It’s easy to let negative thinking and self-doubt slip into a workout routine. Thoughts like “I can’t finish this set,” “I’ll always be a beginner,” and “Why bother? I still haven’t lose those last five pounds,” only makes us feel worse. Our trainers share their four favorite strategies for reversing that negative thinking.
Acknowledge how far you’ve come.
“Stop and think about the progress you’ve already made,” advises Aaptiv trainer Candice Cunningham. “We all start somewhere, and we all have to progress in different ways and at different times. For example, if someone tells me they can’t do that much weight on a squat, I remind them of when they couldn’t even do a bodyweight squat without proper form. That’s major progress,” she adds.
Cunningham also says to nix the comparison game. “If you’re comparing yourself to someone else, and how they can do something, remember [that] each of our bodies are made differently to excel at different things. That person over there sprinting as you’re struggling to jog? They didn’t start out at that pace. They had to work to get there.”
Visualize your “why.”
The next time you hit a wall during a challenging workout, think about your “why.” This is the reason why you devote time and energy to exercising in the first place. Maybe it’s to lose weight or build strength, maybe you need the endorphins to get through a stressful workday, or maybe you’re angling for six-pack abs. Whatever your reason, Aaptiv trainer Jennifer Giamo suggests using it as motivation to keep going when the going gets tough.
“You’re stronger than you think you are,” says Giamo. “If it were easy, everyone would be in great shape!” She adds, “When a workout gets tough, push through it, because that’s when the real change happens.”
Flip the switch on self-talk.
“As a trainer, I have a rule in my classes about positive self-talk,” says Aaptiv trainer Jaime McFaden. “It is so easy to put ourselves down, but what we say is usually what we do. If you say you can’t—’this is too hard,’ ‘I’m not good enough’—then you are setting yourself up for failure.” She advises to, “Focus on the things you are doing, and how you are getting better and stronger.”
McFaden also credits positive self-talk as a beneficial habit, one that helps her meet her fitness goals and stay committed. She says, “I know too well from experience that our behaviors are all patterns that we build habits on. If I constantly talk negative, fitness or not, it will transpire in all aspects of my life. When I am struggling to stay positive or find motivation to go the gym, I’ll call a friend to work out, play my favorite upbeat music, or go for a walk and breathe.”
Think of someone who can’t do what you’re doing.
“Exercise is meant to be challenging,” says Aaptiv trainer Kelly Chase; “That’s when I encourage people to ‘think of someone who can’t’ while doing it, in order to push themselves through. We are more capable than we think.”
Giamo does the same thing, “I think about people who may not have the physical abilit to accomplish fitness goals and wish their bodies could do certain things. I’m grateful to be healthy and active.”