In today’s PT Intel personal trainer Kathleen Trotter talks about how the way we use self-talk influences whether or not we follow through with our fitness goals. Besides being a personal trainer, Kathleen lives her advice, having completed 10 (count ’em!) marathons, an Ironman (well, Ironwoman to be more accurate) and 7 half Ironmans. You can also find her on Twitter.
Everyone has health habits that they find hard to stick to. People who successfully make long-term lifestyle changes aren’t usually successful the first time. They don’t succeed by being perfect, they succeed because they persevere. Health is a process — a non-linear one at that — that takes daily dedication.
Too often I get told things like, “this isn’t the best week to start exercising. Life is too busy. I will start next week.” Or, “I didn’t have time to get to my (insert class of choice), so I missed my workout completely.” Or, “since I blew my diet with a glass of wine with dinner, I had cake as well.” Or, I can’t do (insert exercise) because of my (insert an injury), so I skipped my workout altogether.”
Have goals, sure, but be flexible. Modify your plans as life dictates, but maintain one constant — being active has to be “non-negotiable.” The question for you must not be “if” you will be active, but “when and how you will be active.”
If you can’t make your spin class, or do your entire gym routine, don’t abandon ship altogether. Go for a walk, do a modified gym routine, or do a few body weight exercises at home. No one is perfect, no diet can be perfect, not every workout has to be perfect.
I understand the desire to say “screw it” when life takes a turn, but there will never be that “perfect” week to get started, you won’t always be able to make your fitness class, and no one can maintain a perfect diet long-term. Stop dealing in absolutes. Don’t aim to be perfect — aim to be patient, flexible and persistent.
Instead of saying, “I will start next exercising next week,” say, “I will do whatever I can to be active this week. Even if all I do is walk home from the subway every day, that is better than nothing. I will re-asses my goals, and increase my activity accordingly next week.”
Instead of saying: “I didn’t have time to get to my yoga class, so I missed my workout completely.”
Say, “I will do a 20 minute yoga YouTube video at home to make up for missing yoga.”
Instead of saying, “I had five glasses of wine with dinner and therefore blew my diet, so I had cake as well.”
Say, “Five glasses of wine was enough. Maybe I’ll go for as walk.”
Instead of, “I skipped my workout because I can’t do boot camp because of my shoulder injury.”
Say, “my shoulder is irritating me. I will make an appointment with my physiotherapist, go for a brisk walk and do strength exercises that don’t involve my shoulder.”
Stop thinking every workout has go perfectly to plan to be worthwhile. Something is always better than nothing!
Be patient. Your negative health habits were not formed in a day. Positive health habits will not materialize overnight! Make realistic, sustainable goals!
Part of being successful is taking setbacks in stride. If you fall off the fitness wagon, which will probably happen once or twice, assess why, and then get right back on track. If you make a goal that you don’t stick to, don’t worry. Assess why you did not succeed, then create new goals based on your new-found knowledge. Play around, figure out what type of goal setting, motivational strategies, support networks and scheduling strategies work for you. Just take the time to become aware of your current and past habits. Become mindful of how you spend your time and energy. Ditch the goal of perfection. Instead, aim to be persistent, flexible and patient!