One of the tactics that helped Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, become such a well-known fitness authority was training some of Toronto's most successful businessmen the only time they could fit it into their schedule: very early in the morning. With his book "The Perfect Day Formula" and Early to Rise website and newsletter, it wasn't long before Ballantyne went from training these elite individuals to becoming one of them.

In the following interview, Ballantyne discusses his five pillars for success that apply to all areas of life—including fitness. Starting your day even a little earlier could have a profound impact on your life and goals.

"The Perfect Day Formula" isn't specifically about fitness, but with your background as a high-level CSCS trainer, the book can help people get in shape, right?

Absolutely. From the TV show "The Biggest Loser" to Bill Phillip's "Body for Life" program back in the 1990s, tens of millions of people get motivated when they see strangers lose weight and get back in shape.

Ten years ago, I started running classic before-and-after transformation contests in my own fitness business. In addition to submitting photographic evidence of weight loss, each entrant had to submit a short essay about what they experienced as they went through their transformation.

I've read hundreds of essays over the years and found they all have five factors of success in common. These five pillars, as I call them, have allowed me to overcome my own personal obstacles, and they can help anyone else do it, too.

Here are my five pillars of success:

1. Plan and prepare better than you ever have before. You can't just say that you want to achieve a goal. You have to put together a detailed plan first—something than can help you stay on track—and plan ahead for those times when you lose your focus.

2. Establish professional accountability. Research shows that when you're accountable to a professional, you're going to get expert advice—and you're going to do the work. It must be a mentor/mentee relationship, because a friend or a buddy isn't going to be the hard-ass needed to keep you on track. But that's what you need: somebody to make you toe the line.

3. Build positive social support. Surround yourself with positive people who can pick you up when you're feeling down. These people will complement your hard-ass mentor. They're your cheerleaders, encouraging you as you travel your path.

4. Find a meaningful incentive. Money and material stuff don't necessarily inspire people to transform themselves. It's got to be something more personal. Maybe you just want to look and feel better, enjoy physical activities along with your spouse, or be fit so you can play with your kids as they grow up.

5. Establish a real deadline. This is the most important pillar of them all because having a clear end can spur you on to action, help you overcome the initial inertia, keep you going through the tough times, and show you a light at the end of the tunnel. As the deadline approaches, we tend to focus our minds, take more action, and take it faster.

As you can see, these five pillars aren't specifically about weight loss or strength training or anything else. I've seen men and women all around the world use these pillars to get rich, lose weight, and even find the love of their life. It's a true formula for success.

With your "Perfect Day Formula," you seem to be offering an antidote to the most common excuse people make for why they don't exercise: "I don't have time!" Why do people have such a hard time getting to the gym?

Reactive people struggle try to find the time to work out. Proactive people make that time. You need to prioritize the time for staying fit and write it in ink on your schedule. And exercising doesn't need to mean a two-hour trip to the gym. You can get a great pump or burn fat in 10 minutes.

You're the co-owner and editor of the website and newsletter Early to Rise, which is based on waking up early and getting important work done right off the bat. How can waking up early in the morning help people meet their fitness goals?

You don't have to get up early to be successful. It's not about the hour you get up, but what you do with the hours you are up. That said, the world is built to reward people who get up early. The traffic is lighter, your mind is clearer, and the gym is emptier than it might be for hours. If you wait until after work to do your program, all kinds of other commitments can take the place of exercise—from cooking dinner to watching a show on Netflix. Once you've tried getting your workout in early, you may never go back to those pre- or post-dinner slogs to the gym.

Is there a certain time you recommend people get up and head to the gym?

All people need to do to get started is get up just 15 minutes earlier than you do now. In just 15 minutes you can make massive progress toward your big goals and dreams. Whether you're writing a book (500 words in 15 minutes, six days a week, is a 30,000-word book in 10 weeks!), exercising, or growing a business, these 15 minutes of focus are magical in the morning.

For more from Craig Ballantyne and to purchase "The Perfect Day Formula," visit

About the Author

Joe Wuebben

Joe Wuebben

Joe Wuebben is a veteran fitness writer and editor as well as the editorial director of the JYM Fitness Network.

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