By Club Trainer Andrew Leidal
Every single one of us, at some point during our journey with fitness, have had to struggle through a rough patch. Be it an injury, a lack of consistency, or even just a lack of desire to get to the gym, we have all been there. Most people focus on the physical aspect of working out - with good reason - but tend to neglect the mental activity that goes on behind the scenes of a healthy fitness routine.
What do you do when you wake up tired for the third morning in a row and have no desire to go to the gym?
What happens when you break your foot and have to keep weight off of it for a few months?
How do you find the motivation to exercise when you work twelve hours a day and have no energy leftover by the time the evening rolls around?
I’m here to give you a few tips on how to enhance your physical capabilities solely through your mindset. Ready? Let’s dive in.
1.) Write down your goals.
Have you ever ACTUALLY written down your fitness goals? Everyone wants to look better, to lose a little fat, to “tone up”. But what do these things mean to you? What do they mean specifically? Does looking better mean dropping weight? How much? Does it mean toning? Where? And what does toning mean to you? Does it mean leaning down, or does it mean having muscle definition?
Create S.M.A.R.T. goals for yourself, which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. “Lose a lot of weight” is a good start, but it isn’t SMART. “Lose 20 lb. by next June so that I can fit into my fun summer clothes again” is infinitely better. It meets all of the criteria of a SMART goal.
Now, I’m not saying that writing down your goals will magically make you achieve them, but it is a really strong foundation with which you can start. If you’ve never thought about them in such well-defined terms, this will help you to really reflect upon why you started - or want to start - working out in the first place! Seriously - grab a piece of paper and pen, or open up your Notes application, and try to write down three SMART goals right now. If you already have? Awesome - let’s move onto #2.
2.) Remind yourself of these goals everyday.
And I mean everyday. Even your rest days. Take a look at where you’ve written them down until you’ve memorized them. Repetition is the key to making anything sink in, and repeating your goals to yourself everyday will not only help them to become part of your mindset while working out, but it will also help you to stay in tune with yourself and your relationship to fitness - which will likely change frequently. The more in-check you are with your goals, the easier it will be for you to tell when those goals have changed, so that you can adjust your program appropriately and without delay.
Be sure you never lose sight of why you want to do this. This is a quick way to getting out of your routine and spend just another week thinking, “Meh, I’ll get to it next week.”
3.) Find reasons to do this for yourself, not others.
I debated putting this first, and it is arguably the most important on the list, but I wanted to give you something concrete to do to get you kickstarted. This, though, I think is the best way to keep you motivated towards making progress. Listen:
No matter what you do, no matter what pursuit you follow, you will never make everybody else happy. I know that this is a hard thing to let go of for some people, so please take the time to actually think about this right now for yourself. There are over seven billion people on this planet - do you genuinely believe that you could find something to do that would make all 7,000,000,000 of them happy? I can’t even make all of my extended family happy, let alone the general public. You need to be doing this for yourself, not them.
Exercise to feel better. Exercise to give yourself more time on this planet to make the changes and accomplish the things that you want to. Exercise to look in the mirror at the end of the day and think, “Damn… I actually look better than I did a week ago.” There will always be those out there who will bring you down, and this is more and more true as you see more and more progress. Watching YOU move forward is going to be very uncomfortable for people who remain stagnant, and it will force them to confront themselves. The ones who matter? They will be inspired by you and take some knowledge from what you are doing. The ones who don’t? They’ll try and tear you down, back to their level, where you might have been only a month ago.
So don’t do this for them. Do it for you. Be healthier and happier to make YOU happy. The ones who you want to stick around, will.
4.) Push yourself.
You want to always be moving forward. Now, to what degree this forward progress occurs is going to vary a lot throughout your life (and this is true of anything), but you always want to do your best to keep your momentum moving ahead, not behind. Always progress, never regress. If you find yourself plateauing - which you inevitably will - change something! Anything! The internet is a wonderful tool, and you can learn almost anything with a bit of concentrated research. You don’t need to have a degree in a specific field to learn new things within it, not anymore.
Current routine too easy? Google intermediate level workouts. Watch Youtube videos of how to perform exercises with proper technique. Be smart in your research and never pull from one source - always seek help from multiple sources so that you can make your best educated decision. Try bringing a friend to your next workout. Teaching is an excellent way to force you to learn what you think you already know. If you can’t explain it to a 5 year old, you probably don’t know ‘it’ very intimately.
There is always work to be done, so never think that you’ve reached your peak. You can always be better, happier, healthier, stronger, more flexible, more motivating, etc. Don’t accept your plateau - push past it.
5.) Be kind to yourself.
Above all else, this is what I want to leave you with: be kind to yourself. This stuff is not easy. If it was, almost everyone would have their ideal body. Exercising is hard. It hurts. It’s probably going to bring up some emotions that you didn’t know existed in you. If numbers 1-4 fail, you can always rely on this one.
We’re human. We’re not perfect. You’re not going to remind yourself of your goals everyday. You’re going to wonder if other people are happy with your results. You’re going to stagnate. Sorry, that’s just how it goes. When any of these happen, please don’t beat yourself up about it. That is the quickest to halt your progress. And if you do? Don’t beat yourself up about that, either, because we will always be our own worst critics.
Do your best to catch your negative thought patterns as they happen (easier said than done) and surround yourself with people who support and encourage your fitness habits. Don’t be afraid to call upon someone for mental support! We’ve all been there at one point, and I guarantee that the ones who you want in your life will never speak to you about yourself that way that you speak to you about yourself. It’s easy to get down on ourselves for not being perfect, but we don’t genuinely expect that of anyone else, so we shouldn’t expect it of us. We’re human, we make mistakes. I’m right there with you, friend.
Focus on the work that you’ve already done, no matter how much or how little that is. Go back to your goals. Find reasons to do this for yourself and not others. Get a good night’s rest, wake up, and shake it off. You are perfectly imperfect, and so is your journey with fitness.