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5 Major Roadblocks to Starting a New Fitness Journey

Posted by Dr. Gloria Petruzzelli, Sport Psychologist on Aug 5, 2017 8:01:00 AM
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CONGRATS on making the commitment to starting a new running or fitness journey! Wait?! Let me double check, you have committed to this thing right?!

Well then, let’s back up a minute. First things first, when we start anything new and unknown, our brains go haywire and start to think of all the crazy “what if’s.” Take the Amerithon Challenge for example—it may seem like an impossible goal. All those sneaky voices flood in and tell us why we can’t do it or what could go wrong. Well, hate to break it to you - your brain is actually doing its job!

Any unknown journey will trigger our brain to think of all the what if’s in an attempt to protect us from the possibility of harm. Little does it know that you are a badass fitness beast in the making, so no need for it to freak out (at least not that much).  In order to show that part of your brain who’s boss, you’ve got to tell it who’s BOSS! This may sound weird, but that part of our brain needs emotional reassurance in order to quiet down.

So, to start your journey off right, you need to make a confident and reassuring decision to go all-in for yourself and see this thing through. This will tell your brain “Hey brain, I know you're worried but we’ll make it to the end of the road and you can trust me. I am committing to doing this thing no matter what arises on the journey.”

This brings us to our first roadblock…

1. Being half-assed (or half-hearted?) about your commitment to finish what you started.

Making the decision to finish what you started is a powerful intention. It really is a commitment you are making to yourself. “There is a difference between trying and making that decision.” (Tyler McGill, 2012 Olympian, USA Swim Team).

“Making the decision” means we are making an intentional and conscious decision to dedicate our energies, thoughts, actions, feelings, and behaviors that need to be directed towards this thing.

It is the first, and most important, seed that is planted on your fitness journey. Take the extra step and write or type out your goal on a piece of paper that you will see every day to serve as a daily reminder.

For example, write, “Today I fully commit to this fitness journey and I will see this through. I am so thankful for the opportunity to work towards my health and well-being today!”

2. Vagueness of goals and lack of direction i.e. not having a specific enough plan or road map of to execute the goal.

To say “Oh I just want to run x miles this month or lose x lbs” doesn’t cut it. Why? Because our brains don’t work that way.

When starting a new fitness journey, we need to think of our brains like hard drives on a computer. We need to program it with a “code” that indicates EXACTLY who, what, where, when, what time, what day, and how ever many minutes/miles/ etc. This specific, trackable and measurable plan is KEY to success in any area of life.

Sure it may sound a little OCD, but trust me, it’s a habit that will have you smelling the sweet aroma of success in no time.

3. Giving up when unexpected challenges or obstacles arise.

Okay so let’s get this straight and out of the way: unexpected challenges or obstacles arise WILL arise. You can bet on that. Talk to any fitness buff or athlete and they will tell you it’s part of the journey.

However, what they will also share with you that it’s not the end of the world when they do. This is where we go back to making the decision/commitment to you goal. For example, say you get a minor injury or niggle, you can modify your training schedule to cross train and/or ask your coach for modifications until you're back in 100% shape. Same thing with job changes and/or family obligations. Everything is figure-out-able if you believe it to be so and are persistent at finding a solution.

Remember that commitment to going all-in for yourself? This is a test of that commitment. This. Is. Your. Moment. So give your best effort for yourself. Be determined in obstacles. Be gritty. Show yourself who’s BOSS.

4. Focusing only on the outcome and end-point.

There is nothing worse when you are on a road trip and someone says “are we there yet?” a million times, or when you hear a fellow training buddy say, “Ugh I just want this to be over!” Focusing on the end point or final outcome can have its advantages and keep us motivated however, when we only focus on the destination we lose sight of the present moment where life is happening.

Process goals can help you develop a focus on executing current tasks/goals in the moment such as drills, strides, or foot strike, instead of only focusing on outcomes such as a certain number of miles or an exact finishing time.

Focusing on the process goals can also make us feel more in control, and who doesn’t like that?!  

5. Not knowing your "why's"

This one really circles back to the first roadblock. I believe that in order for us to endure the challenges, setbacks, invest time, energy, money, resources and physical, mental and emotional stress, it has to mean something to us. In that, we believe it will make us a better person, a better human being in the process of attaining it.

Only you know why you want to start and finish this journey. The truth is, no one else needs to know except you. The things in life that get us fully invested are typically rooted deeply in our values.

The best way to overcome any of the above roadblocks is to remind yourself DAILY why you started.

  • Did you start to finally follow through and finish something you started?  
  • Or is it for charity or cause that you are deeply passionate about? 
  • Did you start to show your family and children the health and fitness are important?
  • Or to cope with trauma, anxiety or any other emotional concerns?
  • Did you start to create community and be surrounded with support?

Whatever your “why” is, review it daily and remember you are so worthy of this journey!

Once you have accomplished your goal and people ask you about your experience I’m almost sure what you will share are all the ups and downs, and memories from your journey. People will be impressed with the outcome, but more importantly, they will be inspired by your journey.

So, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" — Mary Oliver

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