Five Concepts I had to Internalize Before I Could Make Exercise a Hobby

One of the largest hurdles to starting a regular fitness routine is the mental hurdle. You’re going from (perhaps) nothing, to creating a new habit that will be initially exhausting and take awhile before it shows any results. Additionally, there will be some pain involved, some awkwardness, and it will take you a ways out of your comfort zone – all ingredients for starting strong and fading quickly.

I don’t even know how many times I’ve started, stopped, restarted, stopped again….started….stopped.

I can’t even honestly say that I’ll be able to maintain my current routine or that I’ll have the motivation to wake up tomorrow and keep going with it. I don’t believe anyone can do one thing for 10+ years because you have to admit that you’re always changing, your priorities change and your goals change.

But all that being said, here are five concepts that I had to really learn and understand before I could get into the solid routine I’m in now. Again – I’m no expert and I can’t say that these things will prevent me from ever stopping and starting over, but keeping them in mind is what is currently keeping me going.

  1. You will never be perfect.

Like a lot of us I had events in my childhood that caused me to have some less than ideal characteristics as an adult. During my younger years I picked up the idea that in order for anyone to like you, you had to do things flawlessly. And the only goal was for people to like you. So I spent a lot of time and effort perfecting things in order to make people like me. This is an incredibly depressing mindset for many reasons and it has been something I’ve had to work very hard in order to let go of.

This led to me avoiding certain activities because I knew I was not good at them and would not be able to do them perfectly. I never participated in a lot of things because I didn’t want people to know that I wasn’t good at them. Then, as I got older, I only did easy things because I didn’t want to put in the effort to figure out how to do a difficult thing perfectly the first time.

It was a TON of pressure that I was putting on myself for no reason. It was selfish and limiting. It translated into my workouts by my not wanting to do difficult movements for fear that I would fail at them. I would get anxiety before a particular workout because I knew it contained a movement that I was going to fail at. And in order to avoid that unpleasant feeling I’d just invent an excuse to skip the workout.

Now I know that there is absolutely zero reason to try to be perfect. It took me putting myself into impossible situations and deliberately doing things I was bad at and knew I would fail at. I had to force myself to get comfortable with the idea that I was going to mess up, look dumb, never figure it out, be stupid, etc.

Getting past the idea of perfection has opened up a lot of doors for me. I am now happy to go into something as an amateur and content with the knowledge that I’ll probably be very bad at it for quite awhile. I’ve also been able to get past the anxiety associated with working out using movements that I’m going to be weak at.

In fact, understanding that I am not able to be perfect or even good at everything has helped me in every facet of my life – marriage, work, housekeeping, etc. I put way less pressure on myself to accomplish things and I’ve stopped worrying about whether or not people like me.

2. Motivation Will Only Get You So Far

The jury is still out on my next statement but my working theory is that emotions are intended to teach us something. Embarrassment, for example, helps us to better fit in socially with our peers. Shame teaches us that something was wrong and needs to be fixed. Pride and accomplishment teach us that it feels good to do something thoroughly. I also feel as if our current society wants to avoid emotions and thinks that feeling bad is bad and is undesirable. That’s obviously a topic for a different time so my point here is that you can’t rely on one emotion to carry you through the tough times.

Once in awhile on a nice day when the temperature is perfect, the sun is out and I feel good, I’ll be motivated to go on a run. The urge just hits me and I want to go outside and run my heart out. That feeling goes away any time it is the slightest bit cold or I’ve had a rough day at work. Because of this, I am not a very good runner.

If I would just set up a consistent schedule and run regardless of how I feel, I’d be a much better runner, even though my heart really isn’t into running as a form of cardio and the honest truth is that I just like being outside.

If you only rely on being motivated in order to work out, you are not going to work out for very long. January is coming up and EVERYONE feels motivated to change their life and lose whatever weight they’re carrying around – mentally and physically. But we’ve all seen how that goes. By March everyone has given up and nothing has changed.

Motivation gets you started. Dedication and discipline will keep you going. There will be days when you absolutely do not feel like getting up and going to the gym. There will be days when you would really rather do anything but lift up a weight of any sort. There will be days when you are sad, demoralized, stressed, etc. THOSE are the days when you NEED to make exercise happen. Those are the days when you’ll develop character and build habits. I know that everyone says “self care” and “love yourself” and yes, you absolutely do need to do that. But self care and self love isn’t feeding yourself three candy bars and eating Chinese takeout. Self care is understanding that you need to take care of yourself by exercising and releasing those good feeling hormones and natural stress relievers. Plus, exercising is going to pay off in the future, unlike the fatty foods that make us feel better in the present.

