8 Habits of Highly Fit People
Last Updated: Apr 19, 2017
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Here are some scary stats: More than two thirds of American adults are overweight or obese and more than half do not meet the physical-activity guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While that paints a rather grim picture of the fitness of Americans, what’s going on with the other third that is able to maintain a healthy weight? Why are some able to get fit and stay fit while others struggle to do so? As life coach Tony Robbins says, “Success leaves clues.” The following slides are those clues -- behaviors, characteristics and strategies top fitness authorities say their most successful clients routinely practice and exhibit.
THEY MAKE HEALTH A LIFESTYLE
Those who achieve and maintain high levels of fitness are not interested in short-term or temporary fixes. You won’t find them dieting for six weeks to get into a bathing suit for a weeklong vacation, for a perfect Instagram selfie or for their 20-year high-school reunion. No, instead, fit people make it a permanent lifestyle and prioritize it over the long haul. “The most successful fit people make training and nutritious eating a way of life,” says Bret Contreras, CSCS, a highly regarded strength coach based in Arizona. “Sure, they slip up from time to time just like everyone, but rest assured that they’ll be training at least a couple of days per week, 52 weeks out of the year.”
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THEY HAVE FUN
Physical activity doesn’t have to be synonymous with drudgery. It can be fun if you choose to make it so. “The most successful fit people find fun and enjoyment in their fitness journey,” says Matt Kasee, owner of Matt Kasee Training and Performance in Cincinnati, Ohio. “They experiment and do new things all the time to stay fit.” Kasee feels routine is the downfall of many. “Monotony, either planned or self-imposed, derails a lot of people,” he says. “Look for the fun in your plan -- from learning to cook new foods to playing sports with friends to learning new exercises. Focusing on some variation and fun keeps you fully engaged with your plan.”
Related: 11 Simple Ways to Add Variety to Your Strength-Training Routine
THEY FOLLOW THE 85/15 RULE
The myth that ultra-fit people don’t enjoy a drink from time to time and live on nothing but chicken, broccoli and brown rice is just that -- a myth. “One thing I’ve found that separates people who’ve been more successful with maintaining their fitness and physique is embracing moderation in their nutrition. In other words, they follow the 85/15 rule,” says fitness guru Nick Tumminello, owner of Performance University. “This means that if 85 percent of the time you eat in the way that emphasizes fruits and vegetables and high-quality meats, eggs and fish while limiting processed food, simple sugar, hydrogenated oil and alcohol, then 15 percent of time you can eat whatever you want,” he says. In real-world terms, that’s about one in every seven meals.
Related: Does the 80/20 Rule Work for Everyone?
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THEY MAKE IT COMPETITIVE
One of the greatest motivators is competition. That doesn’t necessarily mean competing in a bodybuilding show, a Tough Mudder or a 5K race, though it certainly can include those things. The best competition is the one against yourself in the gym. There is a difference between working out and training. The former is exercising without a concrete plan. The latter is extremely structured and goal oriented. If you simply worked out by wandering around the gym with no real purpose and performing whatever exercises came to mind, you’d likely stop being active out of boredom or lack of results. Bottom line: Find your inner athlete, compete against yourself, have a plan, follow that plan, try to improve and keep good records.
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THEY RECOVER QUICKLY FROM A RELAPSE
Fitness aficionados don’t allow slip-ups to completely derail them. Mike Howard, owner of Core Concepts Wellness in Vancouver, British Columbia, has noticed his most successful and fittest clients have a good relapse plan. Howard says people who have maintained a high level of fitness over the long haul don’t give themselves permission to go on a “food bender” or a monthlong hiatus from hitting the gym if they deviate from their normal nutrition style or miss one workout. Savvy fit folks don’t allow the wheels to totally come off the tracks. “Unfortunately, we have adopted an all-or-nothing mentality when it comes to our fat loss and health goals,” he says. “Eat the brownie, enjoy and savor every bite of it and then move on.”
Related: Don’t Let a Step Back Derail You From Your Goals
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THEY KNOW WHAT THEY DON’T KNOW
If you’re not an accountant, you could attempt to complete and file your own tax returns. Of course, you’d probably only get about 30 percent correct and risk being audited. Or you could just hire an accountant. Point is: Fit and healthy people defer to experts and are open to being coached. They know what they don’t know and seek advice from people who are in the know to get the best results in the least amount of time. “My most successful fitness clients and chiropractic patients just do what I say and trust in my expertise,” says Dr. Jason Placeway, doctor of chiropractic at Mt. Lookout Chiropractic and Sports Injury Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. “They don’t allow infomercials, a book they read or something their neighbor told them at a cookout to influence them. They don’t think they know more than me or that they can figure it out on their own.”
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THEY AVOID “ANALYSIS PARALYSIS”
If you want to live your fittest life, your workout plan needs to be uncomplicated and straightforward. Overanalyzing every little aspect of your workouts, attempting to take on programs that are too advanced and hopping from one program to the next often leads to frustration and feeling overwhelmed. The people who stay the most consistent with their workouts keep it manageable, simple and fun. We all live busy lives, and making things overly complicated in the gym can lead to burnout and apathy. Fitness author and strength coach Lee Boyce advises against becoming preoccupied with technicalities. “It’s only going to eat you up inside if you keep nitpicking,” he says. “Stick to keeping a simple mind and seeking basic solutions.”
Related: 11 Ways to Measure Your Progress on Your Fitness Journey
The most successful clients don’t look at exercise as a weight-loss method. Instead, they gauge the effectiveness of their training program on improvements in strength and performance -- not on how much weight they’re losing. Those who do see the value in their workouts understand the role nutrition plays in fat loss (it’s huge!) and don’t stop training because the scale number hasn’t moved much. Accept that changes in diet are what primarily drive fat loss, and the primary objective of a good training program is to enhance fitness and performance. You’ll be far happier if you adopt this mind-set and will stay more consistent with your workouts.
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WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Which habits of highly fit people do you exhibit and practice? In what areas could you stand to improve? Would you add anything to this list? Do you disagree with anything? Sound off in the comments section below and let us know what you think!
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