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10 Hard Fitness Lessons To Learn For Long-Term Success

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Looking for long-term success when it comes to health and fitness? Here are 10 hard fitness lessons you should learn first.

10 hard fitness lessons to learn for long-term success
10 hard fitness lessons to learn for long-term success

Hi there!

I’m Chantal.

I’ll start by saying that I’m a NASM Certified Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach, and I’m so glad you’re here!

But I’ll quickly add that these two facts do NOT mean that I’m perfect when it comes to fitness and nutrition.

In fact, I became a personal trainer so that I could LEARN about how to get healthier.

My online nutrition course for women is now OPEN!

Choosing To Learn Fitness Lessons for Mental Health

I intentionally sought out help with fitness and nutrition because I was struggling with it. I needed accountability and knowledge because I was tired of being unhealthy and uncomfortable.

Honestly, it’s quite a long story.

I’ve struggled with mental health issues for years and years, and it was at its worst when I had my first baby.

Postpartum depression is a very real thing (and so is post-weaning depression).

But when I connected the dots about mental health and exercise, I decided to commit my life to learning how to utilize fitness to fight back.

You can read my tips for fighting back against postpartum depression naturally here.

In short, I found out that fitness doesn’t have to be this vain and superficial thing that we do.

In fact, it is a tool that almost every human could benefit from mentally and emotionally.

I started this blog initially to chronicle my postpartum fitness journey after my second baby. I had learned a lot about myself and was beginning to know more about what to do in the event that I would experience postpartum depression again.

At this time, I wasn’t a personal trainer and I definitely wasn’t a certified nutrition coach.

But I had figured out that I could help MYSELF if I used exercise and nutrition to my advantage.

My goal with the blog was to help other moms learn how to take care of themselves mentally and emotionally, too.

Psst! I recently created an online nutrition course jam-packed with information on food mindset, exercise science, and nutrition education so that I could pass that knowledge on to you. Check it out!

It has since evolved into so much more, but I love thinking back to why I started this blog in the first place. (This brings me to today’s blog post.)

Related Reading: How to Change Your Mindset To Lose Weight (For Good!)

let it be enough - Ironwild Fitness
Not perfect, not quitting. 🙂

Learn These Fitness Lessons For Life

Life is full of learning. It’s just one big game of trial and error.

But mistakes are insanely valuable and how you respond to them is what moves you forward or holds you back.

Once you learn that life’s hard lessons are just guiding you to a better path, it becomes so much more enjoyable.

The same goes for fitness lessons and all of the failures you are sure to have.

Failure is a lesson in what doesn’t work. Your job is to analyze the scenarios, your actions, and their results.

Success in fitness (and in life) is just learning how to try new things, getting comfortable with failure, and adjusting course whenever necessary.

It’s really just constant troubleshooting in order to move forward and finally hit your goals.

So when you read these fitness lessons I am sharing with you today, keep that in mind.

Psst! Did you know that I have a shop full of fitness printables and home workout programs? Click here to check it out!

Hard Questions To Ask Yourself

I have long since preached the power of self-awareness and reflection when it comes to health and mindset.

If you can’t be self-aware, you’re not going to be accountable. And if you aren’t accountable, well… that will just never be conducive to your goals.

You have to be willing to reflect and really consider everything you’re doing.

So let me ask you these hard questions:

What is your attitude toward failure right now?

How have you responded to failure in the past?

Are you likely to give up easily, or are you typically more resilient?

Are your goals typically superficial or are they big and deep?

Do you set more short-term goals or long-term goals?

What reasons do you have for setting that specific goal?

Are you making decisions based on fear or another negative emotion?


I know that these are hard things to consider, but if you truly want to change your life (in terms of fitness or elsewhere), you really need to learn how to elevate your mindset and practice self-awareness.

Who else is going to hold you accountable for your goals?

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I want to share with you the hard fitness lessons I’ve learned over the years.

It’s been over 5 years since starting this blog, and I’ve learned so much between becoming a personal trainer, struggling to lose the baby weight, and everything in between.

I think some of these lessons may both surprise you and encourage you, so let’s get to it.

10 Hard Fitness Lessons To Learn For Long-Term Success

1. Everything Happens in Seasons

You’re either going to love this or hate this.

