How to Be Successful in the Gym Long-Term

Here’s a few thoughts I’ve compiled over the years through observation of highly successful members long-term.

1. Be Shortsighted. Long to-do lists don’t get completed. Short ones do. It doesn’t make much sense to write down seven different goals that you want to achieve since you can’t work on seven different things at once. Write down one. Accomplish it. Move onto the next. Having more than one is a great way to dilute your efforts, and you’ll likely achieve none of them.

2. Filter Through the Law of Attraction. If you constantly yo-yo your progress towards your goal, start and lose momentum, it’s straight up not that important to you. You’re likely manufacturing it because you think that’s what you’re supposed to achieve, or you are creating a fictional version of your own aspirations. Be real. If you are not rabidly drawn to your goal everyday, it probably isn’t a real goal of yours.

3. Be Committed to Commitment, Not Results. When you only care about a specific tangible result (i.e., lose 12 pounds), your focus is on an exit strategy as soon as you enter. Be committed to the process and find victory in adherence. Let great achievements be the frequent side effect, not the obsessive aim. When you only see success as binary based on win-loss outcome, you lose sight of the amazing hard work you’ve put into simply becoming better, healthier, and stronger. Have tangible goals, but never make it ultimately about them.

4. Whistleblow Your Excuses. We’ve all seen videos of athletes power cleaning with one arm, rowing with one leg, pregnant moms doing thrusters. It’s time you realized that your excuses are a convenient out to facilitate self-rationalization, not a relevant truth to your situation. There is no person alive on this Earth that doesn’t have three hours per week to dedicate to their health and fitness. No one cares. Get it done. If you can’t, get a coach.

5. Swerve Your Lane. You always want to stay in your lane in the gym. If you are learning a movement, don’t apply it for time. If you are building your foundation strength, don’t test it. However, if you don’t slightly swerve and veer into another lane from time-to-time, you get too comfortable in your own and you’ll be the person everyone passes once the dotted lines open up. Dip your toe into more challenge, and sooner or later it will become comfortable for you.

6. Scratch Your Own Itch. Do you. Train for your own goals. There’s enough to go around for everyone.

7. Start at and Return to Ground Zero. No one ever failed by always prioritizing movement. Move well. Always. Don’t let your movement ego get too big. It’s easy to get strong. It’s not easy to do so while always moving well.

8. Toss the Details Early. Your percentages, times, degree of knee flexion in your hinge, grams of carbohydrates post workout are completely and totally irrelevant. Your consistent attendance, overall food choices, and getting out from your chair are what matter early. Worry about the details when you start to understand them.

9. When in Doubt, Apply Occam’s Razor. Throw the simplest fix at the problem, not sixteen different ones. If you feel like your squat needs to improve, squat. If you can’t run a mile that well, run more one miles. You will solve most things by simply filling the glass a little bit more and calling it a day.

10. More is Not Always More. However, your cup doesn’t need to runneth over. Also understand that we don’t always have to do thing to improve at the thing. Improvement in X is not mutually exclusive to Y. Back squats will lead to more pull-ups (lats). Lunges will lead to faster miles (locomotion, core). Apply a simply fix to your weaknesses, but don’t get so consumed by the frequency that you go insane. It’ll all happen out there.

11. Understand What Will Never Change. If you’re 6’3″, you’re always going to be 6’3″. If you have big feet, you’re always going to have big feet. Improve everywhere that can be improved, but don’t consistently jam yourself into a round hole if you’re a square peg and expect to fit.

12. Don’t Be a Sweater. It’s so easy to be the person who gets one little tangle or string undone and the whole thing unravels. We went on vacation. We had wedding season. Work was tough for a while. Great. Cut the string off and move on. Don’t let it unravel and destroy everything.

13. Hey, You Suck. And It’s Okay. When you start out you will not be good at many things, and that’s great. It means your slate is clean and ready to do nothing but build upwards. Being coachable and dropping your guard is the first step towards true understanding and acceptance of all that you can eventually do. Too many times folks come into the gym with crystallized guards up and false bravado born from insecurity. The reality is most of us who have been doing this for years suck right now at many things. It’s all good, man. Take it slow and enjoy the intrinsic satisfaction of good ole fashioned getting better.

-Dave Thomas