going to be long, there will be more opportunities to stumble, plan around that. If you have 40lbs to lose, the mistake is to think you can do it as quickly as someone only losing 4lbs. You must take your weaknesses, your humanity into account. Don't plan for perfect scenarios, plan for practical sustainable ones. Telling a smoker that smoking is bad will not make them stop just like telling an unhealthy eater that their food is unhealthy will not make them stop. It's not just about giving people the right information, it's about changing people's behaviors and attitudes.

You can't change while at the same time trying to remain comfortable... Human development has never been comfortable.

Adherence is about living the life. If you live a healthy life, you'll eventually look the part. If you try to look the part while living an unhealthy life, it will eventually show.

Need: circumstances in which something is necessary, or that require some course of action; necessity.


I knew someone who wanted to lose weight badly, but they were in a bad financial situation, bad relationship situation, and a bad career situation. On top of that their self image was prioritized around their ability to lose weight. Weight wasn't what this person needed to take care of, their weight would not resolve all the other things going on in their life. What they wanted and needed were not synced. This person would be better off handling those other matters, then they would have less of a reason to cope with food, they would have less of the root causes for their weight gain. Their life would benefit more.

Overeating and binging is seldom ever an issue regarding not knowing what's healthy. The causes are emotional and psychological, and if these root causes are never treated, the pattern will continue. Sometimes the weight starts to come off when they leave a toxic environment, get a new job, break up with someone, get counseling, decompress, make amends, forgive, yield, and let go. Diet and exercise works if the problem was lack of exercise and lack of dietary education. If the problem is rooted someplace else, diet and exercise alone will produce insignificant change. Sometimes the problem is medical in nature and needs to be treated by a physician first.

I get that weight loss is what you want, what you need may be something else. In the fitness industry you'll find people who can barely make ends meet borrow money or use credit cards to pay for weight loss methods. People will gladly take their money when what this person really needs to do is take care of their basic needs first. Some people believe everything will get better if they look better. That somehow if they look better they will have more value. What they need is to value themselves more, if they value themselves they'll be in a better position to take care of their health. If you focus on health rather than just beauty, beauty will become the effect of health. Focusing on beauty may not improve beauty (internal or external) and may worsen health (physical and mental).

If you're already in shape, is there a need to get in even better shape? If there is no need, why would you ever get there and be able to stay there?

Take into account ability, maybe there are forces or medical issues that need to be addressed first. Want what you need. If you ignore your needs, you'll be quickly reminded why they were your necessities in the first place. Losing weight is taxing and stressful enough as it is, don't ignore your needs and put even greater burden on your health journey. Weight may be the symptom of other life stresses. Dealing with weight then deals with the symptom, not with the cause. There's an old joke about a guy going to a doctor for a pain in his neck. No matter what doctor he went to, the pain only got worse. It was only after he got out of a toxic relationship did the pain in the neck go away. Only after you breathe a sigh of relief do some things work itself out.

Look at your priorities and make sure it's needs first. Look at your values and make sure they're prioritized. Meaningful over the superficial. Look at the sacrifices. If need doesn't match or surpass sacrifices, you'll become that unruly teenager who says, "I'm not going to do it unless I have to."

In martial arts, the student must become twice as good as the master to be perceived by the public to be an equal of the master. In fitness, depending on how large someone is, they must work twice as hard just to be perceived as having the work ethic of someone much smaller.

What makes me cringe is when someone who only had to lose ten pounds judges the effort of someone trying to lose a hundred pounds. It's not the same, its exponentially more difficult, they'll need even more discipline than you did, and need to work several times harder. They will not only have to do all the things you did to lose ten pounds but a whole lot more. That's not an excuse, that's just reality. That doesn't mean it's impossible, it means it'll just take longer. We must use these truths to create better plans and better decisions. If we believe there are viable shortcuts or we tell people it's simple and easy, we rob people of the actual life skills needed to create health. We'll continuously bypass it. We can't keep thinking of weight loss as being the same as buying a new jacket, you just put it on or take it off, it's that quick and easy. It's not a commodity or a purchase, it's complex skill development, just like learning to fly a plane. If we taught people how to fly like we taught people how to lose weight -- quick, simple, easy, convenient, and give them shortcuts -- flight schools would make money hand over fist and every plane would crash. Just like a crash diet. The context of most diet discussions is to explain how it didn't work for them. Everyone has failed at least once in their attempts to lose weight. This is why. If any skill from basketball to origami was taught like weight loss, there would be no one good at anything. Why are we making people so bad at getting healthy? Because we make it less about practice and more about service.

Happiness: delight, contentment, joy, a state of being at peace.


Actions create happiness
What is it that you want?
They say desire is the path to misery in Eastern philosophy. There is truth to that. Wanting it and not getting it is not the same as unfairness or cruelty. It's when want and willingness oppose each other that causes cruelty.

