The most common obstacle I see when I’m personal training and working with people on their fitness or aesthetics is probably not what you’d expect, because it has nothing to do with their bodies.
Have you ever said any of these things to yourself, your gym buddy or your trainer?
“I can’t do that”
“I not very good at that so…I just won’t do it”
“I need to stop, I can’t keep going.”
Or maybe you’ve said one of these things in the kitchen or when you’re out for dinner:
“I need that Ben & Jerry’s/bottle of wine/stuffed crust pizza, it’s been a tough day”
“It’s there so I have to eat it”
“I’ve started the pack so I might as well finish it.”
Yep: the biggest barrier to improving our fitness and our bodies is something that is often lost in the search for the perfect diet plan or exercise routine: it’s our attitude. If we tell ourselves we can’t do something – run that last bit up the hill; do those final few squats; make a heavy lift – there’s no way we will actually be able to do it. Our mind will almost always give up before our body does, and it’s the ability to push past these negative thoughts that sets apart the people who find success in their training and nutrition from those who struggle however much they want to succeed!
How do you stop these negative thoughts?
Self-belief is a huge part of success when it comes to fitness and nutrition. There isn’t a single athlete on the planet who has achieved something they repeatedly told themselves they couldn’t do. If you regularly put yourself down – or let others do the same – that attitude tends to permeate most or all areas of your life, including your approach to training and nutrition. With the right attitude (an athlete mentality, if you will), banishing negative thoughts actually becomes easy, because you choose to replace them with positive ones. Ask yourself these questions and answer them honestly:
- Do you feel self-confident?
- Are you usually around people who make you feel good about yourself?
- Are you usually positive about yourself and your abilities?
- Are you willing to step outside of your comfort zone?
- Are you able to embrace change?
If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, it’s likely you’ve had that moment when you’re training and have thought ‘Nope, I can’t do any more!” and you’ve ground to a halt, or you struggle to make consistently good decisions with food. That means the first thing to work on is your own self-worth, until you can answer a resounding ‘YES!’ (with that level of excitement) to the questions above. You are unique and a brilliant person – I know that without even having met you – but it’s not enough for me to say it. You need to believe it too, and you should. It’s the beginning of the positive, upward spiral you want to find yourself in to accelerate those results you want so badly.
Just because your brain is telling you to stop running/rowing/squatting doesn’t mean you should
Of course it’s tough, and so is putting down that tube of Pringles once you’ve started, but you know what? Everything desirable is tough to achieve. Unless you win the lottery, overnight success is a myth, and reward comes from hard work. Tap into that part of your conscious that kicks in when you really want something (tickets to a sold out event; a date with that hot guy/girl; shoes of any kind) and will move heaven, earth and everything in your busy schedule to get it. When we really want something, we make it happen: you need to harness that discipline and drive and channel it into your training and your nutrition. Believe you can make the progress you want to see, put in the effort, and you will get there.
Can you tell I’m not enjoying this?
I’m trying, but I’m not seeing any results…
If I haven’t been brutally honest with you until now, here’s the point where I really am. If you’re not seeing results, I’m sorry but you’re not trying hard enough. I’ve been there myself: I was training five times a week, eating all the right kinds of foods, and yet I was putting on weight, and I couldn’t get my head around it. Part of the problem was stress. A larger part of the problem was myself.
Where was I going wrong?
Yes I was training, but I was doing the same kinds of things every day, for the same amount of time, because I was too busy to train for longer or on new techniques. My body had got used to it and I wasn’t pushing myself with my speed, cardiovascular fitness or skills, so I stopped progressing and my body stopped responding, simple as that. At the same time I felt my work schedule wasn’t allowing me to eat properly or at the times I needed to eat. Instead of figuring out a way to change my nutrition to fit around work/get up earlier to prep food/request a 15 minute break mid-morning so I could eat at a regular time, I just worried about it and my entire body – and, to be honest, my entire life, dramatic as it sounds – suffered as a result. I was seeing the problems and not the solutions, which is very unlike me.
How did I fix it?
It took about six months to undo the damage I’d done during that time when I thought I was trying (but really wasn’t trying hard enough) and it was all down to a change in attitude. Instead of worrying about my injuries, complaining about my lack of time/money/access to training kit, or just accepting that my nutrition would have to be all over the place, I sought out solutions and began embracing change. I got on and trained, even if I only had half an hour and had to run at 6am in the rain. I prepared food in advance and ate when I was hungry instead of grazing all day because I didn’t know when I’d have time for a proper meal. I set myself new goals and started to tackle my weaknesses (running, gymnastics, Olympic lifting). Most importantly I stopped trying to lose weight, and instead focused on improving as an athlete and as a person. This is ultimately what made the difference to my fitness and aesthetics. I made decisions about my food and lifestyle that would positively influence my training, which in turn had a positive impact on my overall health and happiness. I didn’t let my emotions influence what or how I ate, or if I chose to train. I just got on and did it. Oh and yes I did lose body fat, too. Quite a nice side effect, really.
So what do I need to do?
Stop making excuses. Stop finding reasons to eat foods you know aren’t doing you any good. Stop stopping before you’ve finished your workout. Remind yourself that you’re amazing and, in the wise words of Eminem: “you can do anything you put your mind to, man”. It just takes a little effort, a little discipline, and a lot of: “well that was horrible, but I’m really glad I did it!”