Don’t Beat Yourself, Don’t Beat Yourself Up

10 Jan

Once your passed that out-of-shape phase (see my previous 4 posts about that) the biggest enemy to your fitness is. . . Your own mind. It’s amazing what our bodies can handle! Moms who pull their child out from under a school bus? Athletes with no legs running track? (just think about the determination here, not the murder). People that survive famine? We can do so much more than we give ourselves credit for, it’s usually our own minds that stop us.

Find a balance. Don’t talk to yourself like an enemy would. Love yourself. But also, don’t be too soft on you that you lazy out.

You have to want it.

Nobody is going to do this for you. If you don’t lose weight (or whatever your fitness goal is) nobody loses out but you if you don’t achieve it. So stop blaming. Stop cheating. Want it. Own it. Work it. Emphasis on work.

You have to want it for the right reasons.

If you’re trying to lose weight to impress your boyfriend, show up classmates at a high school reunion, or be the hottie at the beach–well, it’s not a sustainable outlook/goal. What happens when you break up with that douche giving you poor self-image? Or after the reunion? Or during winter? You have to love you and want you to feel good and live longer. And the superficial benefits are great, but those aren’t gonna get you off the couch when you’re tired and sore. Ultimately, you have to be trying to get fit for you.

Have reasonable goals and expectations.

Don’t try to train for a marathon in a month. Don’t make a goal of losing 30 pounds in a year. Make, small, reasonable, attainable goals. Instead of trying to pole vault to your goal, take the stairs. Or a ramp. And check in on yourself. If something isn’t working figure out why. Then amend your routine to account for that. Example: We used to skip our strength workout at least once a week if not more. Despite really wanting to do it, and feeling better and stronger when it was accomplished. The reason? After work I’m fatigued/tired. I don’t want to do logistics after I’m off. So we started waking up earlier and getting the workout done first thing in the morning before I’ve become fatigued from working an entire day. And we haven’t skipped since. When you achieve the first goal, make a next goal. Progress through your goals.

Make a reasonable timeline.

Make the attainable goal, and put a timeline on it or it’s just a wish. But the timeline must make sense for YOU. If you go too big, you’re bound to get discouraged and quit. So really look at your past behavior and decide what you can and will actually do.

Be real and honest with yourself.

*This really is a key. For example, people who keep a food journal chronically UNDER-estimate how much food they eat. Or round down. Or don’t count a rice cake bc it’s just a small snack. That kind of thing. But here’s the bummer, even if you low-ball and round down your calories–your body will always count them exactly accurately. We don’t try to lie to ourselves, but that’s what’s happening.

And with exercise, we OVER-estimate how much, how intense, and the number of calories burned. Did you know 1 beer averages about 200 calories and many Starbucks grande average 400 calories, while running an 8 min mile burns approx (depending on body weight & other factors) 70 calories? It’s not fair, but keep it in mind.

So try your very best to be accurate, b/c your body always is. And that disconnect between underestimating what goes in and overestimating what is worked off, leads to disappointment. Be as realistic and rational as possible when evaluating your own fitness.

Don’t make excuses and justifications.

Along that same track, be accountable for your goals. When you write down your attainable goals with its end date, also write what the bare minimum to still keep this goal can be. Example: I have not broken the chain for running in SEVEN years. I have been sick some days, stressed, busy, moving to new apartments/states, on vacation (where bears were frequenting), hurt with broken ribs, and LAZY. So of course every day is not my A-game. And that’s OK, expect bad days. But make a backup (emphasis to be used in emergency situations only) for those off days. Write that down too. My bare minimum distance is at least 1 mile. And the least effort I can make that doesn’t break my goal is to run in place on the floor and I have to get the mile done mostly consecutively, like in at least 30 min. So, when I had a bad head cold with fever and couldn’t breathe and called out sick to work b/c I felt so bad? I stood on my floor and jogged in place for a half lap at a time (12.5m), stopped to rest and recuperate (I felt like shit!), then resumed in the same way until the mile was done. I think it took a little over 15 min to get it done, when my average mile is probably 9 min, and my goal mile is 7 min. But I got it done. And you can too. But plan for it. And stay exactly accountable to it.

And my pet peeve (especially for middle-aged and older people) is YARD WORK DOES NOT COUNT AS EXERCISE. You need to get your heart rate up for 20 consecutive minutes to get any benefit. So the yard work is great as an extra thing, but it is absolutely not the whole thing.

Don’t say all the things you can’t do, tell yourself all the things you can do to overcome limitations.

I am not saying ignore major health issues or tough out debilitating conditions here (consult your Dr., I am not a professional). I am suggesting that a lot of reasons for not doing something can be creatively neutralized or dealt with if you just change your thinking. There are a million excuses and reasons not to do exercise: You’re tired, your knees hurt, you have asthma, you don’t have good shoes, there is no time in your busy schedule, you have kids to take care of, you don’t have a place to do it, on and on and on and on…

OK, but why CAN you do it? How CAN you make this happen? Don’t waste your energy thinking about why you can’t, put that energy toward finding compromises and solutions. These legitimate reasons excuses are often just your mind dragging you down. Don’t let that be your headspace and go too negative. Get practical. Be a solutions generator: go to bed earlier/take vitamin B, lose some weight/modify/go slowly, get better or more medication/condition your cardiovascular/workout with an air purifier in the room, do a lower impact workout/go shoe shopping/borrow shoes, cut out some screen time/wake up earlier/get organized, involve your kids in your workout/trade off workout & childcare days with a friend, find a park/get a treadmill/go to a trail.

Don’t listen to your brain when it’s telling you that you can’t make it.

My brain is lazy. Especially when it comes to endurance exercises. It will shout, “slow down” “you’re tired” or
“you’re not going to make it” so loudly! But my body is often in good shape (remember reasonable goals) to do the thing we’ve (my body and mind) been working toward. I’m not saying to keep pushing if you’re actually going to injure yourself, but do push past mental blocks.

I suggest thinking of a mantra, like “I’ve got this” or memorizing a quote such as, “if you’re tired of starting over, stop quitting” or singing a song in your head. This distracts your brain from all the negative self-talk, and also conditions you to be a more optimistic person in the future.

As a lazy person myself, I hope these tips can help you achieve your fitness (and other) goals. At the very least–it doesn’t hurt to try something new, does it? Straddle the line between holding yourself accountable and being realistic. You are doing this to be a better you, not to impress other, not as punishment. Love yourself, push yourself. It’s Velveeta (I’m trying something here), but it’s also true.

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