There’s an immeasurable amount of information on the internet about fitness, nutrition, and working out. However, the majority of people that embark on their fitness journey find themselves stopping after a short while, failing to achieve even a small portion of their goals. This is because the hardest part of becoming a better version of yourself isn’t really the working out or exercising part, it’s having the mentality to to do it consistently. It’s having the mindset to push yourself on a regular basis. People need not to only develop only their physical strength, but their mental strength as well.
In this article I’d like to give out a few mental strategies, tips and mindsets that you can use to help you become more consistent in pursuing your fitness goals. Take note that some of these mental strategies will contradict one another. This is because an approach/mindset that works for one person might not work for another. The literal opposite might work for that person. There is no one strategy that will work for everyone because finding one’s motivation or drive varies upon the individual. Different things will work for different people.
1. Make your workouts fun. Don’t just love the image of you having an aesthetic physique, love the exercises too.
This is probably the easiest way to stay consistent. If you don’t view your workouts as work and actually see them as something enjoyable then there’s a good chance that you’ll do it more often. Seeing them as stress relievers makes that tendency even higher. There’s a limitless array of exercises that people can use to develop their physiques. It doesn’t have to be just picking up something heavy and putting it back down or jogging.
Find exercises or workout programs that are fun for you. If you don’t like doing traditional squats for your legs, then try pistol squats or lunges. If you don’t like doing sit ups then try doing hanging leg raises. You can even try out a new sport as there are a lot of sports that will naturally change your physique if you constantly do them. Rock climbers are known to have immense upper body strength as a result of pulling their weight up all the time. Gymnasts are often considered to have the best physiques in the world. They commonly have that lean, muscular physique that most people want. If doing flips, handstands, and training for gravity-defying feats of strength like a gymnast would seems fun for you, then do it as these will naturally develop your physique. If playing basketball or tennis is fun for you and you just want to burn calories to get thinner, then this method will most likely work for you.
2. Workout according to your sport
Competition is great motivation. Winning is a good incentive. If athletes can associate working out with higher chances of winning, then they’re more likely to do it. If you play a sport competitively or just want to get better at it, then working out can benefit you immensely. There are exercises to help make people better at every sport and a lot of these exercises will improve the look of one’s physique. For example, a 30-inch vertical jump would undoubtedly benefit a basketball/ volleyball player, but unless one is extremely naturally gifted, then the athlete must work out for it. This will include a variety of exercises that will develop one’s lower body like squats and box jump. As a result, the athlete will have more muscular legs and even bigger glute muscles(a bigger butt).
If you compete in martial arts like boxing or Muay Thai, then naturally you’ll want to punch and kick harder. To do this, aside from practicing the technique, you must develop your core muscles as these are the muscles mainly involved in the rotating and turning motions in striking. Exercises like planks and Russian twists can be used for this. These exercises will develop your abs and obliques. Aside from having a physical edge over your competition, you will also have a more aesthetic physique.
3. Workout with friends
This method works because of multiple reasons. For one, working out with friends can make a huge difference in what you associate your workout as. If you associate workouts as being tired and feeling pain all the time, then you’re less likely to be able to maintain your program. On the other hand, associating workouts as a fun activity to enjoy with friends will make you more likely to keep going back to it. Furthermore, having friendly competition can also mentally push you to perform better and thus give you better results.
Friends also work as a support system. One can always push the other to go to the gym. Even when that person is feeling lazy, the likelihood that he/she will go increases because of the desire to be with friends and to socialize.
4. Learn how to workout alone
Yes, working out with friends can help a lot, but it also has its disadvantages. Your friends still have their own, separate lives and there will be times where they won’t be available. It can also create this “all or nothing” mentality where if one friend fails to go, then the rest won’t go either. This increases the likelihood of skipping workouts or even quitting. Furthermore, our bodies respond to different workout differently and what works for one person might not work for the other. If you’re working out with friends then chances are you’re all doing the same workout. Working out alone will give you the chance to individualize your workout program based on what works for you and thus give you better results. The more results you see, the more likely you are to work out consistently since you’ve already felt that sense of achievement.
