That’s quite the audacious title but it’s something that I’ve noticed from working with a lot of people, and seeing a lot of successes and failures across a large range of goals and situations. At the end of the day, a major personality trait emerges that helps determine who will be successful and who will fail in whatever their quest may be.
Think about how long the average person spends on a diet plan to lose weight. In a 12 month research trial looking specifically at adherence, Alhassan et al (2008) showed only one member of 232 research subjects lasted a full 12 months (specifically they were on the Ornish diet structure), with the average adherence decreasing from baseline to month 2, month 6, and on to month 12. Only 9 members of the 232 subjects had complete adherence to 6 months, which is a success rate of less than 4%.
The interesting thing is that when looking at these weight loss plans, they all produced results IF they stayed up on the plan.
We see an example of this every January following New Years Resolutions. People get a gym membership and show up to the gym to work out consistently for a couple of weeks, and then fall off the face of the earth. Most people return to old habits by Valentines Day.
It’s easy to get discouraged if you aren’t seeing hard results from a lot of hard work in a month or two. In that same time an entire house can be renovated and sold, so it’s understandable to see why someone would be less than impressed if they were busting their butt hard for 60 days and only seeing a 2 lb weight loss or an increase in strength of 5lbs on their major lifts.
We live in a very instant gratification society, so the idea of 1-5 year goalsetting seems to be lost on a lot of people when it comes to achieving their goals. The downside is that the best results tend to come at the beginning of a fitness plan, and then through the long tail of the lifespan of training.
Consider training to improve strength. Initially, you likely couldn’t move the empty bar, but over time you started to add some weight and feel pretty good. Eventually the limit of neural-specific strength gains was reached and you hit a bit of a plateau, which many will call the end of “Newbie Gainz.” From then on, you had to see improvements through things like refined technique and physiological adaptations, which may be arduously slow depending on the tissue adapting. Muscle can adapt pretty quickly, but things like ligamnets, tendons and fascia can take a loooooong time, often many years to see increased collagen density to handle heavier loading.
This doesn’t mean that progress is non-existent, just slower.
Looking at muscle mass increases, the rate that most people can increase lean body mass without subsequent increases in fat mass decreases with experience. This Article outlines some excellent examples of upper end improvements in optimal situations. It should be noted that in these examples they’re looking at growth over the span of an entire year, not simply over a couple of weeks, with the average being 1-2 lbs per month of dedicated hard training.
For someone who checks in after a month of solid hard training and only sees that they’ve gained a single solitary pound of brick-hard beef, they might get pretty disappointed. Likewise for the individual looking to lose weight and bust their butt on cardio machines and weighing their bananas to only see a single pound of weight loss in a month.
Spot-change goals are in the same category. People want thicker butts, thinner waists, reduced arm jiggle, and all sorts of things and usually want it right now. Most before and after photos that show physical changes are typically over a relatively extended period of hard, dedicated training, usually around a year or more. Have you ever seen a remarkable and unedited before and after on Instagram with a time window of only 30 days? Likely not, unless the individual had surgery or something, or in the case of my client, something more incredible.
Want thicker glutes? Work hard and give it time.
Want to drop some bodyfat? Work hard and give it time.
Want to get uncomfortably strong? Work hard and give it time.
Want to overthrow the government and create a race of superhuman fitness soldiers hell-bent on following your every order and delivering greater amounts of power to you through military conquest? That’s messed up, yo.
Whatever goal you’re looking to achieve, play the long game. Be in it for a 3-5 year commitment, keep consistent, be humble, and keep patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was a bangin backside.