Having Trouble Reaching Your Fitness Goals? Part 1
Updated: Jul 31
Let’s Start With The Voice In Your Head!!
Perhaps back in January, you made one of those dreaded New Year’s Resolutions about how you were really gonna’ do it this time - workout everyday, eat right, go to bed early, drink less alcohol, meditate every morning, journal your feelings, just be healthier all around! Well, there’s a pretty good chance you and your resolution have long since broken up. By now, in summer, the excitement of the New Year has ghosted us all! And if you're like most people, you've probably spent a lot of time over the years (and way more broken resolutions) trying to get in shape…and actually stay there.
That negative voice in your head may just be the reason you can’t reach those fitness goals. That same voice may be causing you to set goals that just plain aren’t right for you. There are enough words of discouragement out there in the world, and none so powerful as the ones we say to ourselves. So if you're still finding it tough to make the kind of progress you want, to where a healthier lifestyle becomes a habit, then it's possible that the way you're speaking to yourself is what’s holding you back. In this post, we'll talk about taking the first steps to changing your self-talk, so that you can finally reach your best fitness and health targets.
YES! THE YO-YO FITNESS STRUGGLE IS REAL!
And it covers so much more than what you weigh. It’s really about how you feel. Truly feeling fit, flexible, and strong are the rewards of invested time and adjusted behaviors…aka GOOD HABITS! Sure, they do take some effort to establish, and that’s what you want your healthier lifestyle to be. A collection of good habits you can stick with. It’s not like you haven’t tried to find your flow. You’ve tried all of the latest fitness trends, worked with amazing instructors, bought all of the coolest equipment, gadgets, and classes. Of course, you’ve eaten all of the weird foods, or worse, you barely ate at all! Every time, though, you started out with the best of intentions, felt pretty good at the beginning, then a few bumps into your journey that discouraging voice in your head starts yapping. You cannot establish good habits while you’re beating yourself up!
By the way, this also applies to fitness professionals! I can’t tell you how many trainers I know who struggle to squeeze in an abbreviated workout once a week, haven’t eaten a balanced meal in ages, and are some of the meanest self-talkers you’ll ever meet. What a collection of bad habits!
WHAT HAVE YOU SAID TO YOURSELF LATELY?
Most of us are pretty hard on ourselves. We're our own worst critic, and when it comes to our health and fitness goals, that inner voice can be incredibly damaging. We berate ourselves for every missed workout, every slice of cake, every extra inch on our waistlines. But what if we treated ourselves with the same kindness and compassion that we would show to a guest in our homes? You would never say to someone that you invited over, “Eh-Eh. You don’t deserve that slice of cake ‘cuz you skipped the last half of your workout this morning, and this is exactly why you’re never gonna’ get in shape, cuz this is what you always do!”
Why is it so hard to see ourselves on just as high a pedestal as that guest? Because it’s a habit! And habits are just behaviors we learn and repeat. No one comes out of the womb trash-talking themselves. Can you imagine? “Yeah, Baby Tami, you’re really quite awful at pacifier-control. Get it together!”
Even though we know that self-talk is incredibly important, we often ridiculed as nothing more than the goofy affirmations of self-help-program devotees. When we were children we sought out and basked in the praise of our teachers, friends, and parents. Their uplifting words made us feel worthy and accomplished. Yet somehow, we never got taught that the praise we seek really must come from inside ourselves. We can’t thrive in our lives by waiting for validation from other people. It’s no one else’s job to love us into value, to propel us into finally taking consistent action on our health. So how you talk to yourself is ultimately going to have most powerful impact on your mindset.
Most of the time we aren’t even aware of the negative things we’re saying in our heads. It’s become automatic. But changing this one habit can make all the difference. When you’re trying to make healthy changes, skip the shame spirals because self-compassion is key. Then add encouragement, along with some honest self-assessment, and a whole lot of celebrating! (Notice I didn’t say ‘rewards’. That’s another thing entirely, and we’ll get to that in Part 2.) Remember that making lasting changes in your body and in your brain both take time, so be patient with yourself.
ARE YOU SETTING GOALS YOU KNOW YOU CAN’T REACH?
Harmful self-talk can really put a damper on your fitness goals. And if you don't believe deep down that you can reach them, then those knee-jerk negative comments will only multiply. Sometimes people set unrealistic goals subconsciously on purpose. Basically, without realizing it, they’ll look for the next thing that will prove that all the self-trash-talk is true! It’s like choosing a weightlifting group that only meets at 5am, when you KNOW you can’t even form words before 7am, let alone keep up with group training. Now when you beat yourself up for sleeping in, skipping class, wasting money, not making any gains, you’ll have validation for all the times you told yourself what an awful quitter you are.
