A Few Secrets of Success (In Fitness and Life)

Successful people do more than just “work hard” or “do the right thing.” Success requires strategic planning, structure, good management around obstacles, self-awareness, and leadership.

Do you share these traits?


Whether they know it or not, successful people follow a set of guidelines. If we observe successful people, leaders in their respective fields, we find a shared pattern of behavior. Of course we can always throw out key words like discipline, self-control, and focus, but success does not always come from just “working hard” or “doing the right thing”, although those are very important. Success requires strategic planning, structure, good management around obstacles, self-awareness, and leadership. Over my athletic career and nearly 10-years of personal training, I’ve discovered a few key secrets that all successful people share. Read the list below for a quick summary, continue reading for an in-depth analysis.

While reading, take an honest assessment of yourself. Do you share a few of these secrets to success?

Here’s your need-to-know summary. Successful people:

  1. Establish a goal and deadline – they don’t just “do whatever”. Successful people understand WHY they chose the goal. They make it specific and measurable.
  2. Create structure around the goal – a schedule, a plan, a log. Successful people have support groups and don’t take the process for granted or just go through the motions. Success requires rearranging priorities.
  3. Frame their goals around behaviors, not the end result. This means they focus on the patterns which lead to success, rather than success itself.
  4. Expect and tolerate setbacks – they know physical and mental pain. They understand disruptions and setbacks. Successful people have a plan to work around unexpected obstacles.
  5. Have confidence, but leave their ego behind – Successful people don’t let attitude interfere with their goals. They understand where they are in the journey, and they don’t rush the process or compare themselves to others. Everyone thinks others are judging, but in reality we are our own worst critics!
  6. Successful people seek out a mentor or coach – someone outside their circle of friends. They find someone who’s not tied to their immediate success or failure. They seek an outside perspective.

What separates successful people from the rest?

If we break it down, there are a handful of patterns or behaviors all successful people share, regardless of what field or area of success. When we look at each individual case, it may seem that everyone does something different but look closely, and you’ll realize that each success story shares a few key elements. Let’s review the list and go further into what separates the best from the rest.

1) Successful People Establish Goals AND Deadlines

When a new client comes to me for fitness help, the first thing I ask is for a clearly defined goal. Usually I a few similar responses:

“I just want to get in shape.”
“I need a lose a few pounds.”
“I want to tone up and slim down.”

There’s nothing inherently wrong with these goals, in a sense it’s exactly what most people want out of a fitness plan. But that’s not good enough for successful people. You see, the average person decides they want to accomplish something, and they make the first step toward that goal – they wish for something to happen. Unfortunately that’s where the progress ends.

Successful people, on the other hand, establish SMART goals. They set a Specific target – with Measurable progress – within Attainable and Realistic boundaries – in a Timely manner. Successful people approach their goals with very specific guidelines. The details are laid out and measured. Big goals are broken into smaller attainable steps. No goal is set beyond the realm of realism, and nothing is set too far out in the future or with an unspecified timeline. This, I think, is the key that separates a successful goal setter from the others, an end date. Deadlines force us to evaluate our process and measure our progression on a daily basis. Without deadlines or goal dates, we will fall into a routine and never progress past the first stage of wishing for something better to happen.

2) Successful People Establish Structure Around a Goal

Once a goal has been established, a successful person creatures structure around that goal. Structure is a framework around the goal that allows measurable and consistent progress. For example, a successful weightloss plan will require an exercise schedule. Depending on what is realistic, a good structure will consist of two or more planned exercise sessions. These sessions would be treated as importantly as any other planned activity such as work, school, or a visit to the doctor. Successful people will rearrange their priorities in order to stick to the schedule.

Furthermore, understanding that good nutrition is the key to weightloss a successful person will log their food on a daily basis. This allows them to monitor and track their progress and make changes accordingly. If mistakes occur, a successful person will be able to look over the log and determine what common element triggers the mistakes. For example, do you find yourself always snacking at night? Maybe it’s not the snacks themselves, it’s the nightly routine which triggers the cravings. It doesn’t matter if you’re munching on a bag of chips or creeping into the pantry for a cookie, it’s the fact that you’re looking for something at night. Understanding what triggers the cravings is more important than addressing the snack itself. A food log can help identify problem areas and fix them before they sabotage your goal.

A successful person will also seek out support groups to aid them in their journey. Perhaps a like-minded friend with similar goals, or a weekly fitness class to maintain accountability. Successful people surround themselves with other successful people. I believe this is another key element. If you don’t like your current position, surrounding yourself with people who put you there will only keep you there. Successful people seek out others who are BETTER than them. Iron sharpens iron, as the saying goes.

