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  • Writer's pictureAsh Radford

Why fitness fails are common but useful

No one likes failing.

When it comes to trying to get fit though it happens a lot. 80% of attempts don't last beyond 5 weeks.


Commonly lack of time and enjoyment are blamed. While they can be relevant factors the detailed studies show(1,2) it's a real effortful battle to make exercising an unconscious effort. These studies also reveal it takes thought and planning around the logistics and potential barriers to win that battle.

The failures provide the chance to learn, to review, to improve. And to plan better and address potential barriers.

Rarely is reaching goals the linear, seamless process we initially envisage.

The NSW cancer councils 2015 quit smoking campaign Every time you quit, you get a little better at it offers an interesting perspective on failure. The title and accompanying tagline, “Never give up, giving up” give a simple, clear message.

The campaign features a man explaining how his first attempt at quitting smoking was difficult and only lasted a few days. The 2nd attempt was easier and 6 weeks long. While the 3rd attempt, although still not a easy, was successful. It brings reality to the challenge of quitting smoking. The task of getting fit is usually similar and the same wisdom applies. It's worth reviewing the attempts to get fit which don't quite work out. Here’s a few things to consider;

What did work?

Just because you’re not still doing it doesn’t mean there wasn’t aspects that really worked. Perhaps those classes you did were a lot of fun. You found the music and group energy really motivating. It could have been working out with a friend made it more enjoyable. The aspects that did work provide clues as to what's likely to work again in the future.

What didn't work?

Were the workouts too long and boring? Did you have to travel too far? It could have been any number of things. The main thing is not to make the same mistake twice.

What caused you to stop?

You might have had a fantastic routine in place but there was a simple reason you stopped. It might have been you went overseas, lost fitness and the prospect of starting all over again was all too much. In that case you could put energy into finding a way of exercising while away. You could also organise to have your trainer or gym contact you on your return to give you a nudge to re start.

What else did you learn?

It's possible you recognised a tendency to lose enthusiasm after a month. That may not have been the reason for eventually stopping but you know it could be a stumbling block in the future. The lesson to take from that may well be to make your program progressive as a sense of progress helps to counteract any feelings of loss of enthusiasm. In truth, it's likely you'll fail at initial efforts to establish an exercise routine so cut yourself some slack and try to look at what you learnt in order to increase your chance of succeeding next time.


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