“We learn by example and by direct experience because there are real limits to the adequacy of verbal instruction.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Over the past year, I’ve had the unique privilege of interviewing quite a few women who are very successful in fitness. They all have different and unique backgrounds and stories, but I’ve found that there are three traits that each of them possess. These “secrets” have propelled them to be successful in their own fitness goals, their careers, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and being happy.

1. Be committed to the healthy lifestyle, but allow for a little “fun.”

The top fitness models and trainers are very consistent in eating healthy and working out, but they also allow themselves to enjoy a treat every once in a while without feeling guilty.

“I live by a 90 percent rule. I make strides to stay on point 90 percent of the time, but that little 10 percent is what helps me maintain my sanity!” – Tiffany Lee Gaston

“I have just enough consciousness on my food and calories, but it doesn’t run my life. I’m an intuitive eater and I eat as whole foods as possible. I don’t eat partially hydrogenated oil or drink soda. If I ever eat something sweet, I always have fat with it to balance out my blood sugar.” – Ashley Borden

“I’ve never been a radical dieter. I focus on ‘God-made’ foods. I eat five to six times a day and have small portions of protein and good fats, tons of fibrous vegetables and tons of water. I have one meal a weekend of whatever I want, but I have a rule of ‘no back-to-back crap,’ so it’s just one meal.” – Kim Dolan Leto

“I eat a lot of vegetables, proteins, water and whole grains. Nothing is restricted but I try to avoid sugar and processed foods. I do enjoy having a glass of red wine with dinner.” – Nina Marchione

2. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Be humble. Be able to laugh at yourself.

No one is perfect, and the top fitness professionals realize that being perfect isn’t the goal. They learn from mistakes and get better the next time. The goal is to become better each day, and to be your best self.

“I’m never too good to keep bettering myself.

I have weaknesses like everybody else, so why not get out there, make myself uncomfortable, and continue growing? Competing was SUCH a good lesson to me that my biggest competition is me versus me. From that moment, my goal was not about winning anymore— it was about getting better at the next show than I was at this one. That’s what I really love about this sport: It’s all about how can I make myself stronger and better, while remaining humble.” – Heidi Powell

“Be kind to yourself. It’s so simple and easy, but we get so caught up into being more and being better and going to significant (and often dangerous) lengths to be “great,” and we lose sight of what’s truly important, and that’s being nice to yourself and enjoying the world around you as it is right now.” – Nika Bekavic

“Be able to laugh at things and yourself and not take yourself too seriously.” – Nina M.

“Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” – Tiffany Lee Gaston

“I don’t think I have had any better teacher in my life than weight training. I always tell people that coming to the gym and doing weight training is not just a mechanical process but a spiritual, emotional and psychological opportunity to learn lot of things that you can apply in your life and use to handle life.” – Deepika Chowdhury

3. Be authentic. Be true to yourself.

The goals the top fitness pros set are their OWN, not someone else’s. They don’t strive to win the approval of judges, family, friends, etc. They set their goals, go after them, and don’t compare their own journey to anyone else’s.

“Follow your dream and passion, and work on refining that thing that you are good at doing. Growing up we’re told we need to be well-rounded, but I don’t think that’s necessary. I think you have to be really good at the thing you love to do.” – Tanya Voshell

“If you’re doing what you do to get likes and approval, that is a prescription for misery. Don’t compare but EMBRACE who you are and celebrate others. Be authentically you, knowing that you are made on purpose for a purpose and nobody can ever be you, so you need to shine in all of who you are created to be. And, forget trying to look like anyone else or be anyone else.” – Kim Dolan Leto

“Do you and don’t compare yourself to anyone other than yourself. As long as you’re working to improve yourself, it doesn’t matter if person X is smarter and person Y is stronger and person Z is leaner; they are not you, and you have something unique to offer.” – Nika Bekavic

“I never looked at age as a reason to not do something. If you put your head down and go to work, you can exceed societal limitations.” – Kim Dolan Leto

“To live a life authentic with who you are inside is the ultimate goal, though that can be far easier said than done when we don’t release our fear of judgment.” – Tiffany Lee Gaston

“You are more than a number. The scale will never be able to tell you how smart you are, how funny you are, and how special you are. Your beauty comes from within. There’s no six-pack that stands out more than a woman with contagious joy. Use your smile more than any other muscle.” – Michelle Myers

I hope this inspires you to go out there, be your best YOU, and succeed!