How to Avoid the 'Easy Button' Fitness Trap

red easy button next to computer screen

The path of least resistance is the way nature moves, so why worry about looking for shortcuts, life hacks or cheat codes to accomplish a goal? Unfortunately, that path won't help you when times really get hard, and nothing but hard work will accomplish a task.

Sometimes powering through an obstacle is the only course of action. You can develop skills that will help you to be creative to make difficult tasks easier, but that process requires successes and failures, trial and error, and pure mental and physical effort.

The problem-solving and goal-achievement habits formed when we overcome an obstacle in our path stick with us for life. You need to create a system of learning, thinking and acting that works for your abilities, resources and long-term goals.

You can practice your goal achievement skills every day with standard to-do lists of chores that will help you to create habits that will later help you with bigger, more challenging goals.

Ask yourself these questions when you are getting ready to do something:

  • Did you consider all the options before beginning a particular course of action?
  • Did you do your research and learn as well as test what will work best for you?
  • Did you create new ideas and test their effectiveness over time?
  • Are you seeing the results you want so far?

There is nothing wrong with finding a smarter way to save time, resources and money, but usually the path you choose is going to yield results, because you started moving in the right direction and nothing was going to stop you.

You willed your own outcome with that mindset. It has little to do with an easy way or the hard way; it is more about starting and finishing, regardless of the efforts spent on the journey. Sure, in hindsight, there may have been an easier way to do something, and you can try that technique or strategy another day when faced with similar situations and challenges.

We do not learn the "easy button" method without taking a few hard paths in life. In fact, we will not find out whether the "easy button" is even an easier option until we have made it through much of the more difficult path.

When you first start swimming, you may be beating up the water putting 100% effort into swimming a 500-meter swim test. However, with some technique training, a pacing strategy and a ton of practice, you can make the swimming event in any fitness test a much easier process. But that takes time, patience and the realization that you need help, and there is nothing easy about learning a technique to make something "easier."

Being humble and eager to learn new things makes listening to advice an easy choice, especially when there is so much information out there on any given topic. Being smart enough to look for assistance is part of the difficult research process you should undertake before you blindly start down the road toward your goal.

Yes, that may mean taking a few moments and reading the directions. Our ego can often be the culprit in our failures to progress in the right direction. Acknowledging we do not know everything about all things can go a long way in setting us on the right path the first time.

Depending on the task at hand, there is likely someone who mastered it made a do-it-yourself (DIY) video about it on YouTube. Just in the world of fitness and military preparation alone, there are countless swimming, treading, running, rucking, calisthenics and lifting exercise videos available in a click.

Yes, you could call that an easy button, but it requires a logical study of options available to you, as there are useful (and some not-so-useful) videos on almost any topic. The time spent researching (and, yes, reading the directions) will help you through any process as you seek to accomplish a task from start to finish.

Consider the "easy button" more of a term to describe steps that help make tasks more efficient. A technique, some inside knowledge or a useful tip can be helpful, especially when the task is made more difficult if you don't have that information. However, there is always the work. Don't fall for the "easy button trap," because you have to put in the time and effort, no matter what.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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