“Perseverance will get you to any goal that you want. You just have to want it bad enough”
The Missing Link
“If you feel like you can’t do it just remember your “why” and keep going because this is more than just fitness, this is life.”
In this chapter we will talk about what I believe is the missing link in most workout programs, fad diets, and other fitness advice out there. The missing link is the mental aspect of your fitness goals and we are going to dig deeper than just the weights, cardio, and nutrition. Those are the obvious and logical things that we try to fix to reach our goals instead of focusing on both logic and emotion. In my opinion you can have the tools to reach all of the goals that you want to achieve because they are out there. So why is it that so many people are having a hard time reaching their fitness goals? Why are people becoming more and more obese every year and are unhappier than they have ever been? Let’s discover the missing link and a take a leap forward and change your life forever.
What is mental training?
Mental training is when you do drills and techniques to dig deep and figure out the “why” you do things. It is a core function of success in your fitness journey and in your life. Mental training can be one of the most useful tools available because by focusing on improving your mental toughness you can cut to the core of your problems and by solving them not only will you become more fit but you will also see your life change for the better and move in the right direction.
Some of the best athletes, actors, moms and most successful people in the world are successful because they have discovered the missing link. They have trained themselves to believe in their goals and to work as hard as they can and dedicate their life to being the best for not only themselves but their families, friends, and anyone else around them. They are sure to bring their best self each and every day and understand that there will be setbacks, failures, and other things that will challenge them mentally but they will persevere and come out on top.
Discovering your Why
First in order to truly be the best that you can be and stay motivated for a sustainable amount of time you must understand your “why” and what motivates you. It is hard to motivate ourselves if we are just telling ourselves that we should do it or be better. That is not motivating enough, we need to strike our core and feel it from our soul.
Some questions to ask and discover your “why”
Who was your role model growing up?
Who is your role model currently?
What makes you feel the most positive about yourself?
What makes you feel negative and unmotivated?
What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?
What kind of people do you associate yourself with?
Who do you want to associate yourself with?
Examples of “why”
Some examples of people’s “whys” that I have heard from personal training are they want to get in better shape because when they were growing up they were always made fun of as the fat kid in their class. That made them feel insecure and not confident in themselves while also hurting their feelings. They noticed that this feeling transferred into other aspects of their lives and they felt like they were coming up short in life. They noticed their eating habits and life habits were a form of punishment that they placed on themselves for not living up to what everyone was telling them to be. They wanted to make a difference in themselves and asked for help.
Another example of a why is coming from a family who was obese and saw the hurt and bad health that they experienced and how it negatively affected certain aspects of their lives. They decided that they wanted to do something about it and not let the trend keep going and so they want to be a good role model to their kids and to their other family members who are going through the same struggle.
I had a female client who came in and had obviously lost hope in her life and herself. Her husband had filed for a divorce and she was going to become a single mother of a teenage daughter and was over one hundred pounds overweight. She felt helpless and came to me because she needed help and wanted control of her life again. She wanted to buy training and before she bought she told me she could not afford it and left. I felt really bad because I could see the pain in this lady’s face and I wanted to desperately help her out in getting herself back.
The next day she came in and told me that she had lied to me and that she could afford it but that she was scared to commit because she was afraid to fail. Wow what an emotional moment for both me and her as she had let everything that she had kept bottle inside. She started to cry and agreed to start personal training because she did not know what else to do and that she thought long and hard about what I had told her the day before of taking care of herself and that she deserved it and that I believed in her.
I told her that I would do whatever it took to help her and that I would bring her on our team and that our team would help her through this hard time and that we really were in this to change people’s lives but most importantly her life.
We discovered her why was that she wanted to prove to herself that she could accomplish this goal of getting back into shape and rediscovering herself. She not only wanted it for herself but for her daughter. She was ashamed of the role model that she had become and wanted to change that because she did not want to see her daughter follow the same footsteps.
We worked out together and I helped her with any questions that she had. I offered an ear to her to listen to her problems so she could vent and start to heal. I gave her encouragement every day to believe in herself. I helped her to get back into hobbies that she was really into in her earlier days and I assigned her a trainer who was in the business for the right reasons and helped encourage her every single day to be the best that she could be.
Eventually she succeeded and ended up reaching her goals and that is a story of why discovering your “why” and having a positive support group behind you can take you to levels you never thought were possible. It is the most fulfilling thing as a fitness professional to see changes like this in people.
Coming up with an action plan
Once you discover your why then your job is to then map out what your goals are that you want to accomplish and then tie them in together to your “why”. The difference that you will see as opposed to just doing the mechanics of a workout program (weights, cardio, nutrition) will be significantly different.
The difference you will see is you will be able to stay more motivated and stick to your program more than you ever have in the past. Many times when people workout they go through the ups and downs of hitting plateaus and setbacks and if they do not truly know their “why” it is easier to just give up. The logical reaction to seeing no results to something that is taking up time in your day is to just cut it out completely and replace it with another activity.
First write down three to five main motivating factors that drive you to succeed. After you write them down I want you to put them on a vision board somewhere where you can see them daily as a reminder. I also want you to write them in a notebook where you review it in the morning and in the evening to keep track of your progress.
Second I want you to find a partner or a support group that can help be an accountability partner to remind you of your goals and most importantly “why” they are important to you. The partner you choose must be someone who has the qualities of support but not afraid to tell you the truth and speak candidly. Choose this person wisely as this may give you a chance to take your fitness to the next level.
Third I want you to set up a reward system that will motivate you and give you the positive reinforcement that you need. This is an often overlooked part of a fitness program and it is easy to get caught in the trap of setting “moving targets” as goals. An example of this would be when I lose ten pounds I am going to buy myself a brand new pair of shoes and after you reach ten pounds because it may have felt too easy you dismiss the accomplishment and push it to fifteen pounds to get the shoes. Do not fall for this trap.
Fourth I want you to create