The truth is that NO one, even the best athletes, is on point 100% of the time.

Your life, including your fitness goals and health, will happen in seasons.

I personally find this very comforting to know and fully appreciate.

Why? Because it means that you can let up on that constant pressure you’re putting on yourself to be perfect all of the time.

When you are a brand new mom surviving on 2 hours of sleep and you’re fighting postpartum depression alone, your priority will not and should not be a number on the scale.

Your first year or even two (or three) after having a baby is NOT going to be your strongest year and that’s okay.

But you can rest easy knowing that before you know it, your season of life will change and your kids will sleep through the night and you’ll wake up a little stronger over time.

Even if you don’t have kids, hopefully, you can see my point.

Life happens in seasons, and your fitness level will also happen in seasons. Some years (or even decades) are just harder than others.

Once you are okay with that, you can make more realistic goals according to the life season that you are in.

And once you do that, you can begin to set fitness goals based on more than superficial desires.

Be okay with that. This is one of my top fitness lessons for a reason.

Once you are okay with life just being a series of seasons, you can adjust your expectations to better fit each one.

2. You Can Do Anything For 30 Seconds

10 fitness lessons to learn for long-term success - 30 seconds

This is something that my very own personal trainer said to me back before I became one myself.

I think we were probably in our last round of some sort of high-intensity circuit and I was losing my mojo.

“You can do anything for 30 seconds.”

Why is this one of my fitness lessons?

Because it’s true. And once you realize that you can in fact do pretty much anything for 30 seconds (run, plank, stretch, jump), you also realize that it can be replicated.

If you can do that hard sprint for 30 seconds, chances are you can do it for another 30 seconds.

When you reframe your mindset and break your overall goals into tiny chunks, they suddenly become much more achievable.

So, what hard thing can you go do for 30 seconds?

And then, once you realize that you actually CAN, what’s stopping you from doing it again?

I use this approach on so many different things, and I am so glad this is one of the fitness lessons I’ve learned along the way.

3. Goal-Setting is Everything

10 fitness lessons to learn for long-term success - goal setting

If you are still taking shots in the dark when it comes to your fitness goals (or any goals, really), this is for you.

Without goal-setting, there is zero accountability. There is no actual plan.

Hopefully you already know that setting goals is important, but you should also know that there is a wrong way to set them.

Before you get offended, let me show you what I mean.

I spent years and years of my life setting very vague and lofty goals that I would never actually reach.

Things like, “I want to lose this extra 20 pounds by my birthday in 3 weeks.”

Or, “I want to be the fittest person in the room everywhere I go.”

And also things like, “I want to be a better runner.”

If you can’t see what’s wrong here, I’m happy to tell you.

Every single one of these goals was either unrealistic or insanely vague.

While the overall goal was the same (to just be fitter), there was no one goal that could really be reached.

It wasn’t realistic or healthy to lose 20 pounds in 3 weeks, so it didn’t happen.

It wasn’t clearly mapped out just how “fit” I would need to be in order to reach my goal of being the “fittest person in the room,” so it also never happened.

And of course, becoming a better runner could mean any number of things, which put me all over the place as far as training, which actually set me back and discouraged me further.

Hopefully, you can see how goal-setting as well as the way in which you do it, matters.

Effective goal-setting is actually a skill. Once you learn how to do it, you’ll hit all of the little goals you need to reach in order. to hit bigger goals.

So how do you set goals more effectively?

In personal training, we call it SMART. Here’s what it means:

  • S – Specific – Is my goal too vague?
  • M – Measurable – Can I measure this gaol in some way?
  • A – Attainable – Is this something that one could actually achieve?
  • R – Realistic – Is this realistic for me personally?
  • T – Time Bound – What is the deadline to reach this goal?

You Might Also Like: How to Set Realistic Fitness Goals After Having a Baby

I know that’s a lot, but goal setting really has been one of the most important fitness lessons I’ve learned in the last 6 years or so.

One more note about goal-setting before I move on – never make all of your fitness goals about your weight.

It will damage your mindset and discourage you, resulting in a setback.

Protect your mindset and motivation by making some of your fitness goals about other things!

