Posted by on May 20, 2015

Mason is a strength coach, writer, and sports nutritionist. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and is an NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). Want to train with Coach Mason? We can hook you up.

What is the most common question I receive as a fitness professional? I’ll give you a hint. It has nothing to do with which supplements to take, how to lose belly fat, or which training program a person should be using. So what is everyone dying to know?

“How long will it take me to look like this?”

I’ll give you my answer, but first, let me share a story with you. I come from a small town, and in a small town you can either play sports, or you can play sports. So I did exactly that. I grew up playing baseball, football, basketball, and any other playground sport we could come up with. As I reached my early teenage years I developed a passion for basketball above all other sports. This passion led me to give up all other sports and focus exclusively on basketball. At age 12 I was 6’2, and I believed two things:

  1. That I would be 6’10.
  2. That I was going to play in the NBA.

Well, I’m only 6’5 in shoes, and I’m not in the NBA.

So where am I going with this, and how does it relate to looking like a fitness model? I’m getting there I promise.

I had a coach once that addressed the whole team after one of our many losses that season, and in that speech he told us that none of us would play in the NBA. (He was right.) At the time I remember being devastated, angry, and discouraged. After all, I was only 13, and had a life full of basketball ahead of me. If only he had been even more honest with me.

I come from an athletic family. My father played a bit of college football in his day. The same father that could be my stunt double. The same height, build, mannerisms, and striking good looks. I was bred to be anything but a basketball player. If only he or my mom would have said, “Hey son, if you want to have a chance get your ass back on the football or baseball field.” But they didn’t, because they love me, and I have the best parents in the world.

This brings me to my point. I don’t love you. So I can give you the honesty you need.

You will never look like that fitness model.

However, you CAN look the fitness model version of yourself. There’s a good chance you don’t have the genetics required to become an “elite” fitness model, but you don’t need those genetics to look damn good. It doesn’t matter where you’re starting point is, you can make an incredible transformation in 6-12 months. The real challenge is to keep pushing forward when the initial progress slows.

My fitness journey, which you can briefly read about here, has been a long road with tons of ups and downs. I made most of my progress in the first 1-2 years of lifting, and it has been slow rolling ever since. It’s not very difficult to maintain, but extremely hard to make progress. That’s just the nature of the beast. This journey is ongoing, and it has no end destination. If you keep pushing your body month after month, year after year, the small results will begin to add up, and you will have built an amazing body of work. (See what I did there?)

Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that you’ll need to know.

– Stop comparing yourself to others. Remember you’re seeing the highlight reel of most people on social media. That fitness model has their own flaws and insecurities. At the end of the day you have to appreciate the hard work others have put in.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” —Theodore Roosevelt

– Appreciate the small victories. Over the past year I’ve gained around 3-4 pounds of muscle tissue, and I’m really happy with that. That’s how small your victories will become, but remember to look at how far you’ve come.

– Set goals, and find some accountability. Although this journey has no end destination, you still need to stop to stretch your legs. Having midpoints, or goals, is the only way to stay motivated and to have a reason to show up and train.

– Play to your strengths. Everyone’s body is different. If you weren’t blessed with a thick abdominal wall or calves (me) you need to give up on that dream. You can change muscle size, but you can’t change muscle shape or insertion points. What I lack in the calf department I make up for with better genetics in my upper body. So I put an emphasis on maximizing what my body would prefer to do.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein

– Work your ass off, regardless of the outcome. The real reward is usually in the journey. Starting down the path to better health could lead you down an unexpected path. You will likely meet new people, discover things about yourself, or even make a career change like me.

– Do it for you. Nobody can live your life better than you.

Featured image courtesy of stratman² (2 many pix!) and used under a Creative Commons license.

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