Mind over matter. We hear that cliché repeatedly when speaking of extended periods of work, or incredible feats done in the face of terror or threat. In general, humans believe that our mind is able to accomplish incredible tasks, despite our bodies telling us otherwise. So why wouldn’t we apply this to exercise? If you’ve ever tried to get back in shape, you know how daunting the task of working out regularly is. And, if you’re like most women, negative self-talk often gets in the way of accomplishing your exercise goals.
I have a client who has relatively weak upper-body strength when compared to her lower-body strength. She despises doing pushups because she feels so weak in this area. This week however, we had a break through. After congratulating her for performing 10 push-ups in a row I could tell she wasn’t impressed with herself. She asked when it was going to get easier – when would she gain some upper-body strength? Because push-ups still felt challenging to her, she thought she still had poor upper-body strength and thus dreaded doing them. I pulled out her first workout program and showed her that it was only 2 months ago when she could only do 4 push-ups in a row at best. She was making huge improvements, but wasn’t crediting herself for any.
It’s all too common for women to dwell on their weaknesses (which often times are the things that no one else notices). Think of it as a downward spiral: You focus on how much weight you still want to lose; instead of the small, yet important weight you’ve already lost. This leaves you questioning whether all this exercise is worth it. Once you negate the importance of working out regularly, voilá! Exercise motivation is lost, thus making it very easy to miss your workouts. THIS is when the weight starts to slip back on.
Rather than focusing on the exercises you hate, or the parts of your body you are not currently happy with, channel your energy to propel yourself forward to attain your goals. Workout logs are great for this. Go back to your first workout log and see how much weight you lifted, or repetitions you were able to do. Have you improved? By how much? Can you walk/run/skip/bike longer now? No doubt you can! When have you acknowledged that improvement in yourself? Congratulate yourself for a job well done. Now my client looks forward to push-ups, and is setting her own goals on just how many push-ups she can do.
Those who perceive they have control and confidence in their exercise habits exercise more regularly. It is thought that if you perceive that you have control over your workout regime you will be more committed and motivated to exercise and be more comfortable reducing your dependency on others, such as your personal trainer (Lox, Martin, & Petruzzello, 2003). What this means for you is that once you start crediting yourself for your hard work, you’ll be more eager to do those challenging exercises by yourself.
By taking a moment to see what you’ve accomplished thus far, you’ll be more motivated to stick to your workout program and achieve your ultimate goal. The moral of the story: Don’t beat yourself up! You’re doing great, and acknowledging that will only make you better.