Geoff Starling CSCS

A few weeks ago one of my clients complained that he was starting to feel sluggish on account of investing most of his gym time in strength training and not being able to commit to as much conditioning as usual to balance it out. I offered to email him all of the workout ‘finishers’ that I draw up each week so he could do them on his own. These are ten minute bursts of energy that I cap off each workout with that change each day. Then I had a brilliant idea - why don’t I video them to show how they’re done instead of writing them out. That’s only 3 x 10min a week I told myself. No problem!

I recorded one of the more popular workouts as a test and it worked out great. So great that I posted it on YouTube and sent out the link to a few people beyond just that one client. This is super easy and a pretty cool way to add value to my clients' experience, I thought, so sent out a big email - “Hey team! Starting this week I will be posting videos of all 3 workout finishers online for you to follow along outside of our sessions. Enjoy”!

Off I went and started recording. Then editing. Then re-editing. Then adding descriptions. Then posting across several platforms. Then following up on comments and questions. All of a sudden my fun 3 x 10min per week little project became a 3 x 2-4hr beast that was keeping me up at night and taking me away from my family on weekends to keep up with. The volume became infeasible and after a couple of weeks I had to send out another email, “Well team, make that 1-2 workout videos per week..”. This was extra embarrassing because I’m supposed to be the ‘goal setting guy’ who has all of this figured out. Quite a tail-between-the-legs moment.

So what went wrong?! It seemed like a doable task on paper. I ran a ‘pilot’ test to see if it would work in practice. I mapped out my distribution channels and release schedule. Built up my tools. Visualised the future success. Everything looked apples. What I clearly failed to account for was that this was a fluke week when I had far more unscheduled hours in my calendar than usual, a catalogue of ready-made workouts that just needed to be filmed, and that initial surge of energy that comes with adding a fun new challenge to your to-do list.

How could I have set myself up for success instead of failure? Well, what I should have done was start with that email i.e. the path of least resistance, then added 1-2 videos per week as time permitted. Then as my editing processes etc became more streamlined I could have built up to publishing 3 videos per week. This approach would have been slower but appeared more competent and likely felt more rewarding. I had a few extra hours in those first several days but I didn’t magically have them every week for the next month!

We see this all the time in the fitness industry with individuals setting themselves what seem like very achievable goals but are often ambitious in the long run without proper planning and scaled implementation. The “starting today I will work out 3 days per week no matter what” approach has sadly been proven wrong too many times to count. What we see become far more successful is “starting today I will commit to working out 1-2 days per week and grow from there”. This is a far more sustainable approach as it allows the new habit time to form and room to grow.

Another common example is “I will lose ten pounds in the next four weeks”. Again, this seems perfectly achievable on paper: eat less, move more, voila! Sadly if it was that easy everyone would do it and there wouldn’t be billion dollar industries built around solutions to making it happen. Although ‘crashing through barriers’ is sometimes a successful - although short term - approach, what is often more victorious in the long run is “starting today I will commit to making healthier food choices and finding ways to become more active”. This perspective allows for more control over its outcome and will generally lead to sustainable weight loss over time along with many other health benefits.

Each time we face a challenge like this and fail, we learn from the experience and apply those lessons the next go around. I got a little over excited on this one and bit off more than I could chew. Sometimes we need to jump in with both feet to discover how deep the waters are then establish our feasible depth from there but this approach is rarely sustainable over the long run as you’ve already exhausted yourself from the initial plunge. If I had taken a little more time to establish my new routine I likely would have felt far more successful by building up to publishing the new content on a regular basis than trying to sprint off the blocks without looking up at how long the track was and feeling like a failure when it was farther than 100 metres.  

If you would like to learn more about goal setting, overcoming failure and many other health, fitness and lifestyle topics, head over to GeoffStarling.com or any of the social media channels linked below.

Geoff Starling CSCS

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