I have some good news and some bad news for you.

Here’s the good news – you can achieve success if you stick to one simple principle: consistency. The more consistent you are with eating good quality, unprocessed foods; taking part in some form of resistance training (lifting weights, cables, Tempo Pilates!) at least twice a week (preferably more) and sleeping at the same times each night, you will make progress.

The problem is that when it comes to fitness we all want quick results – but to get the deep results we want takes time, so we need to create an environment that will be conducive to helping us get there.

This means that if you’re starting out, or restarting out after a little lay-off, you’ve got to start small and micro-progress the intensity and volume. This is the key to creating sustainable fitness: adopting a fitness regime that is challenging enough to produce results, but intelligent enough for you to keep going without injuring yourself.

Because when we do get to where we want, we want to stay there! Having to take 4 weeks off due to an injury following your 6-week intensive program might regress that progress you just made.

This brings me to the bad news – unless you opt for some kind of surgical route, there are no fast results with your body – that will last. For example, research shows that the average dieter regains 107% of the weight he/she lost in the diet.

I’ve also read the magazine articles that claim “6 weeks!” to look like that guy/girl on the cover. Only that guy/girl has worked hard for years to look like that and perhaps their genetic window of opportunity was in their favour along with some photoshop magic.

Which brings us back to sustainable fitness. We all want to get quicker results, but we’ve got to be aware of our tolerance levels: where are you starting from?

For example, what’s the potential outcome for the stressed-out, under-nourished, lawyer who’s lacking sleep and then decides to start training for the London Marathon in 3 months, starting with a 10k run?

Or the person who hasn’t done any exercise for 3+ months, who decides to take part in a new crossfit/kettlebell/military-fitness class 3-4 times a week along with a strict no-carb diet?

What levels of stress are these people experiencing before starting? Remember, exercise is a stress and any change on your system is also a stress. So what’s the outcome from these new regimes?

In the short term, perhaps really good results!

In the long term, quite often progress slows down, reverses, or the person gives up because they don’t have the ability to recover. The long term outcome from this rapid and huge shift is not a consistently positive outcome.

“But hold on Goulden, I’ve done this and I’m still going!” Maybe you’re the outlier, or maybe you’re slightly younger and able to tolerate the huge shifts in stressors, but think of this as an analogy: you wouldn’t lay out in the sun for 10h without suncream to get a tan, if your skin is not accustomed to sun exposure, as you’d just end up getting burnt.

It’s unfortunate that we’re surrounded by fitness marketing and hype which leads us to believe that, when it comes to getting results, only an all-out approach will work. But it’s no coincidence that most of those programmes last for six weeks only.

By working with clients over longer periods, we see time and time again that sustainability is the key to long-term success. So remember: micro-progression, eat good quality food, take part in resistance training and sleep well – recovery is so important to your success. We’ll cover these tips more, in depth on the blog.

About the author

Michael Goulden is a biomechanics specialist and is the founder of Integra – Muscle Activation | Training, in Spitalfields, London.

He specialises in personal training and exercise rehabilitation, using Muscle Activation Techniques and resistance training and can be found here