This week I had a recurring issue with 5 different clients and it’s a common one that I’ve dealt with throughout my career. I’ve trained each of them for an average of 8 years but they struggled to recall how to do certain stretches and exercises that I’ve gone over with them dozens (if not hundreds) of times before. OK, 4 of them are over 65 and may have a hint of forgetfulness creeping in. And another is an overworked father of 3. But shouldn’t they have gotten it by now?
I’m of two, somewhat competing, mindsets. On the one hand, my primary job is to give people guidance and the tools they need to become stronger, fitter, and more physically competent movers. But for that to happen, I need their cooperation. That mindset says, “I can’t do my job effectively if you don’t pay more attention and get involved in your own fitness.” If I occupied this mental space too long I could get very frustrated.
On the other hand, another function of my job is to be patient with people and to get them moving at any cost. “Any movement is better than no movement,” is an axiom that I’ve clung to since the beginning of my career. So, I figure that it’s better that these clients do something while I’m there rather than nothing if I were to abandon them.
All of this boils down to the simple idea:
Being physically fit requires you to have a certain fitness mindset
It’s not enough to show up at the gym and be in close physical proximity to calorie-burning machines and sweaty people in order to get fit. Nor is it enough to mimic what you see others doing or hop on a machine and push until you’re tired. I hate to say it but being physically fit requires an outlay of mental energy as well. You have to have a purpose, a plan, a desire to learn new skills, and a willingness to endure discomfort in order to reach your goal. These are all mental traits that the vast majority of exercisers don’t have and are the reasons why most never reach their goals.
Let’s look at the fittest bunch in the population, athletes. Do you think they arrived at their given areas of fitness and expertise by just going through the motions of their workouts? I don’t think so. As a former collegiate athlete I can tell you that the reason I stuck out all of the gym and on-court workouts, in addition to technical lessons, is because I had the goal of being a professional tennis player. I had a defined purpose. My plan to achieve that goal was to learn as much as I could (from proper lunge form to specific tennis tactics) and be engaged in the learning process so that I could be independent when on the court. In order to soak up all of that information during grueling hours of practice, I had to be willing to endure a lot of discomfort.
Novak Djokovic, the world’s #1 tennis player, shows us how willing he is to endure discomfort to achieve his goals.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you have to take your fitness to the level of professional athletics. However, if you want to make any serious progress towards your goals, you’ll have to do more than show up. If the fitness mindset doesn’t come naturally for you, that’s just fine. You can learn it.
1. Define your goal or purpose
Why are you coming to the gym? What change would you like to have happen? This should be the first step in your fitness journey. Some examples are “Lose 10 pounds,” or “Get to the gym 3 times a week,” or “Learn how to use kettlebells.” The only right answer will be the one that motivates you to get to the gym on frosty mornings of rainy nights.
2. Create a plan
This step depends on your goal but, generally speaking, you’ll need to learn the fundamentals of strength training, i.e. squats, lunges, deadlifts, rows, presses. These movements form the basis of training programs that run the gamut from high-performance athletics to senior fitness. You cannot go wrong mastering these highly-functional movements.
- To view video tutorials of these movements, click HERE
- To read an article detailing how to put together your own workouts, click HERE
3. Learn to earn
The better you get at learning the skills needed to become fit, the smoother and more efficiently you’ll travel on the path towards your goal. If you have to constantly stop and think about how to do every little stretch, because you weren’t really paying attention to the instructions you saw or read, then you lose momentum towards the larger goal and are more likely to abandon it.
4. Endure discomfort
This is the part that may be the most difficult for you to embrace. And it makes perfect sense since human beings are designed to avoid physical discomfort. However, you have to be uncomfortable in order to push your current physical limits.
Indoor climbing definitely pushes my physical and mental limits.
I often have to tell my clients, who don’t squat low enough (even though they can), to “go to the uncomfortable place.” The self-protection mechanism is potent and can undermine your efforts for improvement. But, unless you are in immediate physical danger, there is no reason why you can’t push past the place where you’d prefer to stop. Choose to be better.
If I can help in any way to support you in developing your fitness mindset or journey, please email me at [email protected]. I’d love to help those of you who are serious and committed to getting better.
Keep on Movin,