"What kinds of results can I expect in six months?"
I was asked this by a brand new client the other day. It's a difficult question to answer, which he acknowledged, but it is a fair one. After all, that is why people sign up--to change something about their body, so good on him for being inquisitive.
Obviously, it depends.
It depends on how much effort he puts in, how consistently he shows up and how well he pays attention to his diet. There are also things outside of his control such as how his body genetically responds to training. But although "it depends" is probably the most correct answer, it really isn't a very satisfying or inspiring one. It's kind of a cop-out...a fancy way of dressing up "I don't know."
So here's how I chose to answer his question.
I told him for a guy his age (48), training background (former athlete, minimal training), and body composition (17-19% body fat), I see no reason why he couldn't lose 15-20 pounds in 6 months.
To get there, the one things he'll have to be is consistent in his efforts. I think success in most things basically comes down to consistently hammering away at a few key things.
I'm always advocating being process-oriented, rather than results-oriented when it comes to training. The idea behind this is that if you adopt the right behaviours such as consistent training and only focusing on a few key nutrition habits, the results follow as a by-product. This approach works because it forces people to focus on the things they can control rather than the things they can't, which can often produce frustration and lead to quitting.
When being process-oriented fails
Although I think this is a smart strategy, people can sometimes sabotage their own progress by being too process-oriented and mistaking it for the ultimate goal.
I mean, it's great whenever people are able to consistently train three days a week and eat a primarily whole-foods diet. Truly, no sarcasm here, I think that's awesome. Consistency is king and it always will be. And for most people, it's the number one thing holding them back. I'll take consistent moderation over infrequent intensity any day.
But don't kid yourself. It's possible to train consistently, eat well, and still not get the results you're looking for.
There's a certain laziness that can happen when you fall deep into a habit. I've seen peoples' morning workouts become routine, ordinary, and comfortable. They tell themselves they train five days a week, but there's no more intent in their workouts. No intensity or focus. They settle into their routine and lose sight of the fact that in order to change, they need to stress their system in some way.
So after I told this new client what I thought he could achieve, I shared some observations I've seen between people that achieve great results and those that just consistently spin their wheels.
3 things fit people do differently
First, they take nutrition seriously. They don't just give themselves a pat on the back for having a salad here and there, they cut the crap and make hard decisions. Successful dieters understand that it's going to get a little uncomfortable and that sacrifice isn't just a made up word. They accept that they're going to have to say goodbye to their cookies.
Second, not only do they train consistently, they train their ass off. They really sink their teeth in to training and embrace the work. As a coach, I don't have to beg and plead with them to grab a heavier weight, go faster, or do another few sets, they take that on themselves.
Third, and must underrated, is attitude. People that crush it in the gym are positive, happy, and optimistic. Kind of out of left field there isn't it? But that's my honest observation. People that achieve success simply have great attitudes and are pleasant to be around. I just haven't seen a whole lot of cynical, sarcastic, negative people lose a lot of weight or get really strong.
Be process-oriented but results-driven. First, attain consistency, but don't lose sight of your original goals. Accept that things might get difficult and that at times, it will require some good old fashioned work.
And smile for Christ's sake, training is supposed to be fun :)