Cultivating a 'fit' mindset: Are these 3 negative thoughts on fitness holding you back?

Like many things in life, living a healthy lifestyle can be a love/hate thing. You can love the way exercise and eating well makes you feel… but hate that it can be time consuming, confusing and frustrating at times. Sometimes, all the knowledge in the world won't give you the nudge you need as much as cultivating a 'fit' mindset will.

Does this sound familiar?

Last week you felt like a rock star. You planned all your meals, exercised daily and had an endless supply of energy. This week you are stressed out from work and feel too mentally drained to prepare healthy meals and get up early to hit the gym. As a result, you mentally beat yourself up and feel guilty because you claim your life should be “more balanced” and not such a roller coaster of highs and lows.

We’ve all been there, myself included (more often than I like to admit). It makes it really hard to stick to a fitness routine consistently and feel like our efforts are worth it.

In this post, I am going to share some ways to shift your negative thoughts and beliefs around fitness that might actually help stick to your fitness routine (and get back on track even after you ate “all the things” over the weekend).

Why having a 'fit' mindset matters

As a Personal Trainer, I work with people not only to improve their physical fitness, but to use fitness as a platform to improve their overall health and happiness. In order to do this, for most people, it requires change. This involves new habits, new behavior patterns and (most importantly) cultivating a 'fit' mindset that is strong and views fitness in a positive light. This mindset understands that life happens, that perfectionism can't be a thing if you want to get anywhere and that living healthy is a journey, not a sprint.

I hear what you’re thinking.  While, it’s not the most “sexy” idea, it works wonders.

When you typically think about making a change your mind may go straight to a new workout plan, a meal plan, starting to take classes at a local studio, etc. Those are all fine and dandy and you have my support. BUT (yes, there’s a but) if you want to truly stick to your fitness routine for the long haul and create a (mostly) healthy lifestyle, you must work on what’s going on in your own head. That inner voice has the final say in what makes or breaks you.

We must incorporate new ways of thinking about fitness that makes our goals seem easier, more possible and attainable. When we do get overwhelmed, stressed and drained (or all the above!), it’ll be easier to accept that life happens and bounce back, rather than ordering up a large pizza because you’ve already "ruined your week."

It’s time to re-frame the way you view fitness and what it should look like for you. Not for anyone else. So, turn off social media (where fitness is about how to get a 6 pack, thigh gap and back dimples) and let's work on the internal voice that’s always jabbering.


3 Mindset shifts that make a difference

1. Ditch the word “balance"

The word "balance" is a common buzzword we hear in the fitness industry. What comes to mind when you think of balance? It makes me envision a life free of worry, stress, mistakes and conflicts. It’s a perfect world where you’re happy at work, healthy, energized and have positive relationships.

While it sounds like a lovely place, let’s ask ourselves, is this realistic to accomplish? Yes and no. While there will be times of pure bliss and balance, there will also be times of the opposite. Just because we don’t feel on top of our game at all times, does not make us a failure.

Take the little mishaps with a grain of salt and move on knowing you will get right back on track as soon as you can. No rush, 1 day at a time.

Have counterbalances ready for situations that you know will throw you off. If there’s a big project to get done at work and you’ll be there 60 hours this week, adjust your personal schedule to squeeze in a couple 10 minute workouts when you wake up, or to prep meals at the beginning of the week, so you can move through the week smoothly.

Just because you aren’t able to maintain what is “routine” for you, don’t sweat it. You will not ruin all your results by skipping a few workouts or ordering takeout when you're in a bind. Adjust for the time being, accept what is, and move on.

(Sidenote: This is a work in progress and something I am still wrapping my head around. Be patient :) )

2. Focus on getting stronger rather than losing weight

Ahh, my favorite. The scale is perhaps the biggest bully I’ve ever met. For us ladies, our weight can change numerous times a day. So why do we keep stepping on the scale day after day when we see little to no change. For many, the number on the scale can make or break their mood for the day. Now that’s no way to live.

I once had a client who weighed herself every single morning, and it tortured her. She would complain that she was "still the same weight as yesterday" and let those thoughts ruin her day.

Try not to live in that place where your worth is depicted by the number on the scale.

At maximum, if one of my clients truly cares about that number, I allow them to weigh in every 2-3 weeks rather than daily. This allows your body to go through real changes, rather than noticing change in ounces. It also allows you to place your focus on the hard work you're putting in, in both the kitchen and the gym, which cultivates a goal-oriented mindset.

Results are important, I hear you! Instead of using the scale as a measurement tool, there are so many other ways to see progress. How about setting yourself up with a workout plan and aiming to get better at it? What would happen to your mentality if you were aiming to lift heavier weights or run a faster mile?

If you’re not sure what goal to start with, you can always set a goal for how many workouts you get each week, without worrying about what you’ll do just yet.

Dream big and have a long-term goal, but also keep an eye on those small changes. A heavier deadlift, a quicker mile, 5 workouts this week, etc.

Get stronger at setting and completing small goals. They all add up to that ONE, BIG GOAL.

3. Choose your food and exercise based on how it makes you feel

If you’re like me, you don’t exactly like to feel restricted. Not by a particular way of eating, or even a workout program that works for someone else but may not feel the best to me.

I have several friends that run long distance races. I used to run them also, but after a few years I realized that my body just didn't like the mileage over a certain distance. I wasn't holding muscle mass or feeling strong and confident in my skin (but my aerobic capacity was off the charts!). I eventually decided to keep running as part of my routine, but not nearly as much as it had been. I'm absolutely not against it, but everybody has it's preferences.

Your body is unique and should be treated that way. By listening and learning how your body feels in response to foods and certain types of exercise you can determine what that means for you. Just because someone got super lean by running tons of miles doesn’t mean you will enjoy that (and therefore are less likely to stick with it). Just because many people eat meat and are just fine does not mean you can’t go vegetarian, if that’s important to you and makes you feel good.

Too often I hear people say "I can't eat that" or "it will make me fat." This way of thinking puts us in a restrictive mindset that can make us want to rebel against ourselves, even if it doesn't make us feel good.

The best type of exercise and clean eating isn’t what someone else is doing and raving about on social media. At the end of the day, it’s about you and how it makes you feel. It’s not about being perfect with your choices, it’s about doing what will make you feel best, physically and emotionally.

Ask yourself “how will this make me feel?” when faced with choices on exercise and nutrition.

>>Related post: The only 5 exercises you need in your strength routine

Are any of these negative thoughts on fitness holding you back?

Here is the question again. After reading the article, do you feel like you can relate to any of the specific topics I talked about?  If so, please share in the comments. I'd love to chat. Hopefully I've been able to help you shift some of those negative thoughts on what fitness SHOULD be into a more positive, relaxed perspective.

As always, thank you for being here. Until next time!