If you’re thinking about starting an exercise program and you just can’t stand the thought of starting and quitting again, or you’re in it but you’re randomly doing things and can’t really commit to those regular habits that will make the difference, this post is for you.
Are your thoughts fat? Have you got a heavy load of limited thinking getting in the way of you either starting an exercise program or staying motivated to exercise?
It’s likely one of two things:
Reason ONE starting an exercise program is daunting
You’re not ready to change. No amount of external motivation, science, or workout planning is going to help you if you simply don’t want to change. You’re still unconsciously creating a balance sheet and the cons of changing are winning over the pros of changing.
You probably wouldn’t be reading this if YOU didn’t want change. But that is different than changing your habits to be more regular. The answer for you is not to jump in with reservations anyway. You really need to spend more time deciding that you’re in it – get married to it – and through good times and bad you’re going to change. It’s not convenient. Ever.
“I’m going to apply to do this next year,”a woman once told me at an American Heart Association Go Red for Women’s event following my presentation. Essentially what she was telling me was that she was going to wait another full year to apply to be a participant (with the possibility she would not be chosen) in the program meant to inspire and demonstrate the power of just three months of exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle change. Rather than start now and be healthier, happier, and at less risk by next year… she was going to wait. If you too would say something like that, you’re not ready to change. It sounds good, but you’re not ready to lace up your shoes and take a walk.
In a perfect world with no stress, humans are going to want to keep doing what’s habitual. So if you have habits to dump or add you’ve got to be committed to doing the work. Most of the things involved in starting an exercise program are easy. It’s sticking to it when your default habits kick in that’s hard. That’s thinking, not acting. So ponder what’s going to get in the way, why, and what you’re going to do about it before you begin.
Following a presentation to a women’s association I was once approached by a woman who said, “Next year when I retire, I’m going to start.” This woman, a teacher, was also going to wait nearly a year until it was more convenient to start. She’d waited this long, I suppose, what was nine more months? Clearly, I need to review something in my stage message!
The challenge here is that disease unfortunately is not waiting. It’s having a heyday. While you’re pushing through with stressors, ignoring your body’s need for exercise and healthier eating habits, tossing and turning at night instead of getting restful sleep, disease finds more opportunity. Never mind the joy you’re missing from being a more active, focused, fully present woman less likely to be anxious, depressed or tired.
In Mary’s case, it was osteoporosis. Just as she was about to retire from her position as head of a counseling clinic, she was diagnosed with osteoporosis. Her plans to retire to a mountain home and spend her days chasing white powder on skis were threatened.
What plans are you making that life might interfere with because you didn’t buy that insurance policy called exercise? You can either think of that as a con for not starting now, or you can think about the pros of your active life without limits once you have the time to enjoy it. Spend time creating your own balance sheet when it comes to your exercise decision.
Reason TWO starting an exercise program is daunting
You’ve got limiting beliefs – stinking thinking – about health habits. Your thoughts may tend to spill over to other areas of your life too, but certainly they limit permanent health habit adoption or stopping habits that interfere with your starting and exercise program.
I’m going to identify 10 patterns of limited thinking (that’s a lot of ways we can screw up). You may identify with more than one. Trained in exercise and sport psychology along with kinesiology, I’ve worked with clients and students on behavior change for 34 years. Among my private coaching clients (and me; none of us is immune to the occasional stinking thinking), there have been patterns of thinking that either are changed quickly and allow someone to pivot and move forward, or that tend to keep us stuck for longer than we’d like. It can take as little as 90 seconds to work through an emotion triggered by a thought.
So, even if you’ve been stuck for years, whatever you’re about to do next, does not have to be a replay of those events.
It’s not discipline or willpower. It’s desire to change and the way you think about or process what happens or doesn’t that most influence your rate of success. Notice I didn’t mention failure: if you’re still trying there isn’t any failure. There may be some “juice” you get from just being in this space of limbo not really changing, just going through the motions.
Do you keep buying programs? We usually follow people that are already going in the direction we want to go in. So if you find an expert you believe in and yet you can’t get your arms around making the changes the expert is asking you to make, you’ll hop to the next program and spend time on Facebook joining group after group without ever taking action. A woman recently requested access to one of our Flipping 50 private program groups who already belonged to 36 groups. Thirty-six! My suggestion for her would be to go on a Facebook diet and substitute a walk for all that time online. That’s a business opportunity for someone! I’d call it the Facebook Diet. The marketing materials would say, “Is Facebook Making You Fat?”
Do you keep telling yourself you can do better without acknowledging that this is the first time you’ve done something?
I’m going to name, and define, and give you 10 examples of how limiting thinking shows up and could derail you as you’re starting an exercise program.
You miss either do it all or you do nothing. You have a little cake at a birthday party and suddenly you’ve blown your perfect streak. “I blew it.” On the other hand, you may have gone to a cocktail party, refused to eat anything that was there and feel proud, but totally deprived. You’re either “good” or “bad” in a situation.
“This is all so hard,” you might say as you’re starting an exercise program or shortly after the honeymoon period. It’s as if everything about changing to eat healthier or find time to exercise is difficult and in fact needs to be that way. Someone else who has healthy habits is “a health nut.”
“I’ve never been able to stick with something for very long.”You’re likely to throw words in like always and never when you’re referencing yourself if you tend to do this one. If you’re starting an exercise program – again – there may be patterns but they’re merely breadcrumbs.
It’s all negative. There’s no positive focus. “You’re just being nice. I should have done better,”you’d say after someone complimented you for reaching a new goal or completing your first race. You distort and see it as negative even when it’s positive.