If you need some examples, here are 50 different types of fitness goals to work on.

4. You Will Always Have Setbacks

This goes along with the seasons, but it’s more short-term.

Unfortunately, you will have setbacks. And you will have them regularly.

When you are reaching new heights, you will also get sick, have injuries, and eat the cupcakes.

Obviously, these are just some examples of things that I have personally dealt with on my fitness journey.

But the point is that every single person on earth experiences adversity in some way or another. We all experience setbacks.

The key to success is changing the way you respond to them.

I spent years of my life feeling defeated by a day of overeating and overindulging. Instead of choosing to move on the next day, I chose to throw in the proverbial towel.

What could have been just one day of poor nutrition spiraled into a week or sometimes more.

I was a pro at undoing all of my hard work until I learned how to accept my setback, take a deep breath, and make the choice to move on.

Learn from your own setbacks, learn your own patterns, and pivot.

If you don’t ever learn how to recover quickly from a setback, you’ll always be treading water.

Here’s what I’m currently doing in response to any short-term setbacks:

  1. Accept and acknowledge the issue
  2. Consider what could have influenced that result
  3. Take responsibility for any part you have in that result
  4. Make a plan for tomorrow
  5. Mentally choose to move on with the new day

It sounds complicated, but it’s not. You just have to choose to troubleshoot.

5. Habits Make You or Break You

10 fitness lessons to learn for long-term success - habits

The truth is that your little, tiny everyday habits matter way more than you think they do.

They ultimately add up to a healthy person or…not.

You really do need to examine each one of your little habits to see what needs to be changed.

Old habits really do die hard, but you have so much life ahead of you!

Do you eat dinner and bed and watch 2 or more Netflix shows every single night before bed?

Are you guilty of eating just one apple and skipping any other healthy food for the day?

Do you let loose on the weekends because “You deserve it”?

When it’s sunny outside do you go for walks or sit around on the patio?

These are just some examples of small, sometimes subconscious things we do that could influence our overall health.

They don’t seem to matter, but they really do add up.

I once sat down and made a list of all the things I thought were keeping me from reaching my personal fitness goals. (I highly recommend doing this!) The key is to avoid making excuses.

Here are a few things I wrote down:

  • Too much coffee (and sugary creamer)
  • Too much phone time before bed
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Sitting too much throughout the day
  • Not enough protein
  • Not enough vegetables
  • Going too wild on the weekends

For each of these things, there were 5 other things I could do in response. There were indeed some small, unhealthy habits I could replace with other tiny but healthy habits.

I could set a water intake goal, get up from my computer more often and walk around, set a step goal, meal prep some protein each week, vow to go for walks anytime the sun shines, and so much more!

Because even though I love my rituals and change is hard, habits really are everything.

Still need help with habits?

Check out this post full of healthy habit ideas for a better life.

6. Longevity is All That Matters

Of course, we all want to look young, healthy, and beautiful.

Like, now.

But here’s the thing – if you’re only ever focused on short-term goals, you’ll never really be healthy.

You need to quit focusing on looking good for that annual 4th of July party and focus more on how you feel every single day.

All year, forever.

Once you change your mindset to be focused more on long-term health, your whole approach to fitness will change.

Short-term goals can be great, but only if you have long-term goals that go with them.

You will never ever stop wanting to be healthy. I don’t care how old you get or what season of life you’re in. Deep down, we all want to look good and feel great at all times.


So start thinking bigger. Think about who you want to be 5 years from now. Ten years?

I bet it’s not that different than the person you hope to be a year from now – it’s just more realistic.

When you make choices throughout your day, consider them investments in your future.

There’s instant gratification, and then there’s the long-term payoff.

Learn how to think of each fitness or nutrition decision you make as an investment in your highest, healthiest self.

How you look and feel five years from now depends on it.

7. Mindset is Underrated

Actually, mindset is everything.

If you don’t learn to protect your mindset, you may just never reach your goals.


Because not focusing on mindset is relying too heavily on external motivation to get things done.

And we all know what happens with motivation – it fluctuates almost daily.

Sometimes, it disappears altogether.

So what is this mindset thing, and how do I do it better? What’s the point?

