fitness lessons

8 Lessons to Help You Achieve Your Fitness Goals

I’ve tried many diets, many tricks and many workout styles over the past few years. Some things ‘worked’ and others didn’t and while it was exhausting going through all of that, I’m glad I did! Now I can help you along your journey. Here are a few of the key lessons I’ve learned throughout my fitness journey that you should know.

Lesson # 1: There is no ‘one way’ to get to your fitness goal.

As a coach, I get a lot of questions about what the perfect diet and workout routine is.

This is such a tough question to answer because, well, I hate to break it to you, but there isn’t one. There is no one “perfect formula” that will get you to your fitness goal. In fact, there are tons of effective ways to get to your goal, but what matters the most is which method works best for you.

For example, I had a female client in her mid-twenties who came to me because she had achieved her goal of looking more lean and toned, but she hated that she could only eat “clean” foods. Her diet and workout regime got her the body she wanted, but she wasn’t happy and couldn’t sustain that kind of lifestyle. I worked with her to develop a macronutrient-based diet where she wasn’t restricted to a short list of foods.

She was still able to maintain her physique, but she finally felt like she had found a lifestyle she could live with. It may take some trial and error, but finding the lifestyle that makes you happy and healthy is the “perfect formula” for YOU.

Lesson # 2: You shouldn’t compare yourself to others. Everybody and every BODY is different.

It’s great to use fitness models and trainers as inspirations, but what they say or do has to be taken with a grain of salt.

They may be lying to you, or they may not be giving you the full story. Do you know where their information is coming from? Do you know if they’ve ever used the technique/product or if they’re being compensated for endorsing it?

A fitness model may post on social media about having crushed their workout “#beastmode #alldayeveryday”. That’s great for them, but that doesn’t mean they always crush their workouts and workout every single day.

fitness lessons

A fitness model may post on social media about having crushed their workout “#beastmode”, but who’s to say what #beastmode even means? Image courtesy of Etsy.

Maybe they only crush their workout in #beastmode once a month, so they were excited about it and posted it. Maybe their  definition of #beastmode is different from yours. Who is to say what #beastmode even means?

I’ve totally been guilty of believing everything my fitness idols say, but it has sometimes sent me into a confusing spiral and I ended up right back where I started.

I don’t want to discourage you from following fitness models, but be sure to view them with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Lesson # 3: It’s more than okay to feel uncomfortable and to make mistakes.

I’ve tried lots of diets and tricks that I read in magazines and all over the web.

A few of them worked, but most of them just contributed to the cycle that got me right back to where I started. If I hadn’t made these mistakes, I probably wouldn’t have gotten to where I am today.

I have been through the starve, binge and repeat cycle, tried many fad diets, and slaved for hours on the elliptical machine. Did this time in my life suck? YES, it sure did, but looking back, those mistakes allowed me to realize what issues I had going on deep down. I was then able to confront those issues and make changes for the better.

Now, I look at crazy diet headlines or tips and I think, “wow, remember that time when I thought these would work?” and I don’t have to doubt my ways because I know what works for me.  You need to make mistakes — they will pay off in the long run.

Lesson # 4: Stop doing steady state cardio and start doing HITT.

I used to jog as my cardio along with my lifting workouts.

Sure, I looked good, but I didn’t get leaner  until I switched to high intensity interval training. HIIT training is a combination of aerobic and anaerobic training. Due to the high intensity, the EPOC (exercise post oxygen consumption) is much higher than when you do steady state aerobic training.

fitness lessons

Who wants to slave away on the treadmill or elliptical when you can get a much quicker and more effective workout in less than half the time? Image courtesy of MiracleBurn360.

The body takes a longer time to recover after HIIT training than it does with aerobic training. This higher EPOC is what causes the body to burn more calories when you’re hanging out on the sofa after your workout, because our bodies use fat for fuel when we are resting.

A study at the University of Western Ontario proved that after six weeks of training, subjects doing HIIT lost more fat than those doing steady state running. The high intensity increased their post-exercise resting metabolic rates, which means their bodies kept burning calories up to 24 hours after their workout. HIIT has also been shown to increase insulin sensitivity and increase growth hormone levels.

There are studies and facts that prove HIIT is superior to steady state cardio, but I’ve also seen it work for both me and my clients. I love doing 20-second sprints on the treadmill, but I also love 20-minute tabata workouts.