How do you shift your mental filter? Ask questions like, what is it you’re rejecting? What is the evidence, In this case, the evidence that you should have done better at something new? How valid is the evidence?
This is insisting the positives don’t count. Say you receive a compliment on completing a tough effort in a workout or consistently sticking to your exercise schedule and eating well while traveling. You reply, “It’s terrible! I haven’t lost a bit of weight.”
You come just short of not only rejecting the compliment, but of insulting the person who gave it to you. Starting an exercise program your goal may very well be weight loss but evidence that you’re going in the right direction toward that end goal comes before the result. There are positives all around you.
Jumping to Conclusions
You’re doing a lot of mindreading and fortune telling. You assume that someone is judging you even without evidence it’s true. In part, this is because you are judging you. This is also sometimes called projecting.
Say you’re a professional woman with an established career. You begin an exercise and nutrition program and you have a history of starting and stopping. You feel like everyone is judging what you perceive as failure in this arena as a fault in your professional armor. The truth is there’s no evidence anyone is judging you for your weight or appearance, nor are they tying it to your ability professionally. You could choose to believe that or shift to believing that being authentic about your journey will actually help you in every other area of life.
You either blow things out of proportion or you shrink things. You might have a workout plan from a coach and you intended to complete it but when you went outside the heat index was already above 100 and you simply couldn’t complete it. You dwell on the fact that you failed to do the workout that was written for today and that because of that you have slowed your progress and screwed up.
You ignore the fact that the heat changes everything and your effort was still high, and in this case much safer and smarter. You realize that anyone attempting to do the same workout under conditions like this would compromise their health and be reducing not improving fitness. You completely forget that you remained consistent in your workouts and committed to your schedule.
You let it bother you for days and your weekly coaching report focuses on how poor this performance was regardless of how the rest of the week went.
You assume reason from how you feel. An example of this is if you feel ashamed or embarrassed about your weight or lack of progress, then for you that logically means that others must think you are an embarrassment and haven’t tried to help yourself. If you feel stupid when you go to the gym for the first time and don’t know how to adjust equipment or where to start you assume you are stupid.
How do you get out of this mindset? Remind yourself that feelings are indications of what you’re thinking. You have the ability to change your thoughts and that in turn will change your feeling. You need to take back your power by treating a feeling as a symptom.
If you “should” on yourself you exaggerate something that is truly just a choice. You impose it on yourself as if it’s a golden rule. You do this with should, must, have to, ought to and leave yourself burdened with things that just add stress and seem terrible to you when you don’t do them.
You may in fact be taking action and following through with health habits, but you rarely enjoy the benefits because your thinking makes it more like an unpleasant sentence than a lifestyle choice you love.
When it doesn’t all go as planned you blame yourself. You make it hard to take in the data from past experiences and use it as a catalyst for going forward. Instead of, “I made a mistake,”you say “I’m an idiot.”
In regards to a social eating environment where you gave into temptation or succumbed to peer pressure of people you have history of eating and drinking to excess with, instead of, “I let myself explore the food choices,” you say, “I have no willpower.”
One of my personal favorite recounts, “I fell off the wagon and got run over by it,”can fit in so many of the categories here, but not this one, do you see why? There’s really no blame (good) or assumption of responsibility (not so good). It’s like the wagon must have taken a sharp corner and thrown you off. Poor thing.
On the other hand, too many of us tend to do the opposite, as in this next example of thought patterns to dump before starting an exercise program.
Personalization and Blame
You blame yourself for something you’re not responsible for. You register for a race or set out to do a new training distance. It’s harder than you thought and you are disappointed by your performance. Instead of processing all the things that are unpredictable on race day that come into play, you blame yourself for a time much slower than you had wanted. You say, “I should have done so much better. My time was terrible.”
The reality is that it was your first race at that distance. You had a personal best no matter how you look at it. You have really no right to expect a better performance if you tried your best, followed the plan, fueled and rested well. You just learn from what happened, assess what worked, where it was hard, and identify how you can overcome that next time by a change in training, rest, and fuel.
You can process data from every life event whether a single workout, the instance where you decide to get up and workout or to stay in bed, or the way you approach meal planning every week. Before starting an exercise program, perhaps again, spend time identifying how you think about changing.
Flipping 50 is looking for you!
I’ve got a new study/beta Program open for registration. That means we’re offering it 50% off the program launch rate because we’d like your feedback, your success, and your data to share with others so we can make a big difference in more lives. If you would like help starting an exercise program and you:
- Are willing to record weight, measurements, and body composition
- Have dependable access to the internet
- Will commit to twice weekly strength training sessions (less than 40 mins each)
- Have dumbbells and an exercise ball (the ball is optional)
- Are apparently healthy (this is a large group without ability to modify for special conditions – there will be no private coaching)
- Want support of a group
- Will complete a brief pre and post survey of questions
- Have not done weight training regularly for the past 3 months (or more) but do have weight training experience
- Will be ready to start 12 weeks of access (not a video purchase: a program)
- Would enjoy helping us test and record the power of weight training
Get on our list here at flippingfifty.com/getstronger to get notified about the program when doors open. We open a few times a year. You’ll be first to know and take advantage of an early bird rate.
Can’t wait? Here’s an option you can begin as soon as you register. Then you’ll join a group at the beginning of the month for coaching calls. Jump in yourself with our group or bring a friend/sister by clicking below. (Save $30 on the two registrations at once)