In many areas of life, failed experiences will precede our accomplishments. This can especially be true when implementing a fitness program. Don’t expect to start eating perfectly and exercising religiously as soon as deciding to change. Mistakes are a necessary part of acquiring success, but the key is to learn from those mistakes. Make it a point to view each situation and setback as a learning experience. Every challenge you face can be an opportunity to learn and ask, “What can I do differently next time?” By analyzing your past success and failures you will be more likely to succeed going forward. Answer the following questions to pave your path to success.

What is my primary workout objective and why is it important to me?

What is your reason? Are you working out with a clear goal in mind? Having a goal gives you focus and keeps you coming back to the gym. The goal has to be not only realistic but of strong relevance to you. Know not only what you want to accomplish, but also why. When the end justifies the means, it’s easier to make it through the rough spots. There are literally hundreds of benefits to be had through exercise. Exercise will simply improve your overall quality of life, but it’s not enough to know the benefits. You may wish to be better at a particular sport, lose some weight for an upcoming event, or to simply live a long functional, full life. By finding your reason, you will be more likely to stay motivated during the inevitable downturns in motivation.

How often will I work out?

For most healthy people, an exercise regimen of four to five times per week is optimal for maintaining momentum toward their goal. But beware of overtraining. Even elite athletes take a day off to allow their bodies to rest and recover. On the flip side, don’t be discouraged if your schedule allows only two to three days per week. Phenomenal health and fitness improvements can be made if the right program is followed.

What will I do when I stumble along the way?

In spite of our best intentions, sometimes things are just out of our control. We can get caught up in the vortex of problematic situations we face daily that can knock us off course. Remember, life happens and we must face the challenges. Sometimes that means not getting to exercise or eat properly. Make an effort to adopt the premise of “progress, not perfection.” Leave the excuses and blame behind, and stop beating yourself up when you backslide. We’re only human, so just get back on track. Strive to do a little better today than you did the day before. The key is to stay consistent, focused, and take daily action.

How will I find the motivation?

Instead of looking for an inspirational role model, only compare yourself to you. Look at where you started and where you are now. That’s the most realistic way to gauge your progress and feel good about what you’ve achieved. It doesn’t matter if a fitness model in a magazine is in better shape than you, or if the guy on the next treadmill can run longer and faster. The key is to see your personal improvements over time.

If I don’t see results fast enough what will I do?

Monitoring your progress and making changes when you need them is the way to succeed. Here’s where a personal trainer can help you, by reassessing your program and adding or taking away elements to produce the results you want. A few tweaks might be all it takes. Be mindful of the fact that you didn’t get out of shape overnight. As you begin your fitness journey, aim for tw0-three small improvements each week. These small changes will add up to big improvements over time.

By developing awareness that improvement is measured by your daily progress, you can save yourself a lot of grief and frustration from the beginning. Focusing on small, positive steps in everything you do is a vital component to change. With time, commitment and a willingness to continue to take those small steps, failure is not an option.

Perry Buchanan, owner of PT Gym, is certified as an exercise physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine, and fitness nutrition specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Email him at Follow @ptgym on Twitter.

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