15 Lessons I’ve Learned From 15+ Years of Fitness About What Really MATTERS (Do This Stuff to Succeed)

male handstand walk Today, I’m going to share 15 things that 15 years of fitness has taught me about what really matters when it comes to physical training, among other things. I think that this will be a nice change from the endless argumentation and bickering over mostly insignificant or otherwise inconsequential issues that is so rampant in the realm of health, fitness, and weight loss.

Now, some of these points may appear overly simplistic, but don’t overlook the immense value of the hidden truths they contain. If we could only internalize, practice, and embody these ideas to the point of forming a new identity, we would amaze ourselves at what we can achieve.

So, without further adieu, here are 15 things that really matter when it comes to your health, fitness, and quality of life.

What doesn’t matter: how many pushups, pull-ups, or sit-ups (etc.) you can do.
What DOES matter: that you push yourself every time you train to do and be better.

What doesn’t matter: whether you can qualify for the Boston marathon, or run a marathon at all.
What DOES matter: that you get out there and run because you want to and because you can. Period.

What doesn’t matter: whether or not you can do a handstand, planche, human flag, or some other high-skill exercise.
What DOES matter: that you get out of your comfort zone and believe in your ability to accomplish great things.

What doesn’t matter: whether you eat a Paleo, vegetarian, low-carb, or other diet.
What DOES matter: that you recognize the blessing and value of good, nourishing food that can fuel your health, fitness, and recreational pursuits – not to mention make you a healthier, happier person.

What doesn’t matter: whether you’re a high-carb, low-carb, no-carbs, or balanced dieter.
What DOES matter: that you find a way to take care of your health and achieve your goals that works for you, but also not take this stuff too seriously and miss out on some of life’s other joys.

What doesn’t matter: whether you’re a weightlifter, CrossFitter, P90X junkie, or kettlebell athlete (etc.).
What DOES matter: that you find something you love to do that can help you reach your goals and enjoy a higher quality of life – something you would do just because.

What doesn’t matter: whether you do yoga, Pilates, tai-chi, or some other form of gentle, restorative exercise.
What DOES matter: that you honor your body and do whatever you can to take care of it.


What doesn’t matter: whether you train with HIIT, circuits, supersets, or flows, (etc.).
What DOES matter: that you work hard regardless of your preferred modalities.

What doesn’t matter: how many times a week you train.
What DOES matter: that you do train regularly, and that whatever frequency you choose works for your schedule and lifestyle while also allowing you to make consistent progress.

What doesn’t matter: how many websites, blogs, books, or magazines you read about health and fitness.
What DOES matter: that you find the essential knowledge you need to achieve your goals and then apply it.

What doesn’t matter: how much money you spend on your gym membership, workout clothes, or exercise equipment.
What DOES matter: that you use what you’ve got and don’t let anything stop you from pursuing your goals.

What doesn’t matter: whether you want bigger muscles, leaner muscles, less fat, more fat, etc.
What DOES matter: that you accept your body for what it is and don’t let false images degrade your own self-image.

What doesn’t matter: whether you do 3×10, 5×5, 4×8, 2×20, or 1×100, etc.
What DOES matter: that you do whatever is necessary to challenge your body to adapt and stick with it long enough to make it happen.

What doesn’t matter: whether you train at home, at the park, at the gym, or studio, etc.
What DOES matter: that you make training so much a part of your lifestyle that your health isn’t dependent on any one location.

What doesn’t matter: how much you can squat/deadlift/bench/etc.
What DOES matter: that you challenge yourself a little more each and every day.

male weightlifter

And, of course, the things that truly matter have very little to do with physical training at all; things like family, friends, faith, love, service, and many others. These are the ultimate reasons why we train. So, let’s keep things in perspective now, shall we?

The truth is thatĀ you areĀ NOT your fitness program, or your strength level, or your workout clothes, or your gym membership. And your worth isn’t measured in pounds, sets, or reps. So, don’t forget that and keep being awesome!

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Health-First Fitness Coach

P.S. Not to mention you’re stronger than you think. Just sayin’.

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P.P.P.S. Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zenobia_joy/, http://www.flickr.com/photos/lyntally/, http://www.flickr.com/photos/gregorwinter/

22 Responses

  1. Dig this. BIG time!
    Thank you for sharing bro.
    Amazing what the blessing of family helps us connect to ever deepening degree’s. :)

    • I thought you might, Mr. Dare to Evolve! And hey now, I’ve seen the updates on FB… don’t have too much fun over there on the West Coast with all those seminars. I think there’s a law against that, or something. And anytime you want to put together that little bonus we talked about, just give me a holler!

  2. Gene Purdum

    Good stuff. But what kind of pose/stand is the woman doing?

