You’ve seen our stories of guys who achieved major body transformations—from beer belly to six-pack abs, from chainsmoker to marathon runner, from weakling to gym rat. Sure they’re inspiring, but it can get frustrating to realize your own fitness is flat-lining while those guys seem to be getting results on a daily basis. We wish we could tell you there’s some magic trick or well-kept secret they know about that they’re not sharing, but the truth is they achieved their results with a lot of determination, dedication, and drive. All of our success stories share the following common traits, so if you’re looking to emulate these guys check out this list and get on the right track to victory.
9. They change their lifestyle
None of those crazy success stories would be possible without a complete lifestyle overhaul. It’s not just about making small tweaks to your schedule here and there—the way you go about your everyday life has to change. As Justin Klein of the HumanFitProject puts it, most people finally find the motivation when they “hit rock bottom,” and can no longer go on looking or feeling the way they do. No matter what brings on their wake-up call, it’s obviously for the best, and drives the person to exercise frequently, change unhealthy eating habits and limit other detrimental activities like smoking and drinking.
8. They’re extremely determined
Deciding to make that big lifestyle change is often the easy part. If you’re not happy about something in your life, it’s easy to acknowledge it and say you’re going to change. However, to actually follow through and make that change happen you’ll need a ton of determination. It’s no secret that your body can often be inclined to take it easy—that’s why you need to bring a strong, determined attitude to every workout in order to get the most out of it, and don’t get discouraged by the long road ahead. It’s a simple concept, but it’s proven effective time and again.
7. They exude a positive attitude
“Just look at the faces of people in ‘before and after’ pictures,” says Mike Duffy, a New Jersey-based trainer who runs his own personal training company. “Happiness, confidence, and health are usually a common denominator.” Of course, to achieve those great results this means you need to somehow cultivate that positive attitude from the beginning. Though it can be hard at first think of it as a domino effect—do at least one thing everyday to help your health and improve your quality of life, and little by little it will stat to add up. The better you feel about your body, the more positive you’ll feel and the more you’ll want to continue your healthy streak.
6. They have a strong support system
Plenty of guys go it alone at the gym, or find other ways to exercise in isolation. The thing is, most of the greatest fitness success stories are inspired by friends, loved ones, and dedicated trainers pushing the person along every step of the way. “Everyone needs support from time to time,” Klein says. “We all hit those discouraging plateaus, and we need the people around us to motivate us to get back on track.”
5. They take it slow and steady
No one has ever gotten the perfect body without putting in a huge amount of hard work, and even if you get there, there’s maintenance to be done. The most successful people understand that slow and steady wins the race, and they need to be in it for the long haul. That means getting into the habit of frequent exercise and proper diet; but it also means not going gung-ho at the start. “People who hit the gym really hard from the beginning are unfortunately the ones who often burn out,” says Klein. Injuries will throw a wrench in any progress you make, while exercising to the point where you can barely move for several days can set you back as well.
4. They ride out the obstacles
“Even in a really great success story, there’s almost always some sort of setback or stagnation you’ll run into,” Klein says. Like in other aspects of life, fitness success is not always going to be a straight line moving steadily upward with time. Some success stories may gain a couple pounds in a week at some point in their training, others might show no progress at all for a month, but that doesn’t dictate the full story or the end results. These people embraced the process and realized they weren’t necessarily going to see progress every single day. The key is to just keep moving forward one day at a time.
3. They are more aware of what their body needs
The more a guy works out, the more energy he needs and the less he wants to be carrying around excess fat and empty calories. In most success stories, guys go from eating mindlessly to figuring out how many calories and nutrients they need to get the most out of their workouts and improve their results.
2. They become self-motivated
As we mentioned above, having a support system is often how these guys first get the inspiration to hit the gym, but as their training steps up and they start to see real results that’s when the self-motivation kicks in. Eventually, it’s more about the guy doing it for his own well-being than it is about being pushed by friends and loved ones. “You see it all the time—when the motivation becomes more intrinsic,” Klein says. That’s usually a huge sign that someone has embraced a total lifestyle change.
1. They want to pay it forward
The idea of paying it forward commonly occurs at the ending of these fitness success stories, says Duffy who has seen firsthand people who became personal trainers or aerobic instructors as a result of their life-changing experience. These people have been at both ends of the spectrum—they’ve been overweight and unhealthy, and they’ve realized how much happier they are in their new bodies. Many of them are inspired to share that feeling with others and help affect the same positive changes they instilled in themselves onto others who are still struggling.
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