I am fortunate to have had long-term personal training students, both current and in the past. And over time I’ve come to see some commonalities among those who get great, sustainable results with their training. And that’s what this post is all about.

This is not to say that these students are getting great results only because of my charming personality or coaching skills, although I believe that it does make a difference. It could be that the students who I’ve trained only briefly in the past are getting similar (or, gasp!, better) results on their own. But I can’t speak for them since I don’t have the long-term data on how and what they’ve done.

Either way, this is not about me but the students who’ve aced it with their training. Here’s what I’ve observed they have in common.


Focus on performance goals

This is something I want to champion with everyone, even if the student’s goal would be pure fat loss. Eventually training only for fat loss or vanity will start to taste like sawdust and Soviet-era aerosol. It’s the same old same old over and over again. Eat this many calories and do this much cardio and this much tempo and yadi yadi. Yes, at times fat loss goals can be extremely important for health reasons. But eventually it’s time to look beyond perspiration for inspiration.

The long-term motivation lies at the heart of performance goals such as chin ups, push ups, get ups, overhead presses, squats, deadlifts or owning the shit out of cossack,- or pistol squats. Or maybe it’s about being able to touch your toes for the first time since you where seven.

People who focus on the above start to look athletic in the process of reaching their goals. So the vanity goals can be reached while crushing performance goals. It’s more fun too. Chin ups and push ups are still my favorite fat loss targets since both are very hard to do if you’re overweight.

That being said, obviously people get results by only focusing on vanity goals too. But these don’t seem be the people that I attract. Or at least they are not the ones who stick with me for the long-term as I want to encourage them to steer away from pure aesthetics driven training.


Have support

Having support of other people is crucial. Not only to get started but even more so to keep going. Whether it’s a supportive partner who values their health too, or a friend with similar interests who understand where you are coming from.

You can imaging the struggle if your partner eats like a nine year old and friends live as if they are teenagers, getting hammered on Kahlua and milk every Friday night.

You are who you hang out with.


Do more than the absolute minimum

Challenge yourself both in and outside of training by seeking constant improvement. Try to squeeze another chin up (or hold the isometric for longer) or add more to your deadlift. Go for a walk or a run outside of your training sessions, actively manage stress, work on mobility at home. Or find another activity or a hobby that you enjoy, such as gardening, tai-chi, taekwondo, pilates, tennis, arm wrestling or even golf. There’s more to health than lifting weights two to three days a week.


Do less than the absolute minimum

Wait, WTF is this?? Doesn’t this contradict the above? Well, as some French people might say, no, it does not.

Learn to listen to your body. When you feel like shit do the absolute minimum, cut down on weights, reps or sets. Or skip the weights altogether and focus on mobility, it’s still training.

Learn to differentiate between feeling tired from sitting in the office all day, which usually subsides after moving around a bit, and between your body telling you that something is not right for realz, which usually feels as if you are swimming in a bowl of utter shitness.

Don’t be a Batman when you feel like the Tweedledee, there are days when you are better of by backing off and having a rest day. Focus on the long-term process and don’t judge your progress by a one or two off days.


Show up (most of the time) whether it’s fun or not

Let’s face it, training won’t always be fun and exciting. If it would be I would probably be out of a job, most likely delivering mail for living and writing a blog on how to steam and reuse stamps.

The major difference between those who kick goals and those who miss goals is consistency. Showing up, focusing on the process of getting better and finding ways to make it work for you while taking ownership of your training.

As a side note, when I say great results I don’t mean that everyone’s goals are universally the same. If you are happy with your progress it does not matter what anyone else’s goals are. 

While you’re at it, you might also like:

Two Techniques for Training When You Don’t Feel Like Showing Up

Why and How to Stop Training for Fat Loss

Training Rules for Adults