Posted: November 4, 2022 at 4:29 pm

There are many things that I wish I could change about the fitness industry, and near the top of that list is the attitude with which people approach it.  Fitness should be a lifestyle, something you do for decades, not just something you do in the weeks leading up to your next beach vacation or high school reunion.

That said, fitness industry advertising bombards people with 30-day challenges, 7-day cleanses, and a bunch of other stuff that is more about sensationalizing the product or service they’re selling and less about the actual results they are delivering to people.  Given that the overwhelming amount of content that the typical person sees is centered around these short-term (and extreme) plans, it is no wonder why so many people have a hard time looking at the big picture when it comes to their fitness.

As seems to be customary, this time of year a lot of people start setting their sights on the new year to begin taking their health and fitness more seriously.  With that in mind I would like to share some thoughts and strategies that I think can help.

To start out, let’s establish that it takes immensely more work to initially achieve a level of something that it does to sustain that level.  For example, if you wanted to become a physician it takes an enormous amount of work in under-grad, in medical school, residency, and so on in order to achieve the coveted title of physician.  However, once you have earned that designation it takes comparably much less work to keep that credential – yes, you probably have some continuing education that you must do, but it is a drop in in the bucket compared to all the work you had to do to earn the title of “physician” to begin with.

Fitness is similar.  If you have a goal of getting to a certain level of fitness it takes a lot more work to get there initially than it does to sustain it once you are there.  This would be true for just about any fitness-related goal, such as losing a certain amount of bodyfat, building a certain amount of lean muscle, being able to lift a certain amount of weight, being able to run a mile in a certain time, being able to do a certain amount of chins ups, and so on.  

As a specific example, one of our gym members recently set a personal record of 10 chin ups.  When he started with us three years ago he could do zero chin ups.  Going from zero chins ups to ten is a huge accomplishment, and he put in a ton of hard work to get there.  That said, the amount of work it will take him to STAY at 10 chin ups from this point forward is hardly a drop in the bucket compared to the work he had to put in to build up to it.  I would estimate that he could reduce his workout frequency to 1-2x weekly (down from from the 3-5x per week that he’s done for the past three years) and he’d still be able to maintain his 10 chins ups for years to come.  Of course, I am not advocating that he actually scale down that much, I’m just using it to illustrate a point.

The lesson that I hope you take away is that when you approach fitness from the lens of sustainability you only have to go through that hard period of work ONCE, and then you’re done with it … from thereon it takes much less work to sustain that level.  However, most people make fitness so much harder than it needs to be because they struggle with that long-term consistency.  What ends up happening is they put in that initial batch of hard work to get to where they want to be, only to then fall off the wagon.  Eventually they decide to get back on the wagon, but they have to start from square one and do that initial period of hard work all over again.  All too often this cycle repeats itself over and over, and on top of it requiring way more work than necessary, it is also incredibly disheartening to always feel like you are “starting over” again.  In my opinion this cycle is a major reason why a lot of people end up giving up after a while.

It does not need to be that hard.  

You can do it without needing to put in all that hard work over and over again.  

They key is to commit to doing that hard work once, and then having the discipline to stick with it year-round.

Let’s talk about some other key components of helping you achieve long-term success with your fitness.

  1. Begin with the end in mind (a famous saying from “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey).
  2. Establish bench marks / success criteria along the way.
  3. Plan your first steps to support your end goal


Circling back to what I wrote at the beginning, so many people struggle because they actually do not have any sort of long-term plan or goal.  What I see instead is people who will do one 30-day challenge, then skip several months because the challenge ended and they do not know what else to do.  Eventually they jump into some other bootcamp / challenge thing for a little while, then take more months off, and so on and so forth.

If I can be honest, when it comes to fitness most people do not really know where to start with goal setting.  That is one reason why at our gym we have a handful of suggestions written on our big chalk-board – to help inspire people to achieve those goals.  A few examples of our suggestions:

  • One-handed kettlebell swings (men x 32kg / 70 lbs, women x 24kg / 53 lbs)
  • Kettlebell Turkish get ups (same weights as above)
  • Chin ups (men x 15 reps, women x 5 reps)

These, of course, are only some suggestions, and it is best to individualize your goals based on what you would like to accomplish and where you are starting from.  Ideally you would work 1-on-1 with a fitness professional to help you tailor these goals.  Once you have set an initial goal it becomes so much easier to create a plan and stick to it. Once you have achieved your goal it becomes much easier to keep fitness as part of your lifestyle, because you needed to establish habits in order to accomplish the goal in the first place. Another benefit of achieving your goal is knowing first-hand how great you feel at that level, and it becomes incredible motivation to not let yourself slip backwards.


