What I was wrong about: everyone has 24 hours

This is my new series, exploring experiences and ideas over the course of my life in order to see if those same principles hold true or not. Click here to see my previous idea!

When I worked at a private gym, one of our most experienced trainers told his class the following:

Everyone has 24 hours, there’s no excuses. Doesn’t matter what’s going on in your life, if you wanted it bad enough, you’ll do it.

It sounded extremely inspirational to a kid in his 20s like me, but all of the mothers had an adverse reaction via eye rolls and questionable facial expressions. Everyone doesn’t truly have 24 hours and it was foolish to make such a general statement as that.

Truly motivating?

If that trainer knew his audience was better, a more appropriate line would be “I know everyone’s busy with life and kids, but let’s start building some habits that make it easy to incorporate workouts, movement, and fitness. An easy way is…”. You’re not training professional or high school athletes, and even if you were, most of them are intrinsically motivated to work hard. They’ve sought out training at a private facility instead of going to a cookie-cutter gym.

I’m always impressed when normal everyday people make time to exercise, whether it’s 5 am or 6 pm after work. We’ve had a mom of four come in almost every day after a day of work and drop off her kids to their activities. Or a graveyard shift worker coming after their shift to work out. Both were extremely determined to reach their weight goals and lifting goals. When I asked why did they push themselves so hard, they replied with the gym was a place where they could zone everything out and focus on what they liked. I realized that what I perceived was tough and draining was a “safe haven” for them to get away from everything for an hour.

When people go out of their way to spend precious time at any place, you know it’s a special place. They didn’t need a speech to motivate them, and definitely did not a trainer to tell them to “dig deep” whenever they wanted to just rest at home. From that point on, I focused on the overall lifestyle of the client instead of just the hour they spent at the gym. If we could make tiny tweaks throughout their day and build positive habits, it was clear it was a matter of time until they reached their goals.

We’ve had a senior client that came in wanting to lose weight and mentioned he tried everything and nothing was working. Instead of pushing him harder when he was at the gym — he didn’t like working out in the first place, we talked about what he did outside the gym. He sat and snacked a lot at home so all of the work we did at the gym would get canceled out. I suggested he could still snack but let’s limit the frequency or the amount, and added more leisure walking after big meals. The distance didn’t matter, I wanted him to see that it wasn’t hard to walk and that he could add it to his routine. A few months passed and he only lose 2–3 pounds but mentioned his energy and mood were much higher. Now we could add more habits and more goals to further his progression.

Not everyone has 24 hours

It’s unrealistic to say everyone has 24 hours. If you told me everyone has an opportunity each day to achieve something important, I’d believe you. But the expectation to forgo sleep, food, parental responsibilities, etc. just to focus on something is not sustainable nor is it practical. Everyone has a different definition of hard work and if we can compare a high schooler’s definition to a mom, it’s unreasonable to put those two in the same category. I don’t have children but babysitting is extremely tiring, I can’t imagine doing that every single day, and often on the child’s bad day. Similar to a high school’s schedule, it’s not fun to sit in a class for 6–8 hours discussing topics you don’t care about with teachers and other students that are also uninterested.

Perhaps this is a way for me to justify making people feel better about themselves for not being able to accomplish their goals, but just from experience and wisdom, time isn’t as flexible for everyone. There are outliers that will sacrifice a few things to achieve their goals and I believe that if you can do it, you should. If you look at all of the world-class performers, they had to give something up — time with kids, relationships, sleep, social activities, and so on. But they’ll also tell you that trying to accomplish everything in one day is impossible and improbable.

We can build habits to engrain our daily lives to inch closer to our goals and adjust daily activities to fit our needs. But perhaps let’s save our judgment and pretentious morals of pretending that everyone is as flexible as us. I’ve made that mistake many times and each time it didn’t help my clients achieve their goals at all. I was just a jerk who didn’t know any better.

Let’s focus on spending that time to help and encourage people. Until we find a way to not go crazy for staying up for 24 hours to work, let’s be real.

Until next week,


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