You’ll notice in our weightloss example, it’s not the food log itself that made the difference. It’s not the schedule or the fitness class that created success. It’s the whole structure of accountability  that sets successful people apart. Everything combined together. The more pieces you have in place, the more support you have to reach the top.

3) Successful People Frame Their Goals Around Behaviors

When it comes time to run a race, thinking about the finish line doesn’t help. Especially if it’s a long race. Instead, thinking about the first few steps, the first mile, and each individual mile after that leads to the finish line. We never magically appear at the end goal. And those who do find themselves disappointed! You’ve probably heard about the stories of lottery winners and their million dollar payouts. Financial freedom, right? It’s currently estimated that 70% of lottery winners go BROKE after winning. Why? They magically appeared at the finish line rather than training and getting to the end through discipline.

Successful people don’t magically appear at the finish line. Instead, they improve each day over the previous day. We can apply this same principle to our weightloss example. Don’t focus on the 50 pounds you’ve set as your end goal, focus on how you’re going to approach the next five pounds.

Set your small daily goals around the structure and foundation of your training plan. For example, “I need to lose 5 pounds to hit the next step” becomes “I will stick to the schedule I’ve created and log every day for the next two weeks.” This will break up the end goal and frame your mind around the process itself. It’s not about the finish line, it’s about getting there.

4) Successful People Tolerate and Plan Around Setbacks

Every road has a crack. Every golf course has a sand-pit. No plan goes without a hitch. Think about the last time you made a personal goal or new years resolution. What caused you to stray? Did something stop you? Did someone stop you?

Successful people understand that there will be obstacles along the way. We may never be able to predict the obstacle, but if you’ve created an appropriate framework around your goals, the obstacle doesn’t matter! Maybe your overall goal is to lose 50 pounds, but you’ve sprained your ankle and cannot walk or run. Does it matter?

A successful person will take their framework to support the ankle. Nutrition, for example, isn’t affected by a sprained ankle. A successful person will continue logging their food, stay under their calorie budget, and come up with unique ideas for exercise that don’t affect the foot. Because the framework was in place, a setback or two won’t stop your progress. Mentally, understanding that setbacks happen will also keep you in the right frame of mind. Be prepared for the unexpected setback, and you won’t be thrown off balance when it happens.

5) Successful People Choose to be Confident Without an Ego

It’s true that confidence is an important trait for success. Confidence is required to make difficult decisions in business and life, push yourself to the next level in fitness, and properly evaluate yourself to find your weaknesses. Confidence can be the difference between reaching your goal or never making it past the first step. Ego, on the other hand, is the nemesis of success. Ego strives to find approval and validation from the wrong places. Ego is resistant to feedback and instruction. Ego hides a lack of true motive or desire. It’s important not to confuse ego and confidence, as successful people choose to be confident while leaving their ego behind.

How is it, then, that we can leave our ego behind? How can we separate confidence from ego? What’s the difference between the two? Here are a few habits of someone who chooses confidence over ego:

  • Confident people understand their flaws and look for weaknesses.
  • As a result, they seek advice and follow it.
  • Confident people don’t try to do everything themselves. They know when to delegate tasks or ask for help.
  • Confident people are able to self-analyze and understand when they’re wrong.
  • Confident people naturally build a core group of friends and support.

You could simplify this and consider that ego is an extreme false confidence in the self, whereas true confidence is understanding and trusting in the system and framework in which you have built to succeed.

6) Successful People Seek Out a Mentor

There’s probably nothing in this world you can do that someone hasn’t already done or attempted to do. However that doesn’t mean you can’t improve upon it! Recall the expression by Isaac Newton: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Newton understood that every achievement in the field of science and mathematics came because someone else had paved the way. The same is true in fitness!

Back in the 60s, during the Cold War era, the Soviets were INTENT on beating the rest of the world in every aspect and proving their dominance. We know how the space race and the cold war turned out, but while they were attempting to win the battle on the science front, they were also pushing the boundaries on physical fitness and trying to build a “New Man.” The Soviet government pushed physical fitness programs in every school and on every citizen. The goal was to seek out and develop the best of the best, and raise the bar of physicality. As a result, there were gyms in nearly every neighborhood. Each coach and gym was encouraged to seek out new training programs for strength, speed, athleticism, flexibility, and so on. This caused a surge in various training programs and equipment. Eventually, the best fitness programs rose to the top. The Soviets learned the best ways to build strength and speed and as a result, attempted to conquer the fitness and Olympic scene.

