Listen, we’ve all been there. You go to a fitness class and feel intimidated, out of shape or out of place. Or, you start a new workout plan with the best of intentions. Yet only a few weeks (or days) later, you find yourself sitting there eating chips and watching “Orange is the New Black” on Netflix instead of getting your workout in. You beat yourself up, saying you were going to be “the biggest loser” but instead feel like you’re basically just a loser and tell yourself you’ll never be able to stick with it.
Dr. Jennifer Bruning Brown, a performance psychologist, has worked with athletes and non-athletes to help them perform better and stay motivated. She advises “it’s really important not to be critical towards yourself, because the more critical you are, the less motivation you have to keep going.”
Below, Dr. Bruning Brown gives 3 ways to change your negative self-talk about exercise:
- Do a reality check –remember that we’ve all been there. Everyone has taken their first class, felt overwhelmed or compared themselves to someone else. “If you are in a class and find yourself thinking about how awful you look compared to your neighbor, try to let go of those thoughts. Know that they, too, possibly have felt this way. Nobody is perfect. “Most everyone has days where they don’t feel good about their bodies,” Dr. Bruning Brown says. If you feel like “I’m horrible at this!”, allow it to motivate you instead of letting it make you feel bad. Bruning Brown suggests, “Try to view the people that are doing really well in class as role models—look to them for guidance and see them as goalposts. Look at it as an opportunity rather than a roadblock.”
- Get a workout buddy or take a class you enjoy. Working out isn’t meant to be intimidating, claustrophobic or painful. The energy should feel good when you go and you should look forward to going. “Being with a friend or surrounded by people you like will help keep negative thoughts at bay,” says Dr. Bruning Brown. When you love what you’re doing or are in a fun class with great music, “it’s like a built-in positive support system,” she says.
- Always reframe negatives. Dr. Bruning Brown says that “negative self-talk only makes you less likely to keep exercising. If you can work out for 5 minutes and that’s it, then give it your best for those 5 minutes”, she says. If you miss 3 weeks, that’s ok. She says to just get right back to it. She says it’s important to be proud of what you do and give yourself kudos, high fives and shout-outs when you do. The more you celebrate your workout accomplishments, the more likely you’ll start to love it and end up sticking with it.