When I asked folks what their biggest hurdle or struggle was with exercise or the gym, I was expecting to get answers like, "Oh, I want to put more weight on my bench press" or "I want to get faster." Instead, I received a lot of answers about how hard it was to be consistent in the gym or even just start a fitness journey.
And this makes a lot of sense.
It’s often how we feel or think about the gym—some thoughts we don’t even know we have—that are holding us back from attaining our goals.
We are going to be focusing on three most common myths we tell ourselves about working out. Then we’ll go over a process I use regularly to make sure my workout mindset is supporting me versus stopping me before I even step foot in the gym.
The Common Lies That We Tell Ourselves That Impact Our Workout Mindset
“My workout today proves how fit I am or how worthy I am.”
When I see this belief in clients, it comes from a place of being assessed in the past. That might be because the only physical activity you did growing up was when you ran the mile for fitness testing.
Perhaps you remember doing the yearly physical fitness testing where everyone's watching you when you try and do the most push-ups or the most pull-ups. And that memory brings back some feelings of being evaluated or not being good enough.
Or maybe you really excelled at those physical tests.
I had one client who was a competitive athlete. Because of her high level of fitness, she felt like that was why she was kept on the particular team that she was on.
For her, not being in "peak physical shape" anymore made her feel self-conscious.
Every time she went to work out, she was comparing herself to that professional version. It always felt like she didn't measure up. And because of that, she didn't like exercise anymore.
If you are trying to prove yourself with every single workout you do, you're going to be judging your output or how you performed on that day. And likely you're going to be focusing on your flaws during that workout rather than what you’re in the gym for- progress.
“It's all or nothing.”
This is the second myth I hear people tell themselves. Either, “I am the fittest, healthiest person in the world, or I am the least fit, most unhealthy person in the world.”
Now that might resonate with you. Maybe you have jumped onto a diet and then only been able to hold on to it for a week or less. Maybe you’ve done run or workout streaks to the point of injury or being so fatigued that you give up exercise.
Or it could also be you if you thrive on jumping into challenges. And after those challenges are done, you go back to zero.
Now, part of this lie we tell ourselves is driven largely by the fitness industry. After all, they thrive off people jumping from program to program, diet to diet. And while that can produce results, often those results are short in time. They don't last.
“Once I am fit, this will be easy.”
The final workout mindset myth that could be affecting your actions and your feelings when it comes to exercise and working out.
This one really hits home for me because I have totally fallen victim to it.
Where does this come from? The first place this comes from is highlight reels from people's finisher medals on their Instagram, Facebook, etc.
It also comes from our own selective memory. Oftentimes, when I'm working with clients, they'll tell me about this time when they felt really fit and amazing. And they say to me, "everything was so easy when I was fitter."
This thinking can push us into an incredibly negative spiral.
I was doing a shorter race as a lead-up to a longer race. I remember going into it thinking, "Oh, I'm training for a 50 km, this 10 km is going to be a breeze."
I went out hard. I went out very hard. It's actually a good training technique to use a race and push it really hard to get yourself into the pain zone.
But, I approached it wrong. I was prepared for this race to feel easy from start to finish. And so when things did get hard, I was not ready to deal with it mentally.
I went to a very negative place saying to myself, "you can't even do this 10 km, why are you even thinking about doing an ultra? Why did you sign up for this? Why are you here?"
Not only did I underperform on that day, but I also didn't have the mindset that I know I need to get joy from exercise in the long term.
And that’s what this is all about: how do we create a workout mindset that supports us for the long-term and helps us conquer those ‘hard things?’
Taking Control of Our Mindset Triangle
The way you feel about a workout and the way you approach it is the outcome or what the actual physical result is from that session.
There is a connection between mind and body that we can't ignore.
Without going too deep into the fun science, a cool gentleman by the name of Aaron Beck in the 1960s developed Cognitive Behavioral Theory.
What Beck summarized was that all of the thoughts you have are connected to all of the feelings you have. And all of those feelings are connected to your behaviors and those behaviors are connected to the thoughts you have.
These three things are connected in a triangle. If we change one of those items, if we change our thoughts, our feelings or our behaviors, we are going to change the rest of the triangle as well.
There's no way that you can change one without the other ones changing.
How cool is that!?
So, How Do You Change Your Workout Mindset?
Most of the time, this triangle is running unchecked in our subconscious. After all, we don’t really think about those thoughts as we’re doing hard workouts (in the middle of “the suck” as I like to call it).
And if all we’re thinking about is, “this is hard,” “I want this to be over,” or “am I actually doing well?”, then we are stopping ourselves from reaching our own potential.
Not reaching your potential in a workout leads to feeling unfulfilled. That unfulfillment will lead to not wanting to do a workout again. It’s a vicious circle…or triangle in this case!
So, how do you take control of the triangle?
Three-Step Process to Change Your Workout Mindset
The first part is done. You’re here and have decided to take action in understanding what thoughts and feelings are controlling your workout mindset.
The second part is a little more difficult.
Here’s what I want you to do:
During your next hard workout, observe the thoughts and feelings that come into your mind. Don’t worry about evaluating them! Just take notice.
After your workout, write down which thoughts and feelings were supporting you and which ones weren’t.
So here’s the question:
If you didn’t have those unsupportive thoughts and feelings, would your next workout feel different? How would you perform in your next race? How would you feel about trying a new sport?
After you’ve identified your thoughts and feelings during your hard workout, it’s now changing them to those that are going to support you. This is the most difficult part when changing your workout mindset.
You’ve likely been telling yourself the same thoughts for a long time.
And, you’re going to have to remind yourself of these new thoughts and feelings consistently until they are part of your triangle.
But, practice makes permanent.
And I can tell you from experience that it’s totally possible to change your mindset.
Don’t Do It Alone!
I go through this mindset process at least once a quarter.
I find that it has helped me so much with not only my workouts but with any of the challenges I’ve taken on: paddling 1,000 miles up the Yukon River, running ultra-marathons, and trying out snowboarding for the first time!
But, I know how overwhelming it can be to do it alone. Which is why I’m here to help!
We have an awesome Adventure Ready Mindset Workshop to help you set awesome goals by understanding the thoughts and feelings we have towards fitness.
Join our FREE three-session mindset workshop where at the end, I'll help you look at your goal so you know you're on the right track to being the happiest and healthiest you can be!
Three, ten-minute sessions (plus some homework) are all it takes!