After the Iron Curtain fell, these training programs began to leak out to the rest of the world. Because the Soviets had so many people participating in physical training, we were able to see (on a large scale) the difference between 3 sets of 10, 4 sets of 8, 12 sets of 3, and so on. On a fitness level, the rest of the world was able to learn and improve because the Soviets tried literally every method and learned what worked. Modern day Strength and Conditioning techniques stem from Soviet era training.

This story is an example of why it’s important to seek out leaders in our field or those who have gone before us. In America, we call them Coaches or Professors. In Japan, Sensei. Literally “One who has gone before.” Why waste time on things that have already been tried? Successful people know that they must look at what has already been done, and find a way to IMPROVE upon it. We an apply this to our fitness journey as well. How many times have you jumped from one fitness program to the other? How often have you stuck with an eating plan or diet and wondered “Is this really supposed to work?”

Be a successful person. Find a coach or mentor, someone who has gone before. Leave your ego behind and seek an outside perspective. Do it today and make sure you’re on the right track!

Jack of all Trades

Believe it or not, there is no singular definition of fitness.

There is no one test to determine whether you’re ‘in shape’.  Though it feels like there are plenty of ways to determine  you’re out of shape.

Often we can just look at someone and determine to ourselves if they’re fit. Sometimes you just know, right? Maybe they have big muscles, or a lean figure, or a solid combination of both and we think to ourselves “I wish I was as in shape as them…

In reality, there are many more factors that determine your fitness level. Just because someone is big doesn’t mean they’re strong. Just because they run often doesn’t mean they’re healthy. In exercise science, we generally split fitness into 10 separate areas, or domains. That is, 10 different areas that can each be trained individually. All of which combine to determine your overall fitness. A truly fit person will have some level of mastery in all of the domains.

Some of these areas are obvious, some you may never have considered before. Listed below are the 10 domains of fitness. Read this list and think to yourself: “Is this area a strength of mine? Which areas are my weakness?” Are you a jack of all trades, or a master of one?


10 Domains of Fitness

Cardiovascular Endurance – The ability of your body to absorb, diffuse, transport, and effectively use oxygen and provide energy over a sustained amount of time.

Strength –The muscle’s ability to apply force while shortening, lengthening, or remaining static. For instance, pressing a heavy weight overhead or holding a heavy weight in place.

Stamina – Storing, processing, and utilizing energy to sustain a given workload. This allows your body to keep working while getting tired.

Flexibility – The ability of a muscle to lengthen through (and beyond) it’s normal range of motion.

Power – A muscle’s capacity to provide maximum force in a short amount of time. For example, jumping on a box.

Speed – Minimal transition time in a movement pattern.  An example would be a cyclist’s ability to quickly rotate his feet on the pedals.

Coordination –The ability to efficiently combine multiple movements into a singular pattern. For instance, running one direction while catching a ball.

Agility – Minimal transition times from one movement pattern to the other. Think of sprinting one direction, and quickly turning and sprinting the other direction.

Balance –The ability to recognize and control the body’s center of gravity in relation to its base of support.

Accuracy – Controlling a movement pattern in a given direction at a given intensity or speed. For instance, throwing a ball.


More To It

Looking at these 10 domains, it becomes clear that there is much more than just being strong or lean. In fact, you may have noticed that body weight and fat percentage isn’t even on the list. It’s possible to be strong, enduring, and cardiovascularly fit without taking body weight into account. However, this is only up to a certain point. Eventually excess body fat will interfere with certain factors like the ability to jump (power) or the efficiency with which you can change directions (agility).

It’s also possible to be masterful in one domain while completely ignoring the others. Have you ever seen someone who is super strong, but couldn’t climb a flight of stairs? Maybe they could run for miles but couldn’t change directions if their life depended on it.

In my experience with training various populations, I’ve actually come across many people who are masters of one domain, but grossly lacking in others. One prominent example is a long distance runner who could literally run for days. She had a very high cardiovascular endurance and stamina, ran marathons and ultra marathons. Unfortunately, she didn’t have much power or strength. She couldn’t jump on a box that was knee height! Now while many people may not be able to jump on a 16 in box, it’s a bit unusual for someone who runs marathons. True story. Just because you can master one or two domains doesn’t make you fit.


Be a Jack of All Trades

So how do you improve all domains equally? How can you be the best version of yourself? The simple answer is: Know your strengths, understand your weaknesses. Does your training program consist of doing the same exercises for months and years on end? Do you only ever train one exercise or one direction? If your idea of a workout is a barbell bench press for 3 sets of 10, cardio, go home, then you may be lacking in not only other domains, but perhaps posture and health!

