Epic 500th Blogpost: 100 Fitness Lessons I’ve Learned About What’s Really Important (Do This Stuff to Succeed)

note: make sure you don’t miss my NEW training compilation video that I put together to celebrate this milestone. You’ll find it at the end of this post!

This is my 500th blogpost on PhysicalLiving.com, and I can hardly believe it. Over 3.7 million people have visited this site since it first started in 2008, just six short years ago. It’s amazing that a little blog like this can have such a far reach in today’s day and age.

Things have slowed down here on the blog in recent years for a variety of reasons, including a few kids and a new business, among many other things. But I’ve been putting content together whenever I can. And it’s only because of all of you that I’ve made it this far.

So, today, I just wanted to say thanks. Thanks for reading my pitifully long and drawn out, boring stuff. Thanks for sharing my articles and videos with your friends. And most importantly, thanks for putting some of my advice into action. I’m humbled whenever I receive a thank-you note or just a quick comment letting me know that something I shared was helpful. You guys are awesome.

So, to commemorate the occasion, here are 100 lessons I’ve learned about fitness over the past several years of running this site. These are a mixture of practical and actionable tips along with some deeper, more profound philosophy concerning fitness and this lifestyle we choose to live. My hope is that there’s something in here for everyone, and at least one or two that really hit you powerfully, challenge you, and encourage you.

100 Things I’ve Learned About Fitness Since I Started This Blog 500 Posts Ago

Note: Skimmers should take note that the ones in bold are particularly meaningful and/or have had a dramatic impact on my life. So, skim accordingly!

It doesn’t matter if you can do 100 pushups or can’t do one, can run a mile in under 5 minutes or can’t walk one, can deadlift twice your bodyweight or can’t even bend over without pain. If you’re trying to improve, then you’re one of us, and we want you here. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, old or young, or fat or fit. You belong. And don’t let anyone – even yourself – convince you otherwise.

You can spend 60 minutes a day struggling or the next 60 years suffering. It’s your choice.

If you want to be healthy, strong, and fit into old age, then you’re going to have to do things right from the start.

The best prescriptions usually include things like good food, physical activity, and plenty of rest. You’ll notice that these are not long words with funny suffixes.

You’ll have good days and bad days, easy days and hard days, days when you want to give up and days that you feel unstoppable. Get used to the idea.

If you can find something physically challenging that you genuinely enjoy doing on a regular basis, then you’ve quite possibly found your own personal fountain of youth – whether it’s considered “exercise” or not.

If you’re alive, conscious, and breathing, then you can always – ALWAYS – do more. Don’t forget it.

It’s okay to miss a lift, lose a race, or have a bad day – as long as you learn from it. It’s what you do after the failure that matters most.

In my experience, natural movement training – the way our bodies were designed to move – often results in unexpected and sometimes mysterious restoration of injuries, imbalances, and dysfunctions. #MovNat

If you’re still looking for secrets, shortcuts, hacks, or other quick-fix solutions that don’t really work, then it might be time to grab your dictionary and lookup the word “insanity.”

female pushups
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cjnew/


You don’t need a fancy gym membership or thousands of dollars of equipment to improve your physique or achieve extraordinary levels of fitness, but you do need a commitment to your own self-mastery and a strong work ethic. (note: it’s okay if you attend one of those snobby gyms. I won’t judge, but I also won’t be caught dead in there!)

Just because so-and-so can lift 500 pounds, run a sub 3 hour marathon, or bend themselves into a pretzel (etc.) doesn’t mean you have to. Set your own goals and stop worrying about what everyone else can do. You’ll save yourself a lot of trouble.

Most people fail because they never start. And most of the rest fail because they don’t stick with what they’ve started. Having a powerful reason why you’re living this lifestyle can help get you over and through these hurdles.

If you want to improve anything about yourself, whether it’s your health and fitness or not, then you must get out of your comfort zone.

If five reps is comfortable, then you must do at least six. Here’s a tip: winners start counting their reps only after they get really hard.

Doing more work is not always better. But doing better work is always better.

Making small, incremental changes is much easier than making large changes, and it has a much higher success rate.

Getting into the right daily habits is the most surefire way to success.

Most people fixate on trivial details while ignoring the things that actually matter. Don’t be one of those people.

One of the most basic steps is to simply show up every day, but showing up is just the beginning.

surfer on beach
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/idlphoto/

Lift it, carry it, push it, pull it. Move it or lose it. You gotta use it!

