With the start of the New Year, one of the most common resolutions or goals is to start exercising. I know before I started being a regular at the gym, I always desired to be fit and athletic but could never find something I would stick to long term. I’ve realized now it was never the program that was the problem, it was my mindset that was getting in my way and nudging me to quit on myself.
Before you start a new program or buy a gym membership, the most important step in beginning to exercise is identifying the story you are currently telling yourself about it.
What are the thoughts you have about going to the gym, why you can’t go, why people exercise, who exercises, or what other people will think about you when you do? I would suggest writing down the story you are telling yourself about working out so that you can take a critical look at the thoughts and if they are serving you and the life you want to create for yourself.
Before I started exercising, my thoughts about it were that I was too fat to go to the gym, that exercise was a punishment, and that I was unathletic and would embarrass myself- why even try when I know I am not good enough.
With a negative story like that, it was no wonder I never made exercise a priority.
At the beginning of my weight loss journey I used the gym as a way to get to eat more calories throughout the day. I still had the same negative story running but the calorie app told me I needed to workout, so I did. Of course, going to the gym despite my negative thoughts helped establish exercise as a habit, but I never looked forward to it and I would use any excuse to take a ‘rest day.’
Before I changed my thoughts around exercise, I also motivated myself to go to the gym by creating fun playlists and buying new workout clothes and some small equipment like resistance bands. I also would get inspired by looking at fitness models (wouldn’t recommend if you’re already feeling like shit) and watching workout videos.
Try some of these hacks to get yourself to workout while you are transitioning your thoughts around exercise. Showing up for exercise even when it is uncomfortable is crucial when you’re trying to form a new habit.
After a year of exercising regularly, it had become a part of my routine and my thoughts began to shift as my identity became more aligned with someone who belonged in a gym and enjoyed exercise.
Once you know your current thoughts around exercise, you can plug them into the thought model or you can neutralize the current story. This allows the new thought to still feel true, but gets you out of your current negative thought loop.
For example, my old thought, “I am too fat to go to the gym” could be neutralized to, “I have a body that I can move.” This takes the judgement and emotion out of the thought and focuses just on what is actually true. Changing these thoughts takes practice, but I was willing to correct a negative thought 1,000 times a day in order to get the results and the mental health I was after. Once the neutral thought feels true, the next step in this thought progression could be, “My body is worthy of exercise. I am athletic and belong at the gym.”
Always adjust a thought to one you can believe. This will allow you to keep up-leveling your identity around exercise without feeling fake or like you’re BS-ing yourself. Again, if the only thought you believe is negative or not serving you, shift to a neutral, but still true, thought.
The first step in aligning yourself with the identity of an exerciser is understanding why you want to work out. A great way to figure this out is to develop a vision of your future self. In short, imagine your ideal relationship with your body and exercise. Consider that future version of yourself as a north star. That best version of you will guide all of your goals. What are her thoughts, habits, priorities- consider anything that is important to you.
Now take a look where you are currently at. What is the next small change or next level up between where you are at now and your future self?
You won’t wake up tomorrow as the best version of you, but she will be a guiding post for all the changes you will make going forward. Never change anything you don’t see your future self maintaining for the rest of your life. Your future self will always keep you on a path of alignment towards maintainable and enjoyable weight loss. This is how you make changes for the long term and create a lifestyle you love.
After you have established where you are and where you want to go, you can start showing up as the next best version of yourself. If you currently workout once a month, but you see your future self at the gym 5 times a week- do not start going to the gym 5 times a week. That will trigger overwhelm, burn out and a potential identity crisis. Up-level from where you are at, not where you think you should be. If you are only exercising once a month, commit to once a week or whatever feels doable.
When you commit to yourself- you are doing it. No excuses and no more broken promises. That being said, only make commitments you know you can follow through on. You should be 80% positive (or better) you can show up for something before committing to it. This means when you are starting out, you will have to deal with the discomfort of meeting yourself where you are at. It will be uncomfortable to start with a 10 minute walk twice a week when your goal is to go to the gym for an hour 5 times a week, but the most important muscle you can strengthen is your ability to show up for the things you want most in the world.
Imagine what would be available to you if you never broke a promise with yourself ever again. Imagine the relationship you could have with yourself if you were the one thing in your life that you would be willing to bet on every single day. Showing up for the little things is what will give you the power to show up for the big goals and create the big results. It is the little wins that lay the foundation for your future self and allow you to truly re-imagine your life and what you are capable of.
The most important relationship you will ever have is the one you have with yourself.
Exercise is just one area of your life you can practice showing up for yourself. Apply this philosophy to all areas of your life and you will be unstoppable. All of you dreams and goals were given to you for a reason- they are all available to you if you put the work in. And your life is worth that work.
Always exercise from a place of self love- not hate. Move because you are worthy of health and following through on what you say you will do. It is a gift we give ourselves not a punishment, and no matter what you currently believe about yourself- you absolutely can become an exerciser.
no. matter. what.
No matter how small you start, start something that matters.Brendon Burchard