    • I had to look it up. YogaJournal.com calls it Astavakrasana, or Eight-Angle Pose. I’d probably describe it as an advanced lateral hand balancing pose, but I’m not exactly the most erudite yogi and this is not something I’ve ever tried. If I wanted to, I’d start by having a solid foundation in crow and side crow poses, and then experiment with different ways of entering this 8-angle pose.

  3. Gene Purdum

    Thanks, John, for checking into it! I enjoy your posts and find great information and inspiration in all of them.

  4. Timothy James


    This is priceless. I’ll print this and stick it next to my workstation to inspire myself everyday.

    Thank you :)


  5. I agree with almost everything :D, but you probably read the joke:
    Education is important, but big biceps are importanter :D.
    Definitely you should be consistent and see what works for you and your body, no one else can tell you that, you can use the best exercising program, but eventually you need to adjust it for you.


  6. 15 years of fitness? wow that’s impressive. it takes one to be consistent with his workouts to really get his desired results in the long run and enjoy countless health perks as they age.

  7. Vin_Diesel

    I was just wandering If I can do the same calisthenic program twice a day and release tension both times with yoga. Does doing yoga in the morning after a workout get rid of explosiveness when you are working out in the evening?

  8. I was just wandering if you can do the same workout twice a day with the proper cool down to release tension.

    • Hey Vince,

      That’s a good question, and the answer is that it depends. There might be some instances where you can and should train twice daily – even doing the same type of training session. But for most people, doing just one workout per day is all they need, and any more than that would be overkill that would eventually result in overtraining and burnout. I’ll cover this in more detail in a future Q+A post.

  9. Many websites are saying that I need proper rest, cool down, and nutrition in order to work out twice a day. I guess I can work out twice a day if I am taking it easy by not exercising too vigorously. For some odd reason my body aches when I wake up in the morning. I always stretch after a walk and after doing calisthenics, so I don’t know why I have pain.

  10. Scott Sonnon wrote that he exercises 40 minutes a day. 20 minutes of body weight in the morning and 20 minutes of calisthenics in the evening I think, so is it OK if I do body weight twice a day, but not everyday to let my body heal?

    • Hi John/Vince/Vin_Diesel,

      You can use the same name, you know. You used the same e-mail, after all :-)

      I’m not saying you can train twice daily and I’m not saying you can’t. I’m just saying that it depends, and there’s no way for me to make a solid recommendation either way without working with you in person and knowing your history, etc. It wouldn’t be responsible, and I wouldn’t feel right about it. If you’re just looking for permission from an expert, then I’m sure some fitness coaches would say it’s ok – perhaps even a good idea – and some would not. But ultimately, it all depends on how you do it and how your body handles it.

      That said, I’d be very cautious about training twice daily as that puts you at risk of both over-training and under-recovering, and most people can’t sustain that kind of training for very long, if at all, without some consequences. And just because a highly-trained athlete or expert like Sonnon can do it, doesn’t mean you, I, or someone else should. It just depends. And if you’re experiencing chronic pain, then I’d be inclined to recommend erring on the safest side possible to eliminate the risk of making things worse. Trust me, I’ve been there, and you don’t want to make an injury worse.

      So, I know I’m not giving you the kind of answer you’re looking for, but hopefully my upcoming Q+A will help shed some more light on this issue and will help you make up your mind about what to do.

      Best of luck!

      • I don’t have chronic pain anymore. I solved my problem. I reversed my mattress and my back feels a lot more comfortable now when I sleep. I been doing free steve maxwell exercises on youtube like the hindu push up combined with the sit out. Scott Sonnon is incredible! I think his ground flow is amazing. I find it really hard to do ground movements in combat systema.

  11. Nice blog entry. I dig the upbeat positive tone of the writing- how many have lost interest in fitness because of self proclaimed gurus preaching an all or nothing use of a particular
    Technique or tool or machismo morons talking bro talk about what they can bench or squat (like Ross Enamait
    Says in some of his books- many modern ego filled gym rats haven’t stepped away from a mirror long enough to get down with a pull up bar- its only bench squat and biceps curls for them-I roll my eyes).

    This is good and when I’ve seen bet rests in my life I just dug in did it with passion ate clean and got it on and didn’t over think.it or act lax in the work itself.

    All the best.

  12. Spot on when you mentioned it doesn’t matter if you do crossfit, p90x, strength training etc. Its easy to mock people for following a certain type of training, but ultimately what counts is your working out, making progress and are happy.

  13. Great post, John. Lots of wisdom.

  14. Hi, I just signed up in past few days to your site. The above list is so refreshing to read compared to all the info on every other fitness website! Its great to read words from a normal human being who exercises and lives in the real world too!

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