The Tortoise and the Hare

Are we all doomed for failure or is there a way to break the cycle?

The New Year has come and gone, and with it so has passed the time of the “Resolutioners”. We’ve all been witness to this, flocks of new members flooding the local gyms with lofty goals of making this year the year they change their current fitness plight. Tragically 92% of them fail and with each passing year the time they actually spend attempting to achieve their goals diminishes.

But this scenario is not limited to just the “Resolutioners”, it is an all too familiar story with gym goers in general. They join a gym with high aspirations of become fit and when they fall short, they quit. Are we all doomed to the same fate of these unlucky individuals or can the cycle be broken and subsequently allow a greater number of people to experience the benefits of being physically fit?

As a fitness professional, I’ve discussed, debated and struggled with the solution to this very problem. What I’ve concluded after many years working in the field is that the answer lies in an old Aesop’s fable, “The Tortoise and the Hare”. In the fable, a Hare who ridicules a slow-moving Tortoise is challenged by this same Tortoise to a race. Overconfident in his ability the Hare takes a nap midway through the race. Upon awakening, however, the Hare finds that his competitor, crawling slowly but steadily, has arrived before him.

This simple child’s story illuminates the basic flaw in most people’s initial assumption when it comes to their health and fitness, you can achieve your goals without sacrifice, effort, time, or thought. Now keep in mind, a lot of individuals have been led astray by “professionals” within the fitness industry. These barracudas have used deceit and manipulation for monetary gain, instead of helping those they were tasked with. As a result they have done more harm than good.

These are the same individuals who created trendy methodologies such as “10-minute trainer workout”, “The 7 Day Sexy Slim Down”, Crossfit™, and The Bari Workout™. These systems promise awe dropping results in a minimal amount of time. But the reality is that the majority of people who use these methods end up failing or worse getting hurt. So where does this leave you? To start, let’s go back to that pesky Tortoise, you know, the one who crawled slowly but steadily to victory.

Sustainable change, as it relates to fitness, takes time like the slow and steady pace the Tortoise crawled in the story. Whether you are seeking to improve your strength, speed, mobility, or body composition, you won’t see a permanent change in a short time frame. An easy example of this is the act of walking.

As effortless as walking is for most of us, it took much trial and error over an extended period of time for us to actually learn how to walk. The fact that It takes a child anywhere from 8 to 17 months to be able to perform this simple looking act, not 8 to 17 days or minutes, should be evidence enough that anything the promises quick results in a short time doesn’t work.

Once you come to terms with the idea that change takes time, you are ready to actually make a change. The best way I’ve found to go about doing this is to set up quarterly, bi-annually or annually goals, such as improving your tennis game. Separate your plan into three-four week segments, in which you focus on one particular facet of your goal (i.e. improving your mobility).

Now that you have a rough outline of how you are going to attain your goal, it’s time to design your workouts. Keep it simple by focusing on your weakness and not just your strengths. Incrementally try to best your previous workouts, whether it’s by performing a movement pattern correctly, increasing mobility, or increasing your workload/work capacity.

At the end of the 3-4 week segment, assess your progress, (honesty is necessary here). From this point you will either progress to your next facet, stay with the current one, or regress to a simpler set of movements.

In short, taking the quick route towards your fitness goals is a recipe for failure. If you plan for the time it will take to achieve your goals you will have a more fruitful fitness journey, and have a greater chance of success.


  1. Diamond, Dan. “Just 8% of People Achieve Their New Year’s Resolutions. Here’s How They Do It.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, n.d. Web. 03 May 2015.
  2. “10-Minute Trainer Workout.” 10 Minute Trainer Workout. BeachBody LLC., n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2015.
  3. Price, Lian. “The &-Day Sexy Slim Down.” Lian Price, n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2015.
  4. “Walking Timeline: When Your Child Will Crawl, Walk, Run, and Jump | BabyCenter.” BabyCenter. BabyCenter LLC., n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2015.
michael calandra