The illusion is sold to us everywhere we look.
So much so that it is hard not to fall for the expectation hook, line, and sinker.
It is relentlessly hawked at us from infomercials, from the aisles and aisles of “health” products at the grocery store, from the glossy labels on our favorite supplements, and television commercials pitching everything from the newest elliptical-mountain climbing hybrid machine to super-foods that promise to build muscle, melt fat and make you taller all at the same time.
The pitch is one and the same…
That by doing just one or two things better we can go from out of shape to fitness model in a short amount of time.
Six minute abs. No dieting required. From the comfort of your own home. Take these little magic pills and with hardly any time spent in the gym you can look just like this glossed up fitness model. (“But wait, there’s more!”)
Even people who understand that these shortcuts are overblown still don’t have an accurate representation of what it takes to get the body that they think they want.
Are you willing to spend your day working around your time in the gym? Counting macros for every meal? Have the willpower to hang out with people gorging on seemingly whatever they feel like while you eat on your sized-out piece of oats?
The sacrifice that is required in order to hit fitness model numbers are no joke. Carefully planned meals, days planned around your workout routine, large swaths of sleep, avoiding caloric beverages, and on and on. It’s not a lifestyle change, it’s a professional job, and like any job, it requires work. A lot of it.
SET EXPECTATIONS THAT WORK FOR YOU.
When we have lofty expectations, and don’t meet them, we are hit with that sinking feeling and equally discouraging thought…
Oh my God, I am not even close to achieving my goals… Well, screw this.
We slowly realize what in fact is necessary to achieving that crazy goal, and the scope and duration of the work required is so daunting and hilariously outside of what we think ourselves currently capable of that we go in “well, f*** it then” mode.
Which is too bad.
Be willing to understand that properly calibrating your expectations could possibly eventually lead you to achieving some sort of version of your original goal. Set better expectations and not only will you be able to find yourself in great shape, but you will also be able to get there without the brutal mental baggage that unrealistic goals tend to saddle us with.
(More on that very shortly…)
Perhaps most importantly…
Remember that getting in shape doesn’t need to be all or nothing.
Working out regularly doesn’t and shouldn’t require you to upend your life. This kind of change is unsustainable, and rails hard against our well-established comfort zones that are more critical and more established than you realize.
At the end of the day…
Working out should compliment your life.
Here are a few things to keep in consideration when you are ready to start anew with more intelligent expectations for your time in the gym:
1. Losing the first ten pounds is always easier than losing the last ten pounds.
Going from mediocre to good is far easier than going from good to great. The workload increases nearly exponentially, and it’s not at all consistent with what it took to see those first few gains. Improvement and gains inevitably tapers off, and the work that requires going from healthy to good shape is not the same amount of work needed to get you from good to great.
In other words, the more you improve, the harder it becomes to get better:
2. There will be a point where it is not worth it.
No matter how big or small your goals in the gym are, from the dude trying to lose a handful of pounds to the elite level athlete there will always be a point where it’s just not worth the energy and time anymore.
Where the commitment that is required to measure out, prep and track your meals, where the two-a-days, where the constant attention and willpower that is required to maintain course in social situations becomes more work than it is worth.
For each of us this line is marked in the sand at different places, but no matter how much you say you want something, there will be a point and a time where the sacrifices simply don’t add up to what you are getting in return.
3. If just starting out, throw out every single expectation you have. Every last one.
The top reason I see people failing in the gym isn’t because of a lack of effort.
Or that they are skimping on nutrition and not getting their sleeping habits in order to properly recover from their workouts.
It’s because their expectations are completely out of whack with reality.
They expect to work hard for 6 weeks, and presto! Six pack abs. And while having grand ambitions are fantastic, they have the immediate and little-talked about quality of making you feel like you are “less than.” For every moment on the path to your goals you are essentially a less than optimal version of yourself, continually not good enough.
So just imagine the mental garbage we shovel at ourselves when we come up short on said goals.
Not only did we not hit the target, but we spent all that time feeling like inferior versions of ourselves.
The only option for beginners is to focus exclusively on the routine. On showing up. On doing the day’s work and not looking a day past that. The routine is what ultimately drives the accomplishment of your goals, not setting big dreams and then sprinting for a few weeks at them before throwing in the towel when you don’t see the awesomeness you expect soon enough.
Expectations, as it turns out, can be terribly misleading.
They can lead us to think that progress should happen faster than it oughta. That shortcuts ranging from supplements to fancy new technical piece of exercise equipment can somehow supplant the consistent hard work in the gym that is the true driver of results.
The key, as it always should be, is finding a level of commitment that you are happy with and that you can sustain.
The results in the mirror that come from this particular level of commitment might not be what you hope for, but the overall result—a consistent and balanced approach to a healthy body—is so much more important to whatever your current and fleeting idea of physical perfection is.