What Is the Secret to Success?

I’ve been at this game for a long time, and I am still amused when people ask what the key to success is.

I’ve been at this game for a long time, and I am still amused when people want the secret. What often happens is two people start training at roughly the same time. One of them works often and hard, both in and out of the gym. He doesn’t half-ass anything. He watches his food intake, drinks lots of water, eliminates most alcohol, and applies himself fully in the gym. The other person….doesn’t.

At some point, that second person will always come to me and ask when they can start real training. He will usually ask about whatever program the other person is on. He seems perplexed when I say the other person is using the exact same program and diet information I gave both of them when they signed up. The only difference is in application.

Successful Change

As a case in point, I recently spent some time speaking with a good friend who has lost a considerable amount of weight – about 100lb/45kg. He hasn’t been to a gym or had help of any kind. This is amazing to me because I know how hard it is for people to lose that much weight. I’ve seen it time and again. Some are successful, but many aren’t. Even the successful people often lapse back to old habits not long afterwards. The contestants on The Biggest Loser often succumb to this trap.

So I had to ask this guy, who had been overweight for most of his adult life – what changed? What was it that made him make this massive change to his life?

Small Steps

His story was fantastic. At Christmas he bought a Fitbit for his wife. By chance, two of them turned up. He decided to keep the spare one and enter into a small bit of friendly rivalry with some other parents in his area. His goal at this point was simply the 10,000 daily steps.

This little bit of friendly competition spurred him on to look into other ways he could use the Fitbit. He noticed that apart from the walking there were metrics for sleep, diet, weight loss, and more.

So he began with something simple. He punched in the numbers for how much he weighed and what he wanted to weigh, and the device told him how much to eat. He had no idea what those numbers meant, so he bought a set of food scales. The first time he weighed his food, it was four and a half times more than he should have been eating, even though it was all healthy. That simple fact made weight loss easy. For one month, he weighed all his food. Now it comes naturally to him.

“There is no difference between a weight-loss plan and a lifestyle fitness plan, except for some minor calorie restrictions to help lose weight. The only secret is consistent application of basics.” 

His next change was water intake. Like the food, he quickly realized that to get his star for the day he needed to increase his water intake to five times what he had been drinking.

After that was sleep. It can be tough for parents to get to bed early by the time you put the kids to bed, clean up a bit, and maybe get some extra work done, but he was only getting six hours a night. Now he gets seven, which is still a bit short of ideal, but by the end of the week, one extra hour per night is equivalent to an entire night’s worth of sleep.

After these changes to his eating, water consumption, and sleep habits, he was feeling pretty good. So he started running a few days per week. The first time he went for a run, he couldn’t even run 400m nonstop. But, as anyone who starts running will tell you, that quickly changes. Ten months later, he is running around 45km per week with a long run of 15km on the weekend, and his 10km PR is around 50 minutes.

Consistency Is King

This is where I came in. He came to me because he wanted to add more to his training but didn’t know where to start. Because he travels a lot for work, trying to give him an actual gym program to follow is kind of a waste of time. But I pulled out my faithful copy of Scrapper’s Mod 1 (bodyweight conditioning) and told him to use that when he has time. Realistically, between his three or four weekly runs, if he can get in two or three Mod 1 workouts each week, he will be in fantastic shape.

My friend doesn’t have a special Fitbit that does the work for him. Fitbits were one of the highest selling presents last year at Christmas, but the problem is no one uses them. Maybe they pay attention to one of the markers, with little regard for everything else. Perhaps they are tracking everything, but aren’t being honest with themselves about how much work they’re doing or what they’re eating.

In other words, the only special thing in my friend’s case is that he actually followed the Fitbit’s metrics and acted accordingly. No secrets or special Russian training plans.

A Simple Concept

My clients often think I am doing something more advanced than they are. I must be, right? After all, how does a guy my age stay at 10 percent body fat and do all the athletic things I do? Well, I get eight hours sleep each night. I don’t drink alcohol, and I make sure to drink 2.5-3L of water daily. I track my food. And I try to get in an hour (at least) of exercise daily. In other words, I am doing the same things my good friend does.

There is no difference between a weight-loss plan and a lifestyle fitness plan, except for some minor calorie restrictions to help lose weight. The only secret is consistent application of basics. 

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