It might be daunting to change your old ways, but if you want to really step up your training and physique, give it a shot. Who wants to slave away on the treadmill or elliptical when you can get a much quicker and more effective workout in less than half the time?

Lesson # 5: There is no “perfect supplement” to accelerate your goals.

Can supplements aid your fitness journey?

Yes, but there really aren’t any magical supplements out there that will do the work for you. You still have to put in the effort with your diet and exercise.

I’m no bodybuilder or competitor, but I do love keeping a lean and toned physique. The only supplements I truly believe in are creatine and BCAAs. I don’t believe in loading, but a little creatine everyday can help aid your lifts.

I also take BCAAs between my protein-rich meals to keep my muscles in a more anabolic state. By taking BCAAs between shots of protein, you can hit the leucine mark that you need every three hours to aid in protein synthesis.

Lesson # 6: Get a coach.

Please, just do it. Take that plunge. It’s worth the investment.

If you’re anything like me, you doubt yourself way too often. When I first started lifting weights and getting into a healthy lifestyle, I doubted pretty much everything I was doing.

I kept reading new things online and would change my ways every week. Clearly, changing things this often meant I never saw consistent changes and having to think about my diet and exercise regime every second of the day, drove me mad. I had a client who I worked with for about a year until she decided that she could do it on her own.

fitness lessons

While you may be hesitant to get a coach, having that accountability and having that structure will take a lot more stress out of your life. Image courtesy of

She did so well, but a few months later she came back to me saying how she started doubting herself again. We came up with a plan where she would check in with me every so often, but she also had freedom on her own. That way, she could talk to me whenever she had doubts and I was able to train her mind to stop those doubts.

Eventually, she re-gained trust in herself and now she is thriving on her own. While you may be hesitant to get a coach, having that accountability and having that structure will take a lot more stress out of your life.

Lesson # 7: Stop changing up your fitness routine too often.

I’m totally guilty of starting a fitness routine and then changing it within less than a month.

This is where my doubt would come in, but I also thought changing it up every couple of weeks would be effective. Well, it’s not. First, every exercise you do requires practice and it takes up to several months for your nervous system to adapt.

Second, it takes time for your muscles to grow. In fact, muscle growth usually occurs after the nervous system has already adapted. So, if you keep changing things up every few weeks, your neurons don’t have enough time to adapt. Therefore, you won’t see much muscle growth.

Instead of changing your whole routine, just replace some exercises with other ones that work the same muscle group like barbell shoulder press and dumbbell shoulder press. For isolated exercises like triceps extension and bicep curls, you don’t need to worry too much about changing it up as these muscles don’t require as much neural adaptation.

Lesson # 8: You are more than your body.

There is SO much more to you than your physical appearance.

While I think it’s great to have a physical goal for yourself, don’t let that take over other parts of your life. I’ve worked with many women who all came to me with a specific physical goal. They wanted to “lose 30 pounds” or they wanted to “look like X fitness model”.

However, by the end of our time working together, not only do they have the physique they want, but they also have a newfound happiness. Most of them say to me that they don’t really care anymore about what they look like. Instead, they are just happy to have a healthy lifestyle that they can sustain.

Fitness and nutrition isn’t everything and if it starts to become that, you need to reel it in a bit. You should enjoy every second of your life!

Throughout your journey, you will learn a lot of things yourself, but these are some important things to keep in mind. Just remember that it’s okay to make mistakes. In fact, you will make mistakes and you will learn your own lessons. Focus on YOU, what makes YOU happy and what makes YOU thrive!

About the Author

Carrie McMahonCarrie McMahon was voted One of the Top 30 Under 30 Fitness Professionals Changing the Face of Fitness. She is an online trainer recommend by Layne Norton at She helps her clients cut out the fat diets and short-term fitness trends and focus on long-term, sustainable lifestyles.


Norton LE, Layman DK.  Leucine regulates translation initiation of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle after exercise.  J Nutr. 2006 Feb;136(2):533S-537S.

Macpherson, RE, TJ Hazell, TD Olver, DH Paterson, and PW Lemon. “Result Filters.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 2011. Web. 20 June 2015.
Matthews, Michael. “Why High-Intensity Interval Training Is Best For Weight Loss.” Muscle For Life Why HighIntensity Interval Training Is Best For Weight Loss Comments. N.p., 2015. Web. 20 June 2015.
Sale, DG. “Neural Adaptation to Resistance Training.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 1988. Web. 20 June 2015.