Fitness success starts in your head

You’ve made the decision: You are going to get trim, shape up, tighten up, build stamina, increase strength, or improve performance. You are ready to chart your course — either assisted by a trainer or on your own.

Sounds easy, right? Sure, as long as you understand that you aren’t maneuvering a speed boat, you’re at the helm of a freighter. When it comes to your body’s metabolism, it takes a while to speed up or change course.

If you go into your fitness journey thinking that you will make quick changes, you’re setting yourself up for failure. You need the right mindset along with a plan that creates systematic and sustainable changes and incorporates them into your lifestyle.

Managing your expectations is the key. Your greatest tool in this fight is your ability to determine the outcome by making sure you are focused on the right goals. Many people think in terms of timeframe. I will be “x” in two weeks, or I will be “y” in six weeks. That doesn’t work. You need to think instead in small markers. Did you commit to a workout program to increase energy?  Maybe you’re feeling a bit more energetic. Were you avoiding the stairs? Take that flight and see if it’s getting a little easier. Did you need to slim down? Maybe your pants are looser.
If you watch for those small changes and see improvement, you will be encouraged.

The answer is to figure out what your individual motivation is and capitalize on that. For example, going through a day pain-free might be all you need to reinforce your commitment. Going down a size may be exactly what someone else needs to keep making the effort.

If you aren’t seeing those incremental improvements or if you’re getting discouraged, it’s probably time to reassess. If you’re working alone, you might need to consult a professional. If you’re working with a trainer, you should sit down and talk about why you aren’t seeing any gains.

We find that people often think they aren’t improving, but it is just that they aren’t seeing how far they have progressed. For example, when one of our clients started working out, she couldn’t hold one repetition of a body position for more than three seconds. After a number of sessions, she was making great progress, but didn’t realize it and became discouraged with what she was still unable to do.

I simply reminded her of her performance on the first day and how it compared with her performance now. She was doing more activities with greater control and shorter rests in between. She had stretched that single three-second hold into seven repetitions over the course of a workout, holding them from 10 to 15 seconds each. That doesn’t sound like much, but if you do the math, it’s huge: She had achieved a minimum 2,300 percent increase in capability. (I wish my stocks did that.) She never would have known that if the discussion hadn’t taken place, and once she realized it, her discouragement evaporated.

So hold your course, measure your progress, and don’t forget about the freighter — it takes time to get up a full head of steam, but once you start moving, there will be no stopping you.