My mantra is “Go where it’s dangerous.” This is a quote given to me by my Judo coach, and I find it holds true for every day life. Go where it’s dangerous. Don’t stay in your comfort zone. Try new things, learn new weaknesses, improve your overall fitness. Can you deadlift your bodyweight? Run a sub-8 minute mile? Survive (and succeed) in a class of yoga? Learn your weakness and improve on it. Be more than just fit.

And of course if you need help identifying and improving your weaknesses, having an accountability partner is always useful. An experienced friend or coach can be a valuable asset. Sometimes just having an outside perspective can make a huge difference.

If you need an extra eye on your training program, or want to reach new heights in your personal journey, schedule a free consultation and fitness assessment with me today!

All the best,

Jeremy Bushong, MS, CSCS














Fine Tuning Nutrition

Nutrition can be as complex or simple as you want it to be. In a previous post, I talked about  the general concept of the energy balance equation and how calories consumed must be balanced with calories expended. Let’s take a look at some of the more specific aspects of nutrition, and how it can apply to your fitness goals.

Remember, there are no shortcuts!


First lets discuss a units of measurement. A calorie is a very, very small amount of potential energy. When a carbon atom bonds with another carbon, they share energy. This carbon bond can then be broken down and energy is released in the form of heat. A calorie is simply the amount of energy released when food (carbon bonds) is broken down. Foods are structurally varied, meaning the carbon bonds are built differently. This is why different foods have different calories counts.

Side note: There are technically two calories in science. Big “C” Calories, typically what we refer to, is the amount of energy needed to raise 1kg of water 1 degree Celsius; versus small “c” calories is the amount of energy needed to raise 1 g of water 1 degree Celsius. 1000 calories = 1 Calorie (or kilocalorie, labeled kcal).

Foods are broken down into three main types of structures. Short simple chains of carbons (Carbohydrates), complex long chains of carbons (fats), or folded polygonal rings of carbons (protein).

Each category has a different amount of potential energy when measured by grams.

  • Carbohydrates contain 4 Calories per gram.
  • Proteins contain 4 Calories per gram.
  • Fats contain 9 Calories per gram.

As these foods are digested, they release energy in the form of heat. The amount of food consumed is directly proportional to the amount of energy released. Meaning if your body needs 2000 Calories per day to function, but you consume 2200 Calories, you will slowly and gradually gain weight. On the other hand, if you only consume 1800 Calories, you will slowly and gradually lose weight.

It really is that straightforward. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

For more information on Calories, carbohydrates, or other nutrients, check back regularly or scroll the the archives. Have a specific question regarding your fitness requirements and caloric needs? Trouble with the last few pounds of fat loss? Contact me! Or signup online at my homepage and track your progress with me!

The Mathematical Rule for Weight Loss

The best way to lose weight is to decrease your caloric consumption and increase your energy expenditure. You CANNOT out-exercise a bad diet!



When it comes to changing body weight, nutrition is the single biggest factor. The food you eat is essential to fueling your daily activity, maintaining your health, and and keeping your body functional. With a proper nutrition program you can boost your progress in the gym and maximize your results. However, there is no shortcut. Strong adherence to a sensible eating plan is the best way to reach your fitness and health goals.

Nutrition can be as complicated or as easy as you want. There are many diets, tons of false information, and fads on the market to keep us guessing. To make things worse, researchers are constantly learning new information about our nutritional needs and how we utilize food. Basically, everything we think we know about proper eating is constantly changing


The only real rule: To lose weight, eat less. To gain weight, eat more.

It’s really that easy. Don’t waste time or mental energy on the fads posted throughout the internet and in the magazines. There is no single food you can eat (or not eat) to make progress. All successful diets and weight loss strategies work because of a basic mathematical property called the Energy Balance Equation. It looks like this:

Daily Caloric Balance = Energy Consumed – Energy Expended

If the daily caloric balance is in the positive for extended periods of time, you will gain weight. If the balance is in the negative for extended periods of time, you will lose weight. It really is that simple.

One of my favorite analogies of the energy balance equation is a kitchen sink.




Picture this sink holding water. Water can come in from the faucet, and leave through the drain. The more water coming from the faucet, the faster the sink will fill up and overflow. The bigger the drain, the more water will leave. For this analogy, the food you eat is the faucet and your exercise is the drain.

Using this analogy, it becomes clear there are several methods in which to empty the sink. You could reduce the amount of water coming in and let it drain on its own. Or you could widen the drain at the bottom and allow more water to empty. However, the best method is to do both!

The best way to lose weight is to decrease your caloric consumption and increase your energy expenditure. You CANNOT out-exercise a bad diet!

Check back soon for more specific information on how to calculate your food needs, or contact me to design a customized fitness and nutrition guide specifically for you.