Here’s a scenario you may be familiar with: Sue decides one day that she wants to lose weight and get her body back into shape. She renews her gym membership and stocks her house with nutritious foods. She’s excited and ready to restart her journey to better health.
After two weeks, she had made it to the gym 5 times/week and maintained a diet full of whole, nutritious foods. She feels amazing and unstoppable.
Fast forward another 4-5 weeks. Her workouts dropped to 1-2 days per week, and she started increasing her takeout and microwave meals again. Life got busy, and in turn she started putting her health on the back burner again.
Not much later, she gives up and cancels her gym membership.. again.. and returns to her old familiar routine. “Why did I even bother?” she wonders.
As a trainer, I’ve witnessed this vicious cycle. As a matter of fact, I’ve been stuck in this cycle myself. Many times. How did I finally break it? I learned that if you don’t have a healthy mindset for change, then you won’t be able to sustain that change when struggles occur.
You have to get your mind right first. Here are some tips:
- Figure out where you currently are, and ACCEPT that as your starting point. When you insert a destination in your GPS, it can’t tell you how to get there if it doesn’t know where you’re coming from, right? This also applies to health and fitness goals. It’s easy to choose a goal and start working towards it. However, if you don’t have a good understanding of your current physical, mental and emotional states, you very well could be setting yourself up for failure, unable to reach your destination. Whenever I would go back to working out after taking a lot of time off, I would go all-out at the gym. I wasn’t patient enough to start back up slowly.. and I would always end up hurting myself. When you are in constant physical pain, it’s harder to maintain a regular workout schedule.
Same goes for your mentality and emotions. Certain situations trigger mental/emotional obstacles. For example, if you fear being observed and judged by other people, then it will be hard for you to return to the gym after catching a fellow gym goer (or trainer) watching your every move.. OR maybe you have an all-or-nothing mentality, which makes it harder for you to stay on track after missing a workout or two.. or after a weekend of binge-eating (this was SO me).
Take some time to objectively analyze where you are at. Be 100% real with yourself. What tends to discourage you from your goals? If you’ve tried to make this change before, why did you stop? We all have our barriers and bad habits. Those will not change right off the bat, so don’t expect them to! Accept who and where you currently are right NOW. Being able to identify your barriers/obstacles will allow you to plan out strategies to avoid them sabotaging your journey (I’ll go more into this in a bit).
- Analyze why you have that specific goal. You know how kids love to annoyingly ask “why?” after almost every sentence? You should do this with yourself when trying to figure out the root reason(s) why you have chosen a specific goal. For example, say your goal was to lose 50 lbs. Why? You might answer, “because I want to be leaner.” Okay.. why? You may then answer, “because I want to fit into my old clothes.” Okay.. why? Thinking deeper now, you may answer, “because activities were easier, and my body felt better when I was that size.” BINGO! Wanting to lose 50lbs.. and wanting to be able to perform previously loved activities.. sound like two separate goals, but they stemmed from the same goal! Now you have a deeper understanding of it, and in turn a deeper motivation to keep reaching that goal when things get difficult. This process can go much deeper than my example, and it’s a great process for ANY kind of goal you are wanting to achieve.
- Plan out some strategies to keep you on track. Now that you know where you are, and why you want to achieve your goal.. now it’s time to come up with some strategies for when you are encountered by an obstacle. To continue with a previous example: if you fear being watched/judged by others in the gym.. first off, let me tell you that people aren’t judging you as badly as you think. As a trainer, I can tell you that MANY people feel insecure in a gym, especially if they don’t have a trainer to guide them. Consider the reasons why people might be watching you: they may want to watch the exercise you are doing because they haven’t seen it before.. or you look like someone they know.. or maybe they just dig your outfit. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that people are thinking negative things about you. That’s just insecurity, and I’ve been there! If you feel it’s too hard to overcome this obstacle, you have other options than just the gym: invest in some at-home exercise equipment.. or research bodyweight exercises (using only your body for resistance).. or look into workout DVDs. You can come up with a strategy or two to help you overcome almost any obstacle.. you just need to take the time to think, and plan.
- Understand that failure is a NECESSARY part of the process, and that you shouldn’t beat yourself up for it! Yes, every big goal is not easily achieved.. failure WILL happen. What’s great about failure? YOU LEARN! Like I said before, our barriers/blocks/bad habits will not disappear overnight. You WILL struggle with them. They WILL test you. But guess what? You can repeat the test an infinite amount of times! You only truly fail when you quit. Don’t quit. The more experience you have with picking yourself up after a “failure”, the less you’ll feel like you “failed” when an obstacle disrupts your routine. For me personally, this was the hardest thing to accept. If you are an “all-or-nothing” individual like myself, this will be challenging. Be ready for it.. and do your best to forgive yourself for each and every hang-up. Every day is a fresh new start.
I hope by now you understand why it’s important to develop a healthy mindset for making a long-lasting change. If you don’t understand where you currently are, why you want to make the change, how you can push through your obstacles, and why you should accept that failures will occur.. you won’t be able to maintain the change(s) you desire to make for the long-run.This may be uncomfortable for you, but no major change happens within your comfort zone. Be patient with yourself, and trust the process. Got questions? I’m more than happy to help!