Going back to the earlier example of college, step one is to decide on a major (this is “begin with the end in mind”).  Once you have decided on a major, you then need to select which classes to take in order to fulfill the requirements of said major.  In my case, one of my majors was chemistry, so it was pretty straight forward to formulate a plan to help me achieve the requirements of the degree: my first year I took general chemistry, my second year I took organic chemistry, my third year I took both biochemistry and physical chemistry, and so on.

Having this type of plan is one of the most important aspects of staying motivated during the initial “hard work” part of achieving your goal.  If you think only about the end goal then it can seem so far away and/or so daunting that you get disheartened.  On the other hand, by breaking the plan up into clear steps or segments it is easier to stay focused on what you need to be doing RIGHT NOW.  Believe me, when I was taking organic chemistry I wasn’t worried at all about what physical chemistry had in store for me the following year … it was all I could do to stay above water in the present!  It was also a great feeling to “check off” a class from the list once I had finished the term and successfully completed it.

Bringing this back to the fitness realm, if you have set a goal for yourself of eventually using 24kg (53 lbs) for your Turkish Get Ups, and you are currently using 12kg, then you will have clear and obvious bench marks at 16kg and 20kg to help you celebrate success and keep you motivated on your journey.


This is crucial to success, and yet is where so many people struggle.  You need to start where you are, not where you wish you were.  You need to start in a way that establishes a successful foundation for you to build from.

Taking that last analogy literally, a couple years ago we built a new addition onto our gym.  We took an area that used to be outdoor woodchips and turned into ~700 square feet of changing rooms, restrooms, and office space.  What do you think was the first thing the contractor did?  He poured the concrete foundation.  He didn’t worry about framing or the roof until the foundation was poured.

When it comes to your fitness, pour your foundation first.  

The foundation of any exercise program is the correct execution of the exercises.  This means that for whatever type of exercise you choose to do, invest the time to learn to do it correctly.

THIS PROCESS WILL TAKE YOU NO LESS THAN 30 DAYS.  Depending on what type of exercise you do, it could take much longer.  One of the strongest pieces of advice that I have is that you should invest whatever time is needed in order to learn to do things well.

Learning to perform exercises with legitimately good technique is not going to happen in a bootcamp class.  If the fitness studio you go to spends time, money, and energy on synchronizing the lights and the beat of the music to your workout then I guarantee you they are not spending their energy on ensuring you are doing worthwhile exercises and performing them with proficient technique.  Unfortunately, it has become the norm for many fitness chains to put all their resources into “flash” at the expense of substance.  They care more about the initial “wow” factor of nightclub-esque music and lights than they do teaching you to do things correctly.  If all you are looking for is a bit of fun and to get a sweat then I understand the attraction to this style of facility (I can’t relate to it, but I understand).  However, if your priority is to make actual progress and have long-term success then there are better options out there.

A handful of options that are going to serve you much better are listed below.  Based on your individual circumstances I hope you can find one of these to help:

  • Get some sessions with a skilled personal trainer.  If this is available to you and within your budget this is the best thing to do.
  • Take some sort of on-boarding course at a respected gym near you.  For example, at our gym we have a one-month course called “On-Ramp” that helps people establish proficient technique before joining regular workout classes.
  • Take an in-person workshop.  This can be a good option if you don’t live close enough to a gym to train on a regular basis, but you can carve out a day or a weekend to attend a workshop.  For example, StrongFirst has several types of workshops that are designed for this exact purpose, and their team of instructors hosts them all over the world.
  • Take an online course.  These days there are online courses for just about anything you could ever want.  If you are interested in the idea of an online course to learn kettlebells, I honestly believe that our “Kettlebell Virtual On-Ramp” course on this website is the best one out there.  It is designed to take you 8 weeks to complete, and includes both instructional classes and workout classes.  We have designed it to be progressive, meaning as you get farther into it the skills and workouts become more challenging.  If you want to learn more about our Kettlebell Virtual On-Ramp course click the graphic below.

-Tony Gracia


Tony GraciaView Posts