5. Negative motivation
Everyone knows the benefits of exercise. Everyone knows that working out can change their bodies for the better. But if that’s the case, then why are there so many people who fail to do it? Perhaps it’s because the rewards or benefits of something isn’t enough to keep them motivated. For some people, negative motivation works better. Negative motivation is about punishment, fear, and consequences. Instead of thinking of the benefits of working out, focus more on the consequences of failing to do so. If you’re an athlete, failure to stick to your program increases the likelihood of you losing to the opposing player or team. If you’re someone in a bad environment, it can result in you getting bullied more often.
A lot of prisoners are able to build strong and impressive physiques in unideal conditions with no equipment at all because of negative motivation. For them, getting a muscular body can mean the difference between being respected and getting beat up. For regular people, it might mean the difference between attracting someone they like or getting rejected. It could also mean the difference between being happy and healthy or succumbing to sickness or unfavorable physical conditions.
Keep in mind that this mental strategy is easy to overuse or use in the wrong way. It can easily become unhealthy. Individuals might constantly be anxious or fearful as a result of using this. It can also promote storing a lot of anger and hatred. This mentality works best for people that know how to balance things out and not take things too far.
6. Don’t rush into it
All too often, people want to achieve results as fast as possible and because of this, they overdo it. They do too many repetitions or sets, workout too frequently, or try to do exercises or lift weights that they’re body can’t take yet. Some turn their workouts into painful marathons. Trying to progress too quickly increases the chances of getting injured and one can’t work out consistently if they’re always injured. It can also lead to overtraining which affects one’s recovery which affects the results you see. You might notice yourself performing worse and worse every session and this is probably because you’re wearing your body down more than building it up. This results in you seeing workouts as painful and ineffective which increases the likelihood of you quitting.
7. Try to be “comfortable being uncomfortable”
While there are people that push themselves too much in their workouts, there are also lots of people that don’t give nearly enough effort as they should. You have to acknowledge the fact that to actually see results, you’re going to have to do things that you might not want to do or aren’t comfortable doing. The brain and body are both set in a default mode that tries to conserve energy as much as possible.This worked for the early humans that lived in the wild, had to hunt for their food, and had to look out for predators, not for the average millennial that spends all day sitting and watching videos. Keep in mind that to get what you want you’re going to have to go against this “programming” to get results. Our minds and bodies are very resilient and adaptable, but for them to adapt, we must first give them a stimulus that pushes them to adapt. This stimulus is often very uncomfortable. We must get used to pushing ourselves as the physical stress will force our minds and bodies to adapt. There’s no going around that.
There will always be times where we feel lazy, but remember that being lazy doesn’t get you results. Sometimes it’s going to rain and you’ll say to yourself “oh it’s bed weather I feel lazy.” Sometimes you’ll get into the video games in your PC too much or get too focused on the series you’re watching and you can’t take yourself off the computer. Don’t be that person. Be the person who can be productive rain or shine. Make a mental note that sometimes the best time to work out is when you don’t feel like it. If you can keep this mentality, then working out consistently should be no problem.
8. Stop trying to be like other people
Oftentimes we discourage ourselves by comparing ourselves to others. We look at a person and think “this guy/girl has worked out for the same amount of time as me and has the same workout but he/she looks way better. Maybe this fitness thing just isn’t for me.” Maybe that person is just a genetic freak. Or maybe you just haven’t found the right type of workout program for you yet. Fitness is very individual and keep in mind that our bodies respond to different stimuli in different ways. Remember that you’re not trying to compete with other people, you’re just trying to be the best version of yourself.
You might also use other people as an excuse to slack off. You’ll think “Oh my friends weren’t able to keep going to the gym so it’s okay for me to stop too.” or “If they can’t do it. What makes me think I can?” If you want to see really good results then don’t try to be like the majority because frankly, the majority often fails. Believe that you can work to be a part of the small percentage of people that manage to achieve their goals.
