It's easy to get fit, lean and strong; all it takes is a bit of motivation. I know some people struggle, but I think if you get your head in the right place then anyone can get good results in the space of a year. Most of what you can achieve comes relatively quickly and easily.
What is difficult - SO difficult that few manage it - is to stay in shape for life. That's the real challenge, because the moment you back off, you start to lose it. Yes, you can get it back, but each time you have to claw back lost ground it gets harder - especially from a psychological point of view. The struggle has lost its novelty; it's not exciting; you've been there before and you're kicking yourself for letting it all slip away from you.
Clubs, trainers, competitions and so on can all serve as an external support system to help you to stay on track, but there are downsides: you may become dependant upon them, and additionaly they may also limit you. This is because they are often tailored serve the needs of someone else, and the rules, goals and objectives aren't necessarily even close to what's best for you. What is more, you just become a clone of everyone else.
While you may focus on short-term objectives like mastering the human flag, getting body fat levels to a certain level or mastering a 2.5 times bodyweight deadlift, the real goal is to keep training for a lifetime. At various stages in your life you encounter distractions and stumbling blocks; when you're younger it's usually related to jobs, relationships or family commitments. As you get older injuries, aches and pains or things like menopause or hitting a 'landmark' birthday such as 40, 50 or 60 can derail you - either mentally, physically or both.
I've found aging to be the biggest barrier. With each passing year there are fewer and fewer people with whom to share your passion for training. The young tend to be on a different path and don't want old-timers hanging around (especially if those old-timers are out-performing them!) The chances are you also have some little aches, pains or health problems dogging you. The standard off-the-shelf training approaches aren't a good fit for you; when you attempt these things you tend to compare badly to others and run into injuries and things you just can't do. It's demoralizing. However, if you build your own training program you can find the way that works for you; you can excel in the areas where you're strong whilst including training that addresses your weaknesses and helps you to return to full function - so you can improve with age rather than falling into decline.
Now that might sound like 'faking it' - avoiding the things you can't do in order to appear like you're doing better than you really are. However, look at it another way; does anyone challenge Usain Bolt for not being a world class swimmer? Are Paula Radcliffe's achievements less impressive because she lacks a double bodyweight deadlift? The reality is that no one has it all. If you happen to find a niche where you excel then you can achieve the status of 'elite athlete'. So, why not create your own niche?
Someone at my local gym was at a charity event where Sally Gunnell was one of the motivational speakers. Chatting to him over dinner she mentioned that she never did as well at shorter distances because she lacked the upper body strength. He said to her "I'll show you how to build upper body strength" an pulled out his phone to show her one of my pullup videos. According to him she was very impressed. Even in her prime she (despite being an Olympic gold medal winner) wasn't a match for 50 year old me when it came to upper body strength. So why should I be made to feel inadequate now because I don't do everything well? I tailor my training to fit me like a glove. Not just to be good at the things I'm good at, but to address weakness too. Who knows what I might be good at when I'm 60 or 70?
Going it alone is definitely more exciting and rewarding, but it also very difficult to sustain for life; one little distraction and it falls away. You have no competition, no club, no group to welcome you back and help you get back up to speed after an interruption. Anything that makes your goals, dreams and ideas more tangible will certainly help, and for me, that's exactly what this website does; it gives my training more substance.