Runner’s World posted a great article called “5 Mental Barriers, Smashed” in which they discuss five common barriers that stand between their readers and getting fit. The five obstacles and remedies they listed, with a bit of my own commentary, are below:
Mental Barrier: Working out hurts!
…Remember, it’s unpleasant for everyone in the beginning. “Every step you take hurts at first,” says coach Jeff Gaudette, founder of RunnersConnect, an online training service. “But you’ve just got to trust that you will feel better.”
So true! There are still days when I dread going to warm up a muscle that is sore from a new lift routine I tried, but it is so much easier than it used to be. My endurance is better, and it takes a lot more to really feel like I can’t keep going. It will hurt, but it will get better. This is true for all types of exercise and also for diet. Adjusting to new types of food and eating patterns is its own type of challenge. Remember, even Olympians started out as amateurs.
Mental Barrier: I’m worried everyone will laugh!
“We get so caught up in the anxiety and fear of being negatively evaluated by others,” says Christy Greenleaf, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin. “But the reality is that most of the time other people are way more concerned about themselves.”
It might help if you bring a buddy to the gym to help boost your confidence. When I first moved to using free weights instead of just machines, I printed a guide and brought it with me so I was too focused on doing moves with proper form to care if anyone even noticed me.
Mental Barrier: I’m too busy!
“If you do it first thing, you don’t have time to think up an excuse,” she says. And make sure that you have cleared enough time to work out so that it doesn’t jam up your day. If a morning run means you’re speeding to work and stressed about being late, the workout will start to feel like punishment, says Charles Duhigg, author of the book The Power of Habit. “The brain starts relating to the workout in a negative way,” he says. “And it will be hard to make it into a habit.”
While this advice is specifically for runners, it works for all types of fitness. As a stay at home mom, finding a gym with childcare options available has been a life changer for me. My kids get socialization with others in child care, and I get me time that is also productive.
The truth is, life is about priorities. If you want to get fit, you must choose to make the time for it. Maybe you have to wake at 5am to get to the gym. Maybe you pop in a DVD during nap or movie time. Maybe it starts with something small, like a family walk after dinner.
Mental Barrier: I missed working out for a week because of my job (or I was hurt, sick, or…insert excuse here). It feels like too much work to start over. I might as well give up.
Press the reset button, and start over, just like you would on a video game, says online training coach Jeff Gaudette. “Let go of the past, and focus on what you can control today,” he says.
This advice is especially applicable to eating a healthy diet as well. You ate a huge pile of ice cream yesterday? Well that was yesterday, and this is today. Don’t let a bad choice or a bad day or a bad year stand in the way of getting healthy.
Linebacker Brian Cushing suffered a season ending ACL tear last year, and this season he trained to be the fittest he’s ever been. One bad play and his season was ended AGAIN, this time with a torn LCL and broken fibula. To be fair, he makes $55 million to be in top shape, but he makes that kind of money because he has the talent and the drive to get back up, “press the reset button,” and start training again when he is able.
Mental Barrier: I’m working so hard, but I’m not getting anywhere!
“Everyone expects to lose the weight in an instant, and run longer and faster right away,” says Paul. “The weight loss will come if you’re consistent, but it takes time to condition your muscles, ligaments, and tendons,” she says. The body makes more capillaries (tiny blood vessels that transfer oxygen and waste products into and out of cells), more mitochondria, (the energy-producing structures in cells), and more enzymes that help the body use fat as fuel, Paul explains.
I hear, most frequently from women, that the scale “isn’t moving in the right direction.” All I can say is it will, even if that means readjusting expectations. Don’t think The Biggest Loser-type weight loss will happen in three days. Adjusting your life permanently will pay off in the long term, even if it’s hard to see in the short term. Your quality of life will improve as will your life expectancy. Being late for a bus and running flat out to catch it without feeling like your heart will explode is a fantastic feeling, and that may or may not reflect how you expect it to on the scale. Since I started weight lifting, I stopped wanting to be “wedding day weight” because, although I was at my lightest that day, I was scrawny! No tone, no endurance, and no cardio health.
The UK’s National Health Service has this to say about the additional challenge of finding the willpower to get up and get moving.
A key part of something like Couch to 5K and Strength and Flex is staying motivated. One very powerful way is to make yourself accountable by doing the plan with a friend or family member, so you can encourage each other. It means you’ve got someone to report to, to explain why you didn’t turn up, or someone to share it with so you can share your lack of motivation.
A good technique for people who prefer to train alone is what the experts call ‘self-regulation’. For this, you could start a diary or a blog. Being faced with an empty page if you miss a session can be a powerful incentive to keep going.
Have you had to overcome any mental barriers?