9. Don’t cut off too much food too quickly to lose weight
People think that to lose weight they need to cut off drastic amounts of their daily food intake immediately. They want to see results as quickly as possible and this often ends up being their downfall. What happens is that they can’t stick to their diet since they’re always starving, moody, and feeling weak because they reduced their caloric intake too much and their bodies can’t handle it. They feel horrible because they used a horrible method that very few people can stick to. After that, they binge eat to make up for the starvation and end up gaining the weight that they lost.
When it comes to losing weight, small but consistent changes are better than drastic but unmaintainable ones. It doesn’t have to be skipping dinner or cutting out your carbs. It can be one less bag of chips a day or a half cup of rice less a day. Over time you will get used to eating less without starving or feeling drained.
10. Don’t deprive yourself of food you like. Just lower the frequency, eat what you need, or slowly assimilate to alternatives.
People go on diets to lose weight all the time. The problem is most of them can’t maintain them. They go try different things like keto diets, paleo diets, and no-carb diets, but these often involve depriving themselves of something they like. People have this black and white, good or bad mentality where they’ll either deprive themselves or just stick to what they’re doing when in reality they can actually make a compromise that’s easily maintainable. Ask yourself, are you really willing to refuse all the alcohol on night outs or all the unli chicken wing invites? Are you willing to give up that bucket of popcorn when you’re watching a movie you’ve waited eagerly for months for? Is it really worth depriving yourself of all that just to lose weight? It’s a dead no for most people.
Instead of depriving yourself of food you like forever, you can just eat them less often. If you drink every week, you can try doing so every other week. If you eat a chocolate bar after dinner every day then try making it every other day until eventually you’ll get used to eating it a lot less often. It’s the accumulation of small changes like that that lead to big results.
You can also educate yourself about food and just eat what you need. For example, a lot of people eat more carbs than they need to. Carbs are used by our bodies for energy but turn into fat if unused. Examples of carbs are rice, bread, pasta, cake, biscuits, and oats. So if you’re having a rice meal for lunch but you really want to eat that chocolate cake for dessert, then you can eat less rice as a compromise. If you’re at a party and have the choice between pasta and rice, choose only one. You can also choose smaller amounts of both. It’s choices like these that lead you to eating less amounts of food overall which can make a big impact in the long term.
If you’re the type of person that isn’t really picky with what you eat but just doesn’t want to feel hungry all the time, then you can try eating more protein(meat,fish,eggs), fruits, and vegetables. Protein is very satiating and takes longer to digest which makes you feel fuller for longer. A lot of fruits and vegetables contain fiber which can also make you less hungry. The thing about carbohydrates is that the body can digest them very quickly and once that’s done you’ll feel hungry again, which is why it’s so easy to eat vast amounts of rice and junk food. You can eat the same amount of food but feel better or more satiated by choosing wisely.
These are just a few of the many strategies that can help you achieve your fitness goals. Remember that none of these methods are perfect. All of them have their pros and cons. Also keep in mind that you’re not only limited to one of these mental strategies, you can use multiple mentalities depending on what you’re mood or current situation in life is. These strategies can even work to compliment one another. For example, making your workouts fun for yourself might have given you the ability to be consistent for a few months, but after a while you might find yourself plateauing because you keep sticking to the stuff you enjoy and aren’t really pushing yourself anymore. That’s the time where you should learn how to be comfortable being uncomfortable and push your limits. When your body gets tired of that you can go back to the fun workouts again and notice that your performance actually improved and vice versa. It’s a cycle of using these different mindsets that will work for most people. Our bodies respond to different workouts differently and our minds will suit different mindsets differently. At the end of the day it’s up to you to experiment on different things and reflect on what works for you.
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Herbert, I. (2008, January 1). Exercising Judgement: The Psychology of Fitness. Association for Psychological Science. https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/exercising-judgement-the-psychology-of-fitness