For anyone trying to build, maintain, or improve physical fitness, the last two years have been challenging, to say the least. Gyms have been forced to close, competitions and practices have been put on hold, and the need for physical distancing has meant that many of us can’t connect in person with our training partners.
If you find that your motivation to get started again (or to get started for the very first time) has been quite low, you aren’t alone. It can be incredibly discouraging, after months of inactivity, to try to find the desire to get moving on a regular basis. You might start to think thoughts that a) aren’t helpful; and b) are roadblocks to your success.
STEP ONE: NOTICE YOUR THOUGHTS
Some of us aren’t even aware of the thoughts that we’re having, and this alone can be a place to start. Right now, think of where you’d like to be in terms of physical fitness, and then draw your attention to all the thoughts that come up in connection to those goals. How would you characterize them? Are they positive and encouraging? Or are they reminiscent of a not-so-nice coach or gym teacher or someone else from your past?
Maybe some of these thoughts sound familiar:
I’m so unfit.
If I start I’m just going to embarrass myself.
Others will judge me negatively.
I’m going to get hurt again.
The gyms are going to close again anyway, what’s the point in starting?
I’ve lost all my strength.
STEP TWO: MOVE AWAY FROM EXTREME THINKING
When I mention extreme thinking, I am referring to the type of thoughts that are very all-or-nothing, and don’t leave room for anything in between. For example, “I’m going to fail,” doesn’t leave room for the possibility that you might actually improve in a way that you hadn’t anticipated. If you’re beginning a run program, maybe you don’t hit your speed goals immediately, but you might begin to notice that your endurance is gradually building, and you can list things that you enjoy about running. Whereas extreme thinking, such as “if I don’t run a 5k in X number of minutes, I’m not a runner,” sets you up to think that your only options are success or failure, and this is likely to impede both motivation and outcome.
STEP THREE: MOVE TOWARD A NEW WAY OF THINKING
The type of thinking that can help you to find the motivation to get started, and can provide stimulus to keep going is balanced, realistic, factual, helpful, and believable.
So if the extreme thought is: “I’ve lost all my strength in this pandemic.”
A new thought might be: “It’s not true that I’ve lost ALL my strength, and I’m going to gradually build it up again.”
This thought is balanced, in that it is no longer all-or-nothing.
It’s realistic, because it acknowledges that the strength will come back again in time.
It’s factual. The new thought concedes that not ALL the strength has been lost.
And most people are going to find that a new thought like this is more helpful than the extreme thought that has been keeping them stuck.
So is the new thought believable? Well, this part is more personal, and it’s really up to you to create a thought that you genuinely believe. If you say to yourself, “When the gyms reopen, I’m going to go 6 days a week,” you might only be moderately convinced by this thought. A more effective thought might be: “When the gyms reopen, I’m going to pack my workout bag the night before so that I can give myself the best shot at getting to the gym each morning.” Again, it’s personal, and only you will have the best sense of what will motivate you.
In short, how we think impacts what we do. So be curious about your thoughts, and if you spot any that are extreme and not-so-helpful, explore new thoughts that will assist you in moving towards your goals.