Fitness Limbo and How a Penny Can Add Perspective

Share This:

Today’s guest post comes courtesy of regular contributor and San Antonio based personal trainer, Jonathan Acosta.

The fitness industry is rife with people who use hyperbole, quick fixes, and instant gratification tactics to “woo” other people into their web of deceit and mindfuckery.

Whether one’s goal is fat-loss, muscle gain, or to have a pecs that can cut diamonds…more often than not people default to the “I want it and I want it now” mentality. And it sets people up for failure.

Jonathan uses a brilliant metaphor/analogy to break this train of thought.



In the movie The Matrix Revolutions, Neo gets trapped in a train station that’s basically a border world between the matrix and the machine.That station is essentially limbo…

Why am I telling you this?

Because even the great Neo gets stuck in limbo.

We all do from time to time.

A lot of times it isn’t this permanent stuck here forever type of thing that we are led to believe.

Sometimes we have to ride it out until the train arrives to the station.

Note From TG: I still don’t know WTF this scene was all about.

When it comes to this fitness journey, those of us in this profession know all too well about this limbo and what to do about it. We know that results aren’t linear as we’d expect and hope them to be.

Its not a magical rainbow of results just shooting straight upward.

Luckily the fitness industry has done a good job at getting people to understand this and snapping them out of the “I want it now” mentality.

Sure, we still have to battle the inevitable BS such as same-day liposuction or the latest and greatest Cryo-Fatloss-Mega-Blast-Infrared-Sculpting procedure. But as a whole, I think we’ve done pretty well at giving clients the truth and helping them understand that this isn’t a quick and easy fix.


What happens when you’re in this shit period? (The shit period is when progress flat lines to where progress seems non-existent?……………AKA: Limbo)


Now for some, it’s easy to just look down and put in the work day in and day out until they finally see the shimmering light.

But for most, especially ones who haven’t ever prioritized health and fitness in their life, the shit period is so discouraging that quitting is inevitable.

Now you and I both know the cycle.

Three months (if that) of hard work, followed by quitting for six months, only to restart again, usually in worse shape began than before, until the process repeats itself…or they opt for the “instant fixes:”

  • Liposuction
  • Cryo-Fatloss-Mega-Blast-Infrared-Sculpting®
  • Tapeworms

If Only…

If only there was a way to get them to see the 1000 ft. view like you see it right? To get them to see the big picture and the timeline if they stuck with it in the long haul.

I haven’t figured out the answer myself so don’t get your hopes up this is that kind of article.

However, I like metaphors and believe many people learn best this way; they allow an opportunity for a person to connect with a topic.

I can’t remember for the life of me where I got this quote from but its pretty true.

“When it comes to fat loss, you’re going to be in a plateau 80% of the time.”

That means you might be in limbo for a good while.

So where were we?

Oh right. Limbo.

We’ve all been there.

Grinding day in and day out.

Keeping meticulous attention as to what we put in our mouths and staying on point only for nothing to budge.

First of all you should have the help of a competent coach who’s able to recognize “limbo” and guide you through it

Two coaches that come to mind that are exceptional at this are Bryan Krahn and John Meadows.

Even if you’re a coach yourself it would benefit you a ton to hire one of them and learn from them as much as you can.

Next thing is understanding and explaining this curve to them.

I like to give this scenario…

Lets say you’re minding your own business and out of the blue a man comes up to you with a briefcase in hand.

Picture Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby. He gives it to you and tells you open it.

You’re confused but you open the briefcase and all you see is stacks upon stacks of $100 bills.

It’s Leo so you know its legit and not monopoly money.

It’s one million in cash.

You can have it if you want. No strings attached.

Now hold on, before you close the suitcase and run. (I did that in my head mentally the first time I heard this analogy).

He says you can have it no strings attached…Or, you can have this…He then pulls out a penny from his Armani suit pocket (they had Armani back in the 1920’s right?).

He says, “I’ll put this penny into your bank account and I’ll double the money in the account once a month for three years.”

[By the second month you’ll have two cents. The third you’ll have four cents. The fourth you’ll have eight cents and so on.]


Before you start trying to do the math in your head, Leo quickly distracts your thoughts and says, “Which one do you want: The million, or the penny?”

You have 5 seconds to answer…

He literally starts counting down 5, 4, 3,

Now if you suck at math like me, that problem would take you 15 min to figure out let alone five seconds.

So you shout your answer.

What’d you answer?

Its ok, were all friends here. There’s no right or wrong answer.

1 Million or 1 Cent?

In the heat of the moment and with the small time frame given, most would choose the million up front.

Its cold hard cash given right there and then.

Sure we’re all smart and have already witnessed trick questions like these before, so we kind of assume already that the penny would be the better choice.

But since we don’t have time to do the math, or are not able to see the outcome, we choose the quickest, right in front of you, results right now option.

Instant gratification.

Does that sound familiar?

Clients really do know the answer to their riddle.

They know their penny option would probably be best.

But since they can’t see the outcome or the answer, and since they have a five second countdown in the form of social media bogus two-month transformations and extremely high expectations…they too succumb to the “I want it and I want it now” mentality where 1 million dollars up front is quick and easy.

Kick Instant Gratification In the Dick

Now this is where you explain to them what they’d get if they chose the penny.

If they chose the penny. The first year would total a whopping $20.48.

That one million is sounding awfully good isn’t it?

It’s ok, this is that limbo period where seemingly nothing is happening.

But slowly and surely you’re depositing into your “fitness account” with dedication, consistency, and day in day out on point eating and workouts.

After two years your bank account should be better right?

The second year puts you right at $83,886.05…

WTF! That’s still not even close to the one million cash.

Its ok, this is STILL limbo.

At this point you have two different types of people.

  1. People that see no end in sight and either quit or go for instant gratification.
  2. And those that figure F- it I’ve already gone this far might as well just keep going and see it through.

By the end of the third year…your account will have a total of $343.5 Million dollars.


Now I’m not good at math but even I know that 343 million is wayyyyyyyy more than 1 million.

And all it took was having patience and to keep depositing throughout that shitty limbo period.

Fat Loss is Just Like That.

If you were to see it as a chart graph, it would seem as if results were slow or practically nonexistent, until out of nowhere… boom!

A huge spike and results soar for a short period of time until you “graduate” to the next level of limbo.

That huge spike is more than enough to get you where you wanna be; it’s just a long and slow process at times.


If you think of body transformations in terms of yearly, in a three-year period it’ll feel and possibly seem like the first year and maybe even two will have been a waste.

Pump the brakes. Chill out.

It’s completely normal to feel frustrated, like you’re stuck in cement, and that progress is moving at a snail-like pace.

The metaphor above puts things into perspective: it assures you that if you’re crossing your T’s and dotting your I’s it’s not a waste…and your day in the sun will come soon.

I’m a huge Bruce Lee fan.

He liked to use water in a lot of his quotes so I’m gonna use one too.

If you’ve ever boiled water and stared at it while it boils you’ll notice that it just simmers for a good while till seemingly, out of nowhere, bubbles erupt and its boiling.

What if you change your mindset about limbo and that shit period and see the parallel to the simmering water?

Realizing that things are actually simmering and leading up to that huge skyrocket of success makes the mundane, daily grind seem much more worth it.

About the Author

Jonathan Acosta is the founder of Underground Performance Center and head trainer at Get Sexy San Antonio and is a certified personal trainer though both ISSA and the NCEP, as well as Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified.

He likes lifting heavy things, reading books with big words in them, his steaks rare, funny stuff, writing stuff, hanging out with friends, and laughing.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

Share This Post:


Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.

Comments for This Entry

Leave a Comment