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The Transformer Wagon: A Personal Trainer’s Guide To Staying On The Wagon

Improve Glasgow

“I’ve fallen off the wagon.”

Heard that before? I bet you’ve said it too.

The saying originates from water wagons which kept the dust down during prohibition. People would climb wagons and swear to give up booze. If they started drinking again, they’d ‘fallen off the wagon’.

You likely make similar oaths too.

“I’m giving up chocolate,” “I’ll exercise 4 times every week,” or a hungover groan of “I’m never drinking again!”

These are admirable oaths, however, assuming you live in the real world, you’re eventually going to fall off the wagon and when you do it’s entirely normal for you to feel discouraged and unmotivated to climb back on.

But it’s not all doom and gloom.

What I’m going to try to do is show you a way to build your own wagon.

Not just any old wagon. That’d be boring. The wagon I’m going to show you how to build is a transformer.

It takes different shapes depending on what’s happening in your life so you never have to worry about falling off it again.

The concept is simple: When life is hard, take it easy; when life is easy, go hard.

If you’ve got a lot going on (personal/work stress, fatigue, holidays, etc) I recommend going easier on your diet and exercise routine.

On the other hand, if you have nothing particularly stressful on your plate you can be laser-focused on your goal (and be grateful for your blessings)!

Another metaphor for this concept is to view your plan as a dimmer switch instead of an off/off switch (hat tip, Gregg Slater).

Whether you prefer the Transformer wagon or the dimmer switch analogy, the bottom line is the more flexibility you build into your health and fitness plan the higher your chances of long term success are.

The Transformer Wagon

Losing weight is a tremendously difficult process that takes consistent effort, time, dedication and energy.

When using my fool-proof instruction guide to building your own transformer wagon, you’re going to have 3 levels of intensity to switch between, depending on what’s going on in your life at any given moment.

The less stress you have, the more time, effort and energy you can invest in your diet and exercise regime, and vice versa.

Level 1: Big Bertha

I like to call this mammoth, boat-wagon lovechild ‘Big Bertha’.

She’s as wide as the Clyde so there’s no danger of falling off. She can also sail in the open water, regardless of how choppy the waters are.

There’s nothing else for it but to grab a beer from Bertha’s well-stocked bar, kick back and wait for the storm around you to pass.

Priorities: Elsewhere: work, friends, holidays, etc.

The goal here is purely not to go too far backward.

Maintenance at this stage is a huge win.

Most people ‘fall off’ here as they’re not making progress, but they don’t realise that often maintaining the progress you’ve made is an achievement in itself and one that is absolutely okay to make your goal.

If you have a backup plan for when life gets in the way, it’s as simple as pressing a button and your wagon will take a new shape to make sure you don’t fall off it and that you can keep some forward momentum…or at least not go backward.

If you’re like anyone I’ve coached over the years, you’ll most likely spend more time than you expect in this stage – that’s just life, my friend.


Keep it simple with a couple of easy-to-stick to targets here, for example:

  • A source of protein with each meal; i.e. eggs for breakfast, chicken with your lunch and some fish with your dinner.
  • 2x gym workouts per week (or two runs – whatever floats your boat…or your wagon).

Level 2: Everyday Evelyn

Straight from the roaring 20s, big and rusty.

Evelyn is so reliable that you can ride day in, day out and she’ll never let you down.

Sit back on one of the worn leather seats, relax and enjoy the journey but watch your noggin’ as there’s sure to be bumps on the road.

Priorities: 1% better every day.

This is where you’ll likely spend most of your year.


Up the ante a little with a few more challenging targets, such as:

  • Track protein intake daily – either on MyFitnessPal or with palm-sized servings.
  • 3x gym workouts (or preferred activity) per week.
  • Walk 10k steps a day.

Level 3: Supercharged Sarah

What a machine – sleek, streamlined and nearly impossible to tame.

She’s hard to stay on but will get you from A-B in next-to-no time…if you can control her!

Priorities: Relentless sprint ahead towards your goal, sacrificing other areas.

If you’re anything like me, this phase will only be 4-8 weeks per year.

Plan this time wisely and go all in.


Motivation is high so capitalise and make your targets trickier than you normally would, for example:

  • Track all calories and macros daily on MyFitnessPal.
  • 3x gym workouts per week.
  • 2x cardio (HIIT class, boxing, running) per week.
  • Weigh yourself 1 (or more) times per week to measure progress.
  • 7+ hours of sleep every night.
  • Walk 12k steps per day.

Hopefully what you’ve taken from my ramblings is your best best bet for weight loss/fitness success is to focus on momentum.

It’s much easier to increase from 2x to 4x workouts per week than it is starting from 0. Do the best you can to stay on any wagon.

To give yourself the best chance of success, look at your upcoming calendar and plot where you can mount Supercharged Sarah (level 3) and where you may need a ride on Big Bertha (level 1). Allowing some flexibility to move between levels if your plan isn’t working is a good strategy.

Don’t worry about planning too far in advance. Sometimes you won’t be able to plan and will need to wing it. But, in my experience, the longer you spend on the journey, the easier it gets to wing.

The people I’ve trained over the years who have achieved the greatest results are the ones who have shown up consistently, adapted where necessary and sought to enjoy the process.

If you take nothing else from this article, take that previous line.

It’s so important I’m going to type it again…

The people I’ve trained over the years who have achieved the greatest results are the ones who have shown up consistently, adapted where necessary and sought to enjoy the process.

“How do I apply this to my life and my goals?”

These questions will aid you in creating a process to reach the goal you want.

  1. What outcome do I want?
  2. What does the next 4-8 weeks look like?
  3. How hard can I realistically push?
  4. What will I do after?

Knowing the direction you want to go in is fundamental.

Be as specific as possible and be realistic about what you can achieve in the timeframe you choose and decide how to measure your progress along the way.

It’s important to consider upcoming commitments and potential social pressures.

For example, December will likely have increased pigs, blankets and booze – is this a good time to sprint?

Instead, you could use this as a Level 1 month – maintaining progress while focusing on building some healthy habits before pushing up to Level 3 in January.

It’s also of paramount importance, and often forgotten, to consider what you’ll do after your upcoming 4-8 week block is done.

Do you need a period of maintenance (a seat in Big Bertha’s bar, beside the wood-burning fire) after a hard push? Or can you push hard again?

The aim of this strategy is to create a plan you can actually stick to and will give you the long-lasting results you’ve been striving for.

We’d love to help you figure out a plan of attack for you to march forward with.

If you’d also like that, you can get register your interest in working with us by clicking here.

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