So just keep in mind – you won’t always feel like working out. But you need to get past that feeling and do it anyways.

3. You Won’t See Results Tomorrow…or Maybe Even Next Month

If you’re like me, the rest period between sets is specifically for finding a mirror and checking yourself out. lol Maybe I’m vain.

In all seriousness though – how many of us have worked out for three days and then been disappointed when you didn’t see bigger arms, quads or even a flatter stomach? *raises hand* It is especially frustrating when you work out for three weeks and you still barely see any changes. Not only that but maybe your trainer is being super picky about your form and won’t even let you go up in weight so not only are you not seeing any physical changes but you also feel demoralized because you’re still only squatting the bar.

The point here is that you have to give all of this time. There are some immediate benefits that you can’t see but sometimes you can’t feel them either. You have to be patient with yourself and stick to the program. If you are systematic and give yourself time, you will absolutely start to see the changes to your body. You will get stronger and you will look better. But don’t expect that to happen quickly. And in order to get some of the more amazing results you’re going to have to work out for YEARS, not just months. I know. It hurts to read. I’m right there with you. But if you can internalize this concept then you won’t be as frustrated when you check yourself out in the mirror two weeks from now and still can’t see any muscle development. I promise you it is coming. You just have to be patient.

4. It’s Really Going to Suck Sometimes

I’ve actually been writing this post over the last two days because I wanted to put some good thought into it. Yesterday was particularly upsetting because my sleep schedule is currently really wacky due to working overnight shifts and trying to stay up during the day. I don’t know what was going on but I had a rest day on Tuesday and then just felt….suboptimal on Wednesday. I can’t say that I was for sure sick but I definitely wasn’t healthy.

I spent all day trying to convince myself that I would get up and do my workout because it’s a home workout and all I had to do was go to the garage but as it became later and later in the day it got colder and colder and the idea of being in the garage where it was cold just made my tired body even more tired.

Then I started to feel guilty. How can I say I work out if I just skip a day? It wasn’t a planned rest day! I’m a horrible person! Why am I even trying! Then I would just sleep for five hours and wake up miserable and guilty because I had literally wasted a whole day only to go back to bed a few hours later and sleep some more.

I’m still not certain that I wasn’t sick or that there wasn’t something else going on. I mean I “napped” for nine hours and I STILL feel guilty even though I woke up early (5:45!) today, a day off.

Some of this goes back to point number one where I know I’m not going to be perfect. The only place all of this guilt is coming from is from inside ME. I skipped a workout yesterday and then allowed my eating to go haywire later on in the day. My internal voice is really beating me up right now and I’m pretty sure that the only way to get it to go away is to do a workout and be pretty dang on point for the rest of the day.

But here’s the thing – this is ridiculous. I am a thirty-four year old woman who is by no means a fitness professional. If I were getting paid to work out and eat according to a set of ideal macros, this would be a different story. But in reality I have two dogs, a husband and a house to take care of, not to mention I need to take care of myself. Maybe my body needed all that sleep? Maybe I’m more tired than I thought I was?

It’s going to suck sometimes. You’re going to beat yourself up for silly little things that won’t matter even next week, not to mention four years from now. I didn’t lose the week – I have plenty more time to do the workout I skipped yesterday as well as the remaining workouts for the week. But right now my heart is telling me I’m a disaster.

Not every workout is going to go according to plan. Not every meal is going to be tasty and fulfilling. You won’t nail every day perfectly. You’re going to do something stupid and it’s going to throw off your mojo. In short – it is going to suuuuuuck sometimes.

The real challenge is to pick yourself back up, dust it all off, and tell yourself that you aren’t the failure you think you are, that you haven’t destroyed all your progress, that you can and will keep going.

AND THEN KEEP GOING!

5. No One Cares so Stop Worrying About It

And finally, the last thing that I had to internalize before I could just move forward with all cylinders firing. This one affected me on a more personal level. Remember point number one about how you can’t be perfect? This one fits hand in hand there.

Say it with me: “I am not the main character.” Say it again: “I am not the main character.” Say that to yourself five times.

