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5 super-common thoughts that could be sabotaging your fitness goals


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It’s easy for a few missed days to lead to a skipped week—and before you know it, your Flyknits are collecting dust. Here’s the good news: You can change things up and get that loving (workout) feeling back again. It’s all about shifting your POV, says Joey Gonzalez, CEO of Barry’s Bootcamp and all-around badass trainer. Here, the Well+Good Council member breaks down the super-common reasons people find themselves in fitness ruts—and the best ways to change them for good. 

During my years at Barry’s Bootcamp, I’ve met countless clients who’ve stopped working out consistently—or maybe they’re exercising, but they’re not challenging themselves as much as they could. The details of each person’s circumstance are different, but here’s what these people all have in common: They’ve created mental blocks that are keeping them from loving their workout to the fullest.

The great news is that once your mind shifts, everything else follows.

As we know, the body and mind are linked, and the mental mirrors the physical. So when it comes to fitness, if you can shift the way you think about working out, that changes everything. And the great news is that once your mind shifts, everything else follows. 

Here are 5 mental roadblocks that hold people back in fitness—plus my advice for turning things around.

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Doubting yourself

“I can’t,” says the little voice inside your head. Maybe you haven’t worked out in 10 years and you want to go to the gym, but you think you can’t get started, or that people might laugh at you. Or maybe you’re already pretty fit but are nervous about trying a more intense activity that takes you out of your comfort zone.

Make no mistake, this is the biggest block for most people.

The solution has everything to do with confidence—and the message you relay to yourself. (Remember the children’s story The Little Engine That Could? It’s like that: “I think I can, I think I can.”) I see it happen all the time at Barry’s. People are overcoming challenges and showing themselves every class—no matter how long they’ve been going—that they can.

I’ve also observed how the “I can’t” mentality often manifests itself into other places in someone’s life. This is why making that breakthrough is so cathartic. Dozens of times, I’ve seen people flip that switch and realize that they can do things—and it truly changes their lives.

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Comparing yourself to others

Ever thought like this? “She’s doing the same thing I’m doing. Why don’t I look like her?” Here’s the truth: Playing the comparison game is toxic, and you can’t win. There’s no way you can hold yourself up against someone else, no matter what.

That’s because each of us has a unique genetic makeup—and the only person you should compare yourself to is yourself. I advise taking an inventory of yourself, and making it a holistic one. For instance: How strong are you compared to six months ago? How are you feeling emotionally? Spiritually? By taking inventory of your personal growth, you can get a better sense of progress over time. Measure yourself against yourself, not other people. 

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Having an all-or-nothing attitude

Raise your hand if this sounds familiar: You work out every day for a week, skip class the following week, then return with a vengeance to punish yourself for not sticking to a schedule. That all-or-nothing attitude just isn’t healthy! Instead, the goal should be to create a lifestyle with habits that are sustainable. It sounds so obvious, I know, but it’s really hard for some people to do that.

One thing that helps is identifying what those habits should be—not for someone else, but for you. I recommend writing down your fitness objectives (working out five days a week, let’s say) then keeping a journal to track any issues that keep you from meeting that goal. Then you can figure out, in retrospect, how you can fix that. For example, maybe you’ve missed your 6 p.m. workouts because you often get stuck at the office; a solution might be shifting to pre-work sessions.

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Thinking of exercise as a need not a want

Look, we all know the feeling. (I love working out, but even I dread going to class sometimes!) This is what changed everything for me: You have to look at working out as a part of life that’s as important—if not more important—as your job. Exercise and physical activity are as important to me as taking a supplement or vitamin. It’s all about that mental outlook. I found that when I started thinking that way, I became more consistent in my workouts.

If you get anxious and stressed before class, there’s really no easy fix—so try to find workouts that are effective and fun for you. Get your friends to join you, too, so you’ll create an environment where you’re actually enjoying what you’re doing.

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Getting hooked on a feeling

Just like you see with eating, people tie exercise with emotion. People may not go to class if they’re feeling down, or alternatively, they work out when they’re hoping to feel better. Then the ebbs and flows of working out get tied to an emotional roller coaster. It’s good to be aware of that and to avoid practicing that way, because it’s just not sustainable. Working out should be as important when you’re not feeling like it, just as much as those times when you really want to do it—it’s a commitment. 

Watch out for this mental block in particular, because it can lead to a slippery slope. Sometimes, I run into people who’ve just stopped working out entirely. They don’t look or feel their best. And when I ask what happened, the most common thing I hear is, “I just got into this funk and I couldn’t do it, and I was sitting around the house and I couldn’t get myself to go.” They’ve let their fitness become dependent on their mood, but if they’d trained themselves to sweat every day—no matter how they might feel—getting back into a fitness routine wouldn’t feel like such a huge hurdle. But if you make fitness a non-negotiable part of your everyday routine, you’ll find that it’s a habit that creates rewards every day.

As a trainer turned CEO of Barry’s Bootcamp, Joey Gonzalez has a holistic view on wellness that includes family, mental health, and, of course, fitness. Since he took the top job in 2015, he’s grown the popular fitness empire to 35 studios—10 of them international.

What should Joey write about next? Send your questions and suggestions to [email protected]