A potential client, Martin, calls me on the phone to ask how I could help him. Martin wants to lose around a stone he says, and improve his muscle definition. After explaining that the best way forward is for us to meet for a consultation (a free one I might add) so I can do an assessment and get a better idea of his goals, he explains he is looking at a number of personal trainers and doesn’t want to commit to anything yet.

“Not a problem” I say, “there’s no obligation to sign up to anything”.

I’m quite impressed he’s doing some research and commend him for putting some thought into his decision. But Martin is adamant he just wants a chat for now. So I spend a good ten minutes answering as many of his questions as I can, and offering whatever advice I can based on what he tells me (incidentally many trainers are reluctant to do this, but in our internet age where an almost unlimited amount of freely available information is just a click away, you can’t expect to charge for every bit of knowledge you offer. Instead you need to convince people that you are the best source of that information and therefore worth paying for. That’s a topic for another day).

So following our conversation, Martin says he’ll be in touch if he wants to work with me.

A fortnight later he calls me back.

I answer the phone, feeling pleased that my efforts to help him must have paid off and he is now ready to become a client. Very quickly my heart sinks as he says he’s now looking at other options besides personal training and wants my thoughts on DVD and mail order training plans. At least he values my opinion I guess…

Martin says he’s heard good things about one particular product (for legal reasons I’d best change the name, let’s call it ‘Madness’). I give my honest views on it, explaining that regardless of the actual exercises involved, any plan you follow has to address all aspects of your lifestyle that impact on progress towards your goals; nutrition, stress, sleep, etc.

Martin agrees with me enthusiastically and seems to be convinced that personal training is the best option for him after all. “I just need to do a bit more research” he continues, “to make sure your style of training is right for me”.

Another three weeks go by and this time I follow up with Martin. He’s still doing his research but hopes to make a decision ‘soon’.

I don’t hear from Martin for a further month but he’s on my email list so I know he’s been reading my newsletters and tips, so I call him once more. Now more than two months since he initially contacted me, Martin still hasn’t begun any sort of training plan, is the same weight he was before (if not a little heavier) and doesn’t feel he’s made any progress whatsoever. Yet apparently he still isn’t completely ready to take any direct actions to solve the problem.

This is a familiar story with plenty of variations - the gym member that will start PT sessions ‘when they’re a bit fitter’, the stressed office worker who will stop smoking ‘when work gets quieter’. Too many people wait for the ‘right’ time to make changes to their lifestyle, believing there will be a perfect cut off point between all the old negative habits and the new positive ones. But that time never comes. Of course in reality achieving health and fitness goals consists of making many individual behaviour changes, some of which are easily doable, some much harder, and often the most effective strategy is to change one thing at a time.

Regardless of what the behaviour changes are, the best way to get started is to do just that – get started! Do something. Even if it turns out not to be the best thing to do, it can be changed, and it’s still better than doing nothing at all.

Martin got caught in the trap of waiting for the right time to do everything, until he was ‘totally ready’. If he’d chosen to begin PT sessions right from the start, with me or anyone else, or even if he’d opted to follow the ‘Madness’ plan, he’s almost guaranteed to have made more progress than he did.

This quote from philosopher and psychologist William James sums it up nicely:

“Action may not always bring happiness, but without action there is no happiness”.

Paul Swainson is Head of the Future Fit School of Personal Training, a role to which he brings over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry. Having run his own personal training business and worked as a PT manager and tutor for some of the UK’s leading brands, his aim with the School of PT is to provide the next generation of fitness professionals with all the support and resources they need for a successful career