If you are seated for prolonged periods of time, then chances are high that your body is chair-shaped – and you might want to do something about that.

If you’re experiencing back pain and you have poor posture, sit down all day, sleep on a lousy mattress, and don’t get any exercise, then painkillers should be the least of your worries.

I don’t care if you train at a Crossfit box, Gold’s Gym, Planet fitness, your local playground, or in your garage, living room, etc. as long as your health and fitness isn’t dependent on any one location or access to certain resources.

Fortunately, these days, it’s rare to see the clichéd dude with massive arms and tiny legs. But it’s still pretty common to see a really strong guy who doesn’t move well. Or, a great runner who can’t lift a jumbo bag of potato chips. Don’t be one of those guys.

Just because you can do your pushups with your hands on an exercise ball and your feet on a wobble board that are both balanced on a pair of vibration platforms, doesn’t mean you should.

Stick with the basics, but don’t get stuck there.

Even in the 21st century, there are still a lot of people that fall for nonsense and gimmicks. #shakeweight

Be grateful for whatever physical condition you are currently in. Gratitude leads to humility. And oftentimes, humility leads to health.

A beautiful physique is a natural by-product of healthy living. If you make better health your ultimate goal, then a lot of other things will fall into place.

women walking
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/slaff/

Training reinforces the character traits that you exemplify on a daily basis. So, use training to mold yourself into the person you wish to become.

Truly, thoughts are things, and you can truly think and grow fit. #napoleonhill

Circuits, supersets, HIIT, density training, flows, etc. They all work if you do. Try to make it look easy.

The truth is that regularly engaging in vigorous physical activity outdoors is one of the best things you could possibly do for your health. And that, as they say, is that.

Most young bucks spend too much time focusing on their moves and muscles, whereas most older gentlemen focus on their mobility and movement. Learn a lesson you young’uns!

The people who succeed often apply what they know to be true rather than continuously searching for more information. #procrastination

Training doesn’t end when your workout is over. You’re always training and always recovering, whether you’re paying attention or not.

It’s what you do when it gets really hard that really counts.

Please. Don’t talk to me about the bench press unless you can do a proper pushup.

If you can’t perform a bodyweight squat with good form, then why on Earth would you try it with a barbell on your spine?

front squat
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gregorwinter/

If you have trouble walking, running, squatting, or balancing on one leg, among many other rudimentary skills, then you’ve got your work cut out for you. The good news is that not only do you know the truth about your condition, but you’re also in good company.

Training around injuries is sometimes a good idea. Training through injuries is never a good idea.

There’s a big difference between experiencing pain and experiencing fatigue. Learning to tell the difference will pay dividends in the near and long term.

If you feel trashed after a workout, then you probably are. Take heed. The most successful people feel better after they train.

The closer you get to your peak potential in any single activity, the greater the risk of over-specializations. Yes, even something as useful and admirable as “getting stronger” or mastering a sport comes with some downsides. So, choose your goals wisely.

Specialization can be one of the greatest enemies of health and fitness enthusiasts. So, don’t feel like you absolutely must lift more weight, run a little faster, or do more reps no matter what. It’s okay to be a generalist, too, and get better at other things rather than really good at just one or two. Plus, it’s usually better for your health and fitness, too.

Your energy levels come in spurts and waves, and you’ll hit new gears the longer you go. Remember that next time you’re fatigued and thinking of giving up.

When you feel like you have nothing left, more often than not, you’re about to hit a breakthrough. #keepgoing

Making your health and fitness one of your top priorities usually pays off just when you need it.

NOT making your health and fitness one of your top priorities is often a mistake you can’t take back when you need it most.

fit female
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fitapproach/

You’re going to need to make time for the important things, just like everyone else.

Sometimes, speaking your fears out loud will show you how silly they are.

Very rarely will you regret eating well, exercising, or getting enough sleep. It is almost always worth it.

Very rarely will you be glad you ate junk food, skipped a workout, or stayed up late wasting time.

Superfoods are over-rated. Real food is where it’s at. #indefenseoffood

That said, kale is really good for you.

If your idea of a daily workout is hundreds of reps at a high intensity with poor technique, then I hope your idea of results is a slew of injuries and a short training career.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Similarly, you can meet your buddy at the gym, but you can’t make them train.