Fitness should be a business of compassion, whatever you ask of yourself is how we should accept you. You don't care about weight and just want to be stronger? Fine. Just more confident? Fine. Injury free? Fine. Move better? Fine. You want a lot of things but hate yourself for not getting it? Not fine.

We actually aren't the fattest country in the world. According to the World Health Organization there are some developing countries ahead of us. We are however the country that is the most unhappy and obsessed about their weight. We're the country that is the most unwilling to accept their weight. We have not reconciled our desire and our reality. If in Eastern thought, desire is the path to misery -- in the West, you are defined by your desires, your goals. You want it bad enough, the universe will answer your call, think and you'll grow rich, it's the secret.

Set more goals, goals after goals, endless goals, want, want, and more want. It's the consumerism of personal achievement. If you look ahead and see after this goal, there are just more goals, more expectations, why would you even hit your initial goal? It's why seemingly successful people can become so unhappy, they've achieved so much yet they know there's more goals, more expectations, more problems. You finally reach the mountain top and just see more mountain and it's steeper than before. It will mess with your head.

“That man is richest whose pleasures are cheapest.” — Henry David Thoreau

This is why often times people don't act -- do nothing about their health. They're paralyzed by the prospect of an endless chase. Don't base your happiness on attainment of your goals or wants. Learn to be happy and see what naturally comes out of that. Develop happiness like any other skill. Less consumerism more minimalism. It's tough to be smart, but smart to be tough. Toughen up.

Ambition is not a bad thing, it's about balancing your desires with your resilience. Your want with your willingness and capacity. When desire is high but resilience is low is when you get into trouble. Tony Robbins speaks about switching your expectations for appreciation if you want to change your outlook on life. That's not motivational, that's a winning strategy.

Do all the things, make all the choices every day that will be most effective at making you sustainably happy. Do not mistake fleeting pleasure with happiness. Think about why you want something. If in it's root it's about something else -- it's not really about weight it's really about value, or it's not really about eating too much it's about coping -- then get to the root. Do the meaningful not the superficial. Practice daily gratitude.

Resilience is like a muscle and like any other muscle, it needs to be exercised, built up, and developed. Without it, significance will be unattainable and you will lack the platform to build happiness. Being fit and healthy is just like anything else, it's about attitude and mindset. Build the mindset first, make external changes second.

Happiness comes from within
She doesn't look happy...
The thing that gets me about this picture is, she's not happy. That's an authentic look; that's why they went for this look, because that's a genuine feeling we recognize. Changing how you look doesn't necessarily mean it'll change how you feel. Happiness blooms from within.

You better position yourself to lose weight or get fit if you first figure out the things that add meaning to your life and the activities that make you happy. If your aim is to simply lose weight and you only do those activities associated with weight loss, the effect may be no sustained weight loss, worse self image, and more self judgement. You may become vapid and shallow, and it's only a matter of time before that reflects externally. Happiness is so much more than just about losing weight or a number on the scale.

Some people, no matter how much weight they lose, may never see themselves as thin. It's not automatic. Change yourself, change your mind, strengthen, otherwise you may sabotage yourself to match the low self image you've maintained for yourself.

Fortitude, discipline, and a healthy mindset are not the products of a good body. Often times it's the other way around: a good body is the product of fortitude, discipline, hard work, and a strong mindset. Honestly without all of these attitudinal changes, how would you ever get into the best shape of your life? And if you can apply it to your health, what would stop you from applying this mindset to everything else you want to improve? You can be fixed where you are or you can grow, the difference is attitude.

Don't let them fool you into believing you can be weak yet still create big changes. It takes a strong character to turn a diet into a lifestyle, to commit to consistent exercise, to avoid unhealthy social situations.

It takes strength to be happy. It takes a strong mind to accomplish great things. That's something you can develop if you know that's the expectation and are told that's what's required of you.

The Mental Roadmap


  • Want - Looking at a map and figuring out where you want to go.
  • Willingness - Figuring out the best course to take and how far you're willing to go.
  • Adherence - Staying the course without veering off, looking for shortcuts, getting lost, or giving up.
  • Need - Your life would improve by getting there. It's worth the sacrifices. There's no other place you should be. Making sure this is where you really need to go.
  • Happiness - No matter what happens, whether you actually end up there or someplace else all together, you can be happy just in the journey. Then wherever you go, that's where you needed to be and you're happier for it.

Balance all of these aspects out and you not only have a roadmap for fitness but you also have a roadmap to attain everything else. Fulfillment is attitude and mindset and the same mindset that can get fit is the same mindset that can create any other fulfillment.

A majority of the time, the only roadblock... is you.


Source: Must Triumph
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My name is Sam Yang. I'm a martial artist, entrepreneur, fitness nerd, information geek, and productivity nut. For more useful information, join my newsletter. You can also connect to All Out Effort on Facebook and Twitter.

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