In a Bamae conducted survey, 14% of participants said that the challenge of training accounted for their inactivity. Though this wasn’t a very popular response, it’s interesting that anybody chose this reason – isn’t one of the core appeals of exercise its challenge, and the way in which it allows us to measure our improvement?
Well, yes. But challenge can also be debilitating, and disrupt our reward systems. Besides, it is subjective, often characterised by a mental hurdle rather than a lack of ability. Getting into a workout mindset is the clearly the best way to achieve consistent results – yet reaching this can be complicated. There are many reasons why we might be apprehensive to put our noses to the grindstone, beyond the obvious one that it means hard work. Here we are going to address the factors that make training difficult, with tips for creating the right fitness mindset.
Make it realistic: It would be absurd to imitate the habits of a professional athlete – not only would you quickly become physically overwhelmed but your motivation would dip. The first questions you should be asking yourself before starting a new fitness regime is ‘What do I want to achieve?’ and ‘How can I work towards this, every day?’ The desired result is often far too elusive and abstract to be satisfactorily attained. When we tell ourselves ‘I want to have a great body’ what do we mean? Will we ever feel assured that we have at last achieved ‘a great body’ or will we keep pushing back the goalposts, forever redefining what we want to achieve? It is helpful to think of fitness as an ongoing cycle, the sort of essential habit that should always be embedded in our lifestyles. Yet we should also think about what we can, and want to, achieve in the short term. Set specific and actionable goals for the days, weeks and months of hard work, and allow yourself to adjust these if your routine isn’t working out.
Grab a mate: A sure-fire way to keep you motivated is working out alongside a friend. Not only will the social aspect increase the appeal of what otherwise might be an arduous task, but it means you will have somebody to hold you accountable, without forking out on a personal trainer. A workout partner or group will also help you contextualise your fitness goals. In seeing how exercise benefits those around you, you may gain a greater appreciation for your own journey. Hopefully you will also find them encouraging you.
Find what you enjoy: If you are not enjoying yourself, what’s going to keep you coming back? Find a routine that’s tailored to your individual wants and needs, recognizing that what works for somebody else may not suite you. Emphasise workouts that you find fun, while not lingering on those you dread and you’ll start going into your routine with more vigour. Besides, an exercise that feels unbearable at first may become more effortless as it is gradually integrated, while benefiting from the positive attitude you have adopted.
Foster a success-conducive environment: Environment is pivotal. Our ‘fitness mindset’ will depend heavily on not just the lifestyle choices we make, but our immediate surroundings. Fortunately, we can exercise a lot of control over them, even when external factors such as work, commitments and living conditions are immovable. It might be something as simple as clearing space on the floor so that it’s easy to do push-ups throughout the day, or preparing your gym kit the night before. You might also want to consider if your gym is putting you off, and find one that better suites you.
Plan it out: Preparation is almost as key as the workout itself. In order to get the most out of your routine, make sure you have a set structure that is consistent with your goals. Use a weekly schedule for the best results, specifying your workout down to the warm up you’ll begin with, and the time spent working on each area you want to improve. Do not be too militant with your schedule as this will only lead to burnout; always factor in rest days as these are essential for the body’s natural restoration and strengthening. You may also want to track your progress and use this to inform your routine.
Create an accessible schedule: Much of the ‘challenge’ of fitness training is not even about the strain of a series of reps, or the numbing exhaustion of a 30 minute jog. These things are usually not dwelled on for too long and are easily mitigated by the post-workout high. No, our resistance often emerges in the space before we have even attempted anything. We have wearied ourselves with merely visualising the task, and all of its logistics. Going for a jog, sweating it out at the gym, even lifting some weights at home wouldn’t be so bad if we could just start doing them, but getting there is such a pain. On the surface, there seems to be many obstacles preventing us from carrying out our pledge to fitness: work, chores, commitments, and the undeniable allure of lazing about. While these things are all important, our fitness training should be factored in with them rather than seen as a superfluous activity.
It is not necessarily true that we don’t have the time – we can be creative and efficient with our schedule. This might mean getting up an hour earlier, cutting back on activities that don’t particularly benefit us (such as sifting through social media) or utilising transitional parts of the day such as lunch breaks or the travel between work and home. If the problem is that we have no energy, then we can think about picking parts of the day where we naturally retain higher energy levels – for some this might be the first thing in the morning. Above all we should be accommodating and flexible, while ditching the ‘all or nothing’ mentality.
Reward yourself: Give yourself a pat on the back, or perhaps more appealingly, a snack. While exercise is undoubtedly a reward in itself, nothing quite maintains your motivation like treating yourself for your achievements. It should go without saying, but try giving yourself a reward that compliments your goals rather than having an adverse effect on them. But we will allow a little bit of chocolate – because you earned it.