I’m not trying to make you be mean to yourself. This is actually a huge blessing and, if you can get it, will make things a lot easier for you.

Remember how when you were in middle school or high school and you did something absolutely mortifying and you thought that literally EVERYONE was laughing at you? And maybe some people WERE laughing at you. But if you look back on it now, did it really matter all that much?

Sometimes things DO matter A LOT. I’m not trying to say that having nudes spread around or getting into a fatal car wreck is irrelevant. Sometimes things do happen that get a lot of enduring attention.

No, I’m talking about things like you have an orange stain on the back of your white pants or you didn’t blend your foundation into your neck very well or geez, those fake eyelashes look…..really fake.

Something that can be fixed within an hour or so, give or take. But to you they felt monumental because surely everyone saw and surely now everyone is talking about it and you will NEVER not be that person that pooped their pants when in reality all you did was sit on something during lunch.

Let me tell you something – everyone IN THE WORLD has had an orange stain on their white pants moment. I challenge you, right now, to list out five minor embarrassing incidents SOMEONE ELSE in your high school had. GO.

It’s harder than you think to remember them, isn’t it! Obviously there are some big news events that you’ll remember but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about that stupid stuff that took up your brain space for three hours and then literally didn’t matter any more.

If it is hard for you to remember them about your classmates, you can bet that it is difficult for your classmates to remember them too. And the reason that you can’t remember those embarrassing things is because…..they don’t matter to you. Why don’t they matter to you? Because they didn’t happen to you.

You definitely remember your moments. But NO ONE ELSE remembers your moments. Because no one cares.

No one cares.

Like really. No one cares.

No – they don’t care that you brought salmon and broccoli for lunch and had the audacity to microwave it. They’ll make fun of you on the day of but as long as you never do it again they won’t care about it in the future.

They also don’t care that one day you tried to mix patterns and ended up looking like your grandma’s couch. Small florals and big plaids just don’t work. But again, as long as that isn’t your daily wardrobe it will likely only be brought up one more time and then forgotten.

Everyone around you has things that are going on in their life including their own small embarrassing moments. I also guarantee you that everyone around you has big tragedies unfolding for them that are taking up large swaths of their brains and they really don’t have the capacity to care about the fact that your hair is a little frizzy today. The fact that you think people care and are remembering all of these little details about you is really rather egotistical and is something you should probably sit down and consider.

So I skipped a workout yesterday – NO ONE CARES! Believe me, I have to tell myself this all the time. I could tell all of my coworkers about y extremely lazy day yesterday and some of them might commiserate because they’re good people but if I bring it up again they will have forgotten what we had talked about earlier on in the shift.

Once I finally understood this concept, a lot of my stress went away. I stopped worrying about whether or not I looked perfect. I stopped worrying about whether or not my kitchen was completely decluttered. I stopped worrying about whether or not my clothing was perfectly ironed. Once I stopped doing these things I got to start focusing on what actually mattered to me and that is being healthy now so that I can be healthy later.

So, Just to Recap:

  1. You can’t be perfect. Please stop stressing yourself out about making everything perfect. I didn’t go into social media on this one but if you have the ability to, just get rid of Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook for two weeks. They’re only showing you what people want you to see and if it is making you feel bad about yourself, why do you want that energy in your life?
  2. Motivation will only get your so far. It is going to take more than just a fleeting feeling for you to make exercise a routine. If you are only relying on motivation to do anything then the instant motivation goes away you’re done.
  3. Results Take Time! I know everyone hates this quote but you have to just trust the process. Don’t expect magical life changing results in two, four or even six weeks. You have to be in this for the long haul.
  4. It’s Going to Suck Sometimes. Like…it will. You might ride that high for three weeks but be prepared for the day to come when you have a less than great workout, you are angry for no reason, you can’t convince yourself to get up or you just….aren’t feeling it. Ride it out, pick yourself up and move on.
  5. NO ONE CARES! They don’t. Why would they? They have their own issues and embarrassing moments to deal with. Yours don’t matter to them just like theirs don’t matter to you. No one is paying attention to anything you do. So do what you want and stop being so full of yourself.

Is there something you had to really internalize before you could make exercise a constant in your life? What’s a struggle you had before you could settle into a routine? Everyone has their “thing” and I’m curious what you went through! Leave a comment below!

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