Make sure your fitness goals are something you can actually see yourself achieving! Sometimes the mini version of a larger goal can keep you more focused. Do a little research on what it will take to run that 5K vs. a full marathon. Would you actually enjoy entering a local tennis tournament? Or would a regular lessons & practice schedule be the best motivator for you? Decide if you want to lose a few inches around your middle vs. rapidly trying to drop 75 points off of your cholesterol reading. After you achieve a mini goal, then you can set the next one and the next one. Eventually, you’ll hit that bigger target!
IT’S ALSO IMPORTANT TO BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF: IS THIS A LONG-TERM OR A SHORT-TERM GOAL?
Let’s take one of the most common ones out there as an example…You want to lose 20lbs. Ok. Is that a realistic goal for you? Do you actually have 20lbs to lose? Muscle weighs more than fat, but it takes up less space. Resistance training, like Pilates or weight lifting, will help you drop the extra inches, but your scale may only come sorta close to your fantasy number. And more importantly, why do you want this weight loss? If this a short-term goal that you're only doing because you have an upcoming wedding to attend, that’s fine. Just know that short-term, aggressive, event-driven fitness and weight loss usually result in short-term window for holding onto it. Hello, Yo-Yo! Despite the promises you’ve made to keep up the intense regimen, your brain sees that wedding or event as a big ol’ high-five to freedom…Mission Accomplished! Give me back my junk food and I’m never setting foot in a gym again!
Or this a long-term goal that's part of a larger plan to improve your overall health? Did you know that long-term goals, combined with smaller, measurable check-ins, are more likely to be successful? Changes that you make for the long haul are less likely to frustrate you because those changes are about a whole lifestyle. Deprivation is not a lifestyle. What is? Eating nutritious foods that taste yummy to you, and participating in the kind of fitness program you actually enjoy. Yes, fit people occasionally miss workouts and indulge in treats. If feeling good is the goal, then rigid exercise schedules and bland eating can’t be the cornerstones of your healthy, joyful life. Set your targets from a positive, realistic mindset and you’ll find that the negative self-speak will be easier to control.
WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER AREAS OF YOUR LIFE?
You may be wondering how this whole self-talk thing applies to the other areas of your life. Well, the answer is simple: You can’t have negative self-speak regarding your health and fitness and then expect to be successful with your work or your relationships, and vice versa. Harsh self-speak eventually turns into a harmful mix of shame and embarrassment. And that kind of poison taints the whole pool.
We aren’t designed to do all things perfectly, all the time. Life would get pretty boring! How would we learn what we’re truly capable of? To quote Freddy Mercury, “And bad mistakes, I’ve made a few. I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face, but I’ve come through.” You may think that you’re being realistic when, after a stumble on your fitness journey, you call yourself names or put yourself down. In reality, you’re only setting yourself up for a much larger failure. When you tell yourself that you aren’t good enough, smart enough, or capable enough, your brain is looking to fulfill that prophecy. You’ll believe your own lies, and as a result, you’ll act in ways that confirm your negative beliefs.
How many times a day do you catch yourself saying things like "I'm so stupid for skipping my workout" or "Why did I eat that?" You may be surprised to find out how often you’re speaking to yourself that way in a single day. Beating yourself up about not staying on track to your health goals can morph into the kind of self-loathing that makes you think you don’t deserve loving relationships, or promotions in your career. Not True! At All!
THE GOOD NEWS IS IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO CREATE A GOOD HABIT!
It takes practice to break the habit of negative self-speak, but it's worth it. When you start talking more positively to yourself, you'll feel better about yourself and your possibilities in life will start to seem endless. We’ll review some techniques you can use to change that voice in your head in Part 2.
In the meantime, just observe what things you are saying to yourself and when. That’s it. Just be aware of when it’s happening. What kind of situation were you in and what were your emotions? Sometimes a pattern may emerge. Maybe you’re the meanest to yourself when you’re tired or hungry or under stress. If its helpful, you can write down what those harsh self-statements were and when they came up. Those statements aren’t the truth about you, so writing them down doesn’t given them more power. Then take a few breaths and know that you don’t have to anything more than this right now.
Knowledge is power, and you are gathering your deepest strengths by getting a clearer view!