You’d be surprised what kind of results you can get from a little bit of high intensity exercise. And you’d be amazed at the results you can get without it.

Exercise is one of the best investments you will ever make. Done properly, it pays off immediately, over the short-term, and over the long-term.

kettlebell workout
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ggvic/

Just because you’re lifting logs and leaping over boulders out in “nature,” doesn’t make your performance optimal, or dare I say, primal. But hey, I’m glad you’re out there!

If so-and-so can achieve their goals, then you can, too. Get used to the idea.

There will always be someone, somewhere who is worse off than you and whom still achieves their goals.

Completing a workout when you’re not in the mood, don’t have the time, or any other excuse is one of the secrets to success. It’s not really a secret, though.

If you’re getting tired of starting over, then get used to the idea of not quitting.

In an industry over-saturated with trendy fitness equipment and complicated workout programs, a walk or run in the morning and some calisthenics in the afternoon still goes a really long way.

The next best thing often becomes the latest worst mistake.

Sometimes, backing off the intensity is the best way to get ahead. And sometimes, backing down, going backwards, or regressing makes it much easier to move forward.

Attaining physical fitness isn’t rocket science, but you will need a degree in common sense to make this stuff work.

You’ll learn more about yourself during a tough physical challenge than from a year reading personal development books.

muddy soldiers
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/usairforce/

Never do bicep curls in the squat rack or pelvic thrusts (ie hip mobility) while your neighbors are watching. Trust me.

Physical activity should be as natural as breathing and digestion, but we’ve made the mistake of turning it into a commodity. Let’s learn from our mistakes, shall we?

If you’re wondering what you should do, the answer always begins with “something, anything!”

When in doubt, finding something you enjoy doing is the most sure-fire way to keep doing it.

When catastrophe strikes, and it will, you will fall to the level of your preparedness – not rise to the level of your expectations. Prepare accordingly.

So, you can hold that advanced yoga pose for 5 minutes, you say? Impressive. But can you do a pull-up?

Even if you can do many pull-ups, you may still struggle to climb atop a horizontal tree branch from a deadhang. I did.

Lifting 225 pounds on a barbell isn’t nearly as challenging as lifting a person or a stone of the same weight because conditioning is skill-specific. Train accordingly.

I’ve personally found immense value in the most unexpected places – like doing yoga or other gentle exercise, for instance. And that wouldn’t have been possible if I wasn’t willing to get out of my comfort zone and try new things.

If you’ve never done yoga before, your first class should not involve being locked in a 120° Fahrenheit room for 90 minutes with dozens of other scantily-clad people. Trust me.

yoga class
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/domestictimes/

3×10 vs 4×8? Doesn’t matter. HIIT vs LSD? Don’t care. Back squats vs front squats? Wrong question.

You are capable of so much more than your mind has tricked you into believing.

Don’t make the mistake of fixating on your perfect “1 hour per day” workout program – trying to get it just right – when it’s the other 23+ hours of the day that are a mess.

Dealing with internal resistance comes with the territory. So, stay on the trail and try not to get lost in the wild.

I don’t care if you eat Paleo, vegetarian, vegan, low-carb, low-fat, gluten-free, or no-bananas. Just please don’t tell me what I should eat (unless I ask).

It doesn’t really matter if you’re doing three sets of 10 reps, 5×5, 8×3, or 1×50. It’s all good.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not having and sticking to a plan. An even bigger mistake is not having a goal, a direction, a purpose for all of this sweat. Be intentional. (note: sometimes, your plan can be as simple as “I’m going to go for a walk for as long as I want every single day.” And by the way, a mind determined to act is more valuable than the best intentions or plans. Don’t forget it.)

Hard physical training often unleashes stored emotions at the most unexpected times. Beware. And pay attention, too.

If you think you can do 8 reps, then your body can probably handle 15. If you think you can do 15 reps, then you can probably handle 25+. If you think you can do 50 reps, then you can probably handle 75-150ish. Get the idea?

Your willpower acts like a muscle. It gets stronger with practice. Strength training will do the job.

strongman athlete
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/xvulture/

Too much of a good thing is also known as a bad thing. Don’t forget it.

If you get tired at 10 reps, 2 miles, or after 5 minutes, and give up, then what do you think you’re training your mind to do when the going gets tough? That’s when it matters the most.

Bodybuilders, powerlifters, Olympic weightlifters, and strongman athletes really aren’t all that different. So, let’s be friends, okay?

Your muscles may lie to you, but the weights never will. 200 pounds is always 200 pounds. So, go pick that thing up.

Spend some time shooting hoops, throwing a Frisbee, or hiking a trail, and you might just find that you’ve gotten an hour or two of exercise without even trying.

We’re all going to die someday – hopefully, not prematurely. So, just do the best you can, and don’t let the pursuit of perfection become an obsession that harms other areas of your life. Good enough is good enough, and personally, I train to live – not the other way around.

There’s more to fitness than losing some weight, building strength, and getting six pack abs – a lot more.

You can spend the next year getting worse or getting better. It’s your choice. The steps are a little different, but the time is going to pass anyway.

What do you think would happen if you started each day well-rested, well-nourished, and energized? Yeah. I thought so.

If you’re wondering when the best time to start is, the answer is usually now.

Plans for the Future

As I mentioned earlier, there’s quite a bit more keeping me busy these days, especially my [rapidly] growing family. So, things may be a little slow here on the blog from time to time, but the plan is to keep it going for the foreseeable future and post whenever I can carve out the time. So, here’s to another 500 posts!

But first, how about a little bit of fun? Here’s a new compilation video I put together for you – the first I’ve done in over 5 years, if my memory serves me. Truth be told, I had to dig pretty deep into my video archives for some of these clips because I haven’t been filming as much lately! But I’ll try to step it up in the days ahead. Enjoy!

Note: I asked me wife if she thought anyone would actually watch this. She said, yes, but I’m not so sure. So, YOU tell me!

If you enjoyed this article or found it helpful, please share it with your friends using the buttons below (or in the slider to the left).

Health-First Fitness Coach

P.S. If you enjoyed this article, please signup for the newsletter so that I can stay in touch with you in the future. Or, follow me on Facebook or Twitter for daily updates.

P.P.S. Now, here’s one last thing to commemorate the occasion, and more importantly, to help organize this large collection of resources into something more user-friendly – you know, where you can actually find what you’re looking for! I put together a new page with the Top Posts of All Time for you here:

Click Here to Check out the Top Posts of All Time on PhysicalLiving.com

19 Responses

  1. Great post!

  2. Congrats John, on your 500th blogpost. And I can testify that none of it was long and boring! Here’s to your success and another 500.

    • Aww, thanks, Tracy “Supernova” F! If I have your support, then I’m doing A-OK :)

  3. Thanks for all your posts. I enjoy them all and look forward to the next 500. Nice Side Crow pose near the end of the video, BTW.

  4. Loved the video, especially the backdrop of the outdoors. Have followed your posts for quite a while and have looked to your reviews before purchasing some programs. Look forward to seeing and hearing more from you. Peter (North Wales UK)

  5. Great post and video. Congratulations on 500 post.

  6. Happy 500th John!
    Also, because you asked, I for one watch and enjoy your videos. Inspiring moves, and you are truly locationally blessed :)

    Yet you only show us a single pull up?? I expected different from the guy who brought us the PULLUP SOLUTION!

    • LOL – Thanks, Winfried! In my defense, I was working with very short clips! And yes, this little state of New Hampshire is pretty sweet :)

  7. John,

    You have one of the most interesting websites out there. I always find your perspective highly valuable – because you’re interested in the same types of exercise as I am – but you put in so much more effort than I do – and I”m grateful to you for that. Fascinating to watch your compilation video – takes me back over the various different things you’ve done over the years – things I’ve also tried. I’m also always fascinated by where you live – the landscape is beautiful, as is your dog! The 500th post was full of wisdom, and almost zen like in its message. Keep going and posting – there isn’t a site anywhere near as good, or as interesting as yours. Congratulations on the achievement

  8. Elaine Sorensen

    I enjoyed reading this article and watching the video. I found it motivational and encouraging!

  9. Very good video,i am feeling inspired to make some serious changes in my own life after taking in a lot of what i have read in your blog, thanks!!

  10. Hi, I’m new to your blog and that was a really good post! Congratulations on your 500th post! That is no small feat. You’ve got a new reader :)

  11. Really enjoyed this and the video at the end is completely inspiring!!!! Great stuff! Those club bells are really cool and I love all the yoga, a personal favorite! Your level of mobility is impressive. That’s something I would really like to work on.

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