I am somewhat embarrassed to admit this, but this past weekend I got caught up in watching the “Bridezillas” marathon on WE Television. Then it leads right in to “Bridezillas Marriage Boot camp”. I knew in the back of my head that I shouldn’t have been watching this ridiculous show, but somehow I just couldn’t turn away. I can only say that I hope some of this show was scripted, because if this is how these women truly behave then I am deeply disturbed. I just kept thinking: “They’re making things so much harder than they have to be! Can’t they see that they are attracting more bad things to happen because of their dramatic and over the top antics?” Then I had another realization: The same thing happens in the world of fitness. All the time I see people repeating the same exercises, week after week, month after month, year after year. I can tell that they are not enjoying themselves. I can tell by the looks on their faces that they would be having a better time at their dentist office. It doesn’t have to be this way. Exercise is hard work; there is no question about that. Sometimes it is scary to learn new exercises and break out of our comfort zone. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the words “I can’t” from people over the years. These two words create a mental state of mind that leads to limitation in many ways. Maybe I’m just an optimist, but I firmly believe that “you can” accomplish new things even if they do seem scary, or even if you may feel that you don’t want to. In this article, I will be discussing the following ideas:

1. Changing your mind.
2. Seeking guidance.
3. Baby steps.
4. Rewards.

Changing your mind. Sometimes it may seem as if our thoughts choose us, but that is actually not the case. We choose our thoughts- always. Changing our attitude about something is also a choice. This happens to me all the time when I’m driving. If someone cuts me off, I get pissed. Sometimes I may even honk at them or even give a gesture. But my anger and frustration doesn’t changing anything. They still got away with it. All of the honking and yelling in the world isn’t going to change that. By holding that kind of anger with me, I only make the situation worse- for myself. I am indeed making a choice to be angry, and therefore, I pay the price for it. I could just as easily choose to not be angry and to just go about my day and forget about it. That doesn’t mean that it’s ok that the driver cut me off; it just means that I am surrendering to what I cannot control. I am choosing to not get angry. The same is true in the gym. Certain exercises might seem scary or daunting. If you look at them with fear or dread, you only make the situation worse- for yourself. Repeating the same exercises on an on- going basis is a sure fire way to lead to a plateau. You can choose to plateau or you can choose to push yourself. You can choose to look at new exercises with fear or you can swallow your fear and learn them. But the words “I can’t” should not exist in your vocabulary. For then you are choosing to limit yourself.

Seeking guidance. I know fitness can seem scary to some people, especially when it comes to learning new exercises or new techniques, such as advanced training techniques. I would never expect anyone to just jump right in and try things on their own without really knowing what they are doing. Therefore, I highly recommend seeking guidance from someone who does know what they are doing, preferably a Certified Personal Trainer. Hiring a trainer doesn’t mean that you have to see them three times a week every week for the rest of your life. It is quite common for people to hire trainers for simply a few sessions to learn proper form and technique as well as to learn advanced techniques (if you are someone who has been training for a while). By hiring a professional, you are making a conscious choice to better yourself by learning more and therefore are also overcoming any mental resistance that may have been there before. There are several people who meet with me for only a few sessions a month to set them up on a new workout program with new and advanced techniques to help take them to their next level of fitness. You may be investing in a personal trainer, but you are actually investing in yourself.

Baby steps. Nobody ever said change has to be fast. Change is quite often more effective when it happens gradually. If someone wants to start their own business, it doesn’t happen overnight. It starts with an idea. We see that idea in our minds and then it gradually starts to manifest, little by little until we see it right there before our very eyes. In reality, training is a lot like building a business; it’s just that the business that you are creating is your own body. If you have been thinking about adding squats to your lifting program for your lower body, you don’t have to start out squatting 180 lbs. In fact, you can start by using simply your own body weight for resistance- no added weight. This will allow you to learn proper form and technique first, before adding weight. Once you have proper form mastered, then you can start adding weight little by little. I have seen far too many people injure themselves over the years by pushing themselves too hard too fast. The same is true for a running program. If you have never run before in your life, chances are you are not going to be able to run very far the first time you get on the treadmill or on the bike path. You will most likely have to start out walking and then very gradually increase your pace. Try adding one minute intervals of light jogging. If you master that, you can start lengthening the time of your intervals until you are jogging for the entire duration. After a while, your jog will gradually transform into a run. It may take a while, but you should never say “I can’t”.

Rewards. I am all about rewards. In fact, I give myself one every week. It’s called my cheat day. I allow myself one day a week to eat the fatty foods that I love. The cheat day really helps me to stay on track with my fitness goals. It gives me something to look forward to during my long week of aggressive training and optimal nutrition. But rewards can come in many forms- not just food. If you have ever been afraid of trying something new, a great way to push yourself to try it is to promise yourself a reward afterward. It may not even have anything to do with fear- maybe it’s as simple as not being able to find the motivation to exercise on a certain day. Maybe you just can’t get psyched up to try walking lunges for the first time. So try this: Try at least three new exercises or advanced training techniques. If you make a conscious effort to learn them and to try them at least once, treat yourself to a movie or a day at the spa. Rewarding yourself in this way becomes very fulfilling because you are encouraging yourself to go beyond your own comfort level, both physically and mentally. And you will be seeing some significant fitness gains at the same time.

Changing our mental attitude can sometimes be difficult, especially when it comes to the world of fitness. But by uttering the words “I can’t”, we severely limit ourselves by not pushing beyond our own comfort zones. If progress is to be made, we simply must push beyond. The truth is “you can”.