I hate to say this but the majority of people whom you see in the gym—and perhaps you have been one of them (up until now)—will not reach their goals. That’s because simply being in close physical proximity to calorie-burning machines and other sweaty people will not get you fit. Nor is it enough to mimic what others are doing or hop on a machine and push until you’re tired.
Being physically fit requires an outlay of physical and mental energy. The latter point is the one most people usually neglect. And, if you speak to anyone whom you consider a fitness role model, you will probably hear similarities in the way that they think about training.
For instance, fit people generally see movement as a part of their lives. No matter how busy they are—from business professionals to full-time parents—they prioritize exercise. That may mean sneaking it into little cracks of time throughout the day, getting up early to hit the gym, or forgoing social activities to make it happen.
Fit people also see fitness as a long-term journey. They typically don’t have micro goals, such as wanting to shed 10 pounds for a wedding or school reunion a few months away. Usually, committed exercisers take the long view, understanding that consistent training over years is the means to achieving consistently good health, aesthetics, and performance.
Finally, fit people understand and embrace discomfort. There is no way to avoid the fact that exercise is work and it demands its practitioners be uncomfortable to reap the rewards. Like Nike espouses, Just Do It.
Being physically fit requires a certain fitness mindset
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 why
Why are you coming to the gym? What change would you like to have happen? What is your why? Defining your why should be the first step in your fitness journey because, without a deep understanding of your desire for change, you will likely go through the motions of your workouts without much passion or engagement.
Most people don’t dig deep enough to uncover the root of their why. If I ask a new client what her goal is and she tells me “to lose 20 pounds” I want to understand what that 20 pounds represent to her. In other words, how will being 20 pounds lighter change her life? Will it help her avoid being ridiculed by her spouse? Or will she experience the confidence she enjoyed in her 20s? Or perhaps it would reduce her fear of having a heart attack, which her father died from when she was a teenager.
A number may be important for you to define as a goal but it’s more important to probe yourself for the deeper understanding of what that number represents. The only right answer to your why will be the one that motivates you to get to the gym on frosty mornings of rainy nights.
2. Make the time
The most common reason why people say they can’t exercise is because they don’t have time. Yes, you do. If the President can train consistently, so can you.
If you can’t manage to arrange your schedule so that you can hit the gym or park for 30-45 minutes, that’s fine. Aim for smaller chunks of 5-10 minutes of concentrated, intense effort. And if that’s not going to work either, you can consider adopting a more movement-based lifestyle (which would be good for you even if you are hitting the gym regularly), which I’ve written about HERE.
3. Take the long view
Sure, you’d like to experience a different-looking and feeling body relatively soon after you start a training program. But keep in mind that being fit and healthy is a lifestyle choice and you want to choose to remain active for your entire life.
Another way to say this is that your training never ends. Sure, there will be ebbs and flows based on lifestyle changes (relationships, job changes, kids, relocation), medical issues, interest level, and shorter-term goals, but wrap your mind around the idea that movement is life and without the former you don’t have the latter.
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.
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.
Keep on Movin,