The point is that you can learn to protect your thoughts in a way that will benefit you immensely. If you can keep your mind clear and positive, you can make better choices when it comes to your health.

The first step to upping your mindset game is to become self-aware. (Here she goes with that self-awareness thing again!)

What triggers you emotionally? What causes your motivation to dwindle?

Protect yourself from those things!

For me, this means NOT weighing myself every day (that can be so discouraging!) and taking frequent, intentional breaks from social media.

I’ve been doing this long enough to know that those things get in my head and put me in a negative headspace.

When that happens, all motivation goes out the window and I become a sad, self-pitying human.

No good!

You can do a number of things to protect and invest in your mindset, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Listen to a motivational / mindset podcast
  • Read a book on personal development
  • Take a social media hiatus
  • Focus on the process of reaching your goals instead of the actual goal
  • Get into non-scale victories. This is key when we’re talking about weight loss. (Here are a bunch of NSVs to celebrate.)
  • Talk or journal about anything and everything

In short, learn to protect your mindset and you will overcome setbacks faster and reach goals sooner.

You Might Also Like: 30 Best Books on Mindset To Change Your Life Forever

small habits add up to big results

8. It’s Okay to Change

I used to want to look like a fitness model. I used to love using the elliptical and going to the gym.

I used to love buying the latest new workout clothes and looking cute while working out.

Now, I pretty much do High-Intensity Interval Training or weight lifting at home. (Never the gym.)

Now, I want to fit into size 8 jeans and have a strong core so that I don’t have any back injuries.

Now I wear whatever crusty old sports bra pinches me the least and whatever leggings don’t give me a wedgie.

And now I want to eat healthier to make sure I don’t have bathroom issues.


You can laugh if you want to, but the point is that it’s okay to change.

Your fitness goals can change, and so can the reasons you want to be healthy. Not only this, but your approach to fitness and the way you hit those goals you set can also change.

I’m getting older and wiser, and I’ve stripped away the unnecessary.

Try new things, take a different approach, and switch it up.

But more importantly, be okay with it when the things that used to work no longer do.

9. Mental Health Trumps Looks

By now you’ve hopefully learned that exercise and nutrition can play a huge role in mental health and overall wellness.

Fitness isn’t just for looks, y’all.

This is one of the first fitness lessons I learned, but that’s because I was deep in my own depression.

The one thing I have to say is to stop judging everyone who looks like they have it better than you do in health and fitness.

Some people are doing it for vanity, but I would say that 9 out of 10 people have at least ten more reasons for working out and wanting to get healthy.

For me, it’s all about mental health. When I’m not working out, I’m truly a basket case. I’m an emotional roller coaster that also might just explode.

I’m down in the dumps and I can’t think clearly, sleep, or get things done.

My energy level drops and my tolerance for even the smallest of inconveniences wanes.

In other words, I have to work out to be my best self.

Mental health matters and it trumps looks.

Remember this when you’re working out, going to the gym, or judging someone else for being badass at fitness.

They may just be there for a million other reasons, and mental health may be one of them.

Not only this but not every workout you do has to be about gains or weight loss.

A walk outside counts. A short and slow run counts. Ten minutes of yoga? It counts.

It all counts.

Fitness is a tool – use it! Just don’t forget that your mental health is more important than how you look. 🙂

10. Never Stop Learning

The last of my fitness lessons is to never stop learning.

I’m aware of just how cliché this sounds, but it is just so true.

Learning empowers you, motivates you, and helps you become better.

If you want to get fitter or healthier in any way, you should learn more about nutrition, exercise science, psychology, and everything in between.

Once you learn something new, test it on yourself. Apply it everywhere you can. Did it work for you? Why or why not?

Keep learning, keep testing, and keep adjusting. Fitness is really a lifelong marathon full of trial and error.

As I sit here today feeling like I still have a long way to go, I’m also reminded of just how far I’ve come.

I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t learned all of these fitness lessons.

My journey has been full of ups and downs, but one thing never changed – I never stopped learning.

That’s it!

Do any of these fitness lessons sound familiar to you?

I hope they help you somewhere along the way.

Before you go, here are some other posts you might find helpful:

Best of luck,


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