You can follow all the best fitness programs yet still find yourself in a rut if you’re adhering to any of these mindset traps guaranteed to halt your progress.
There are two extremes for either pitfall. The not-so-secret secret is to put in the effort to create a balance in your training.
Expecting Perfection OR Accepting Excuses
Let’s start with this mental predicament. When you start a new program/plan, of course you need to commit to it. If Tuesdays are your day for heavy deadlifts at the gym, you simply have to account for that in your schedule. Expect to be in the gym after work on Tuesdays. Every Tuesday. As long as your program has you lifting heavy on Tuesday. If friends invite you out for dinner on Tuesday, you try to convince them that later is better. BUT, if your daughter has a piano recital, you accept this as a necessary, very temporary derailment. Bottom Line: Success is when you say you’ll “get back on track tomorrow” and then you actually do!
Apply this same concept to each lift and each rep, as well. Aim for perfection, but don’t expect it each time. Accept that you’ll miss reps or have an off-day, but don’t be okay with that being the norm. Figure out if your “man, this is tough because I didn’t sleep last night” is a temporary and accurate statement of your current condition OR if that’s just an excuse because you don’t feel like working hard today. Or because you ate a large pizza last night.
Neither wallowing in your failures nor being blind to them will drive you toward fitness progress.
The “I’ll Start Tomorrow” Mentality OR The “I’ma Do Everything Right Now” Mentality
At some point, you’ve got to just start. Even if your start sucks or feels half-***ed or has to be squished into the 5-minutes while you’re letting your noodles boil. If you want to start towards a goal, I suggest taking one step in that direction NOW. Talk yourself into “just trying it for 30 seconds” or “just practicing for 10 minutes” or any other mental game you can manage. The first effort is the toughest–but once the initial hurdle has been overcome, you’ll actually be able to get a good training session in next time.
Conversely, some of us fall into the trap of doing alllll of the squats and alllll of the deadlifts and allll of the presses NOW. Regardless of how we carry out this overzealousness, we end up depleted–perhaps physically, perhaps mentally, perhaps some other form of exhaustion.
Be reasonable. DO SOMETHING [anything] today. LEAVE something for tomorrow.
If you feel like you “can’t even” today, you can. Scroll to the 5-Minute Sweaty at the bottom and just.do.something.
Well that leads nicely to my next point….
Never Going 100% OR Always Going 100%
Sometimes you have to go all-out. Sometimes you have to go super-fast or super-heavy or super-long. It’s super-uncomfortable. In fact, I would argue that, during any given training session, you should be going at full-exertion in some capacity for a portion of it. BUT, if you can’t accept ever giving a workout less than your best effort, you’re going to end up missing out on a lot of gains. The inability to “just do something” is a way to ensure burnout–and to ruin your consistency.
In case I need to clarify: You’re making a huge training mistake if you don’t wave where you’re focusing your effort. I mean, you know not to always lift heavy, right? Even changing up the pace of your reps (slow eccentric, anyone?) can add an effective variety.
Thinking You Know It All OR Thinking You Don’t Know Enough
In any domain, thinking you know it all is a detriment to progress and success. Especially when it comes to fitness, a science-based field, new research drives new understanding–and you’re simply missing out if you’re not willing to hear it. However, thinking you don’t know enough is the recipe for paralysis. If you’re reading this blog, you know enough to get in a good workout. Stop doubting yourself and start working!
Very relatedly, now…
Seeking Confirmation Bias OR Refusing to Buy-In
Stop only reading things that confirm what you already know or think you know about fitness. Start reading things that make you feel uncomfortable. Question your beliefs and methods. At the same time, don’t question things so much that you can’t commit to a plan. For instance, if you decide to try out a Paleo diet, don’t simultaneously get side-tracked by your friend’s success with veganism. You might end up only eating almonds or something. Immerse yourself in the route you’ve chosen for the time you’ve committed to it.
Only Doing “The Most Efficient Workout” OR Only Doing What You Like
Last but not least, you need to have fun and enjoy your training. There is a time to put your nose to the grindstone, sure, but if you only ever do what someone has prescribed for you to do…well, that’s just sad. And you’ll probably develop a mindset of “have to” rather than “get to.” Each day of training should offer some enjoyment and appreciation of what your body is capable of doing. Find a balance of what works to get you whatever results you’re looking for, while also providing a feeling of excitement and creativity. Nothing motivates like pleasure!
If you’ve fallen prey to any of these extremes, step #1 is to admit it. Step #2 is to repent! Turn away from your unproductive ways and embrace the light on the other side…or rather…in the middle!
And if you’re having trouble achieving some sort of workout today–because you’re short on time, short on equipment, or just generally unenthused–give this 5-Minute Sweaty a shot! It’s five minutes. It’s bodyweight only. It’s something (which is always better than nothing).
Get through this sequence as fast as you can for as many rounds as possible in 5 minutes, with reps starting at 10 and decreasing by 1 each round.
Squats > Sprawls > Push-ups > Plank Mountain Climbers (1o-1 each leg) > Star Jumps
Here, like this! I’m demonstrating the last 3 rounds, so I do 3 reps of each, then 2 reps of each, and finish with 1 rep of each.
P.S. I’ve got a new e-book, y’all! Grab your FREE COPY HERE!