Seven common obstacles on your fitness journey

by Devan Dippenaar

A journey towards fitness and wellbeing rarely goes in a straight line and frequently presents many stumbling blocks, no matter how determined you are at the start. Knowing these obstacles in advance will not only help you overcome them but will also ensure your long-term success. Here are some of the more common ones.

Forgetting to set a plan

In my experience, one of the most effective tools to work with is a well-structured plan. Without this, you are more than likely to fall off the wagon and become quickly demotivated due to a lack of results. So, whether it’s progressive overload training or phase-by-phase nutrition, it’s important to have a clear roadmap to follow — and to stick to.

Not knowing your goal

Goal setting is another underrated component of any physical transformation journey. So many people start a fitness or diet plan without a clear idea of what they want to achieve. Without the “what, when, where and how”, more often than not you’ll find yourself giving up. Use your fitness goal to measure your success and to help keep you focused.

Lack of confidence

We are creatures of habit, so climbing out of our comfort zone can feel like a huge step. You might start out enthusiastically but then find yourself wondering if you can do it at all. A positive, confident mindset is as vital as sticking rigorously to your diet and training plan. Avoid undermining yourself and focus instead on the task at hand. Whether your goal is simply to improve your blood pressure or to transform your body into a work of art, self-confidence is key.

Unwillingness to change

You can’t keep doing the same thing yet expect different results. Being comfortable with change is not only essential for personal evolution, but for any fitness journey too: it might mean completely revamping your diet, expanding your training regimen to working out twice a day, radically altering your approach, or hiring a coach to help you. If you feel like you’re making little or no progress, then it’s time to reassess and make some changes.

Trial and error vs. failure

Thomas Edison said, “I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Fortunately, you’re unlikely to have to try thousands of diets or training routines to find one that gives you the results you want. However, it’s wise to expect lots of trial and error. Maybe that high-protein diet a friend swears by is not right for you, or CrossFit isn’t your thing. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed; you just need to try something else. Keep experimenting but aim to identify the difference between “this is a bit tough, but I can do it”, and “this is just not working for me”. The only failure is giving up completely, especially early on.


What once felt like stepping out of your comfort zone might now feel unchallenging and boring even. This is bound to happen if you don’t add variety and shake up your programme and diet fairly frequently. While you do need to allow time for each change to bed in before you see results, aim to switch things up regularly. And it’s not just about boredom: the human body is a master of homeostasis and will do its best to adapt to dietary and physical exertion changes. The secret to overcoming both is variety. Working with a coach, whether in person or remotely, can also help take the guesswork out of the equation.

Unrealistic expectations

There are far too many ads online promising body and fitness transformations in the shortest amount of time possible, showing dramatic before and after photos. For the most part, they are unrealistic so avoid using them as a benchmark. The long-term goal is progress, so it’s irrelevant how quickly that comes. Even if you do achieve your goal in a relatively short space of time, what will you do after that? Improving your health and physique requires lifestyle changes that you can maintain long-term, not just for a few weeks.

There are other stumbling blocks that will cause you to deviate from your plan: work stress, family commitments, health and so on — life, basically. Just do what you can, when you can. Missed two training sessions so far this week? It’s ok, do one today. You had a celebration yesterday and ate too much? No problem, get back on your diet today. It’s this shift in attitude that is the most invaluable tool. Doing little and often is always better than doing a lot in one go and then nothing for ages. So long as you’re taking another step forward, you are moving in the right direction, and it is never likely to be a straight line.

Devan Dippenaar is a coach and fitness consultant with over fourteen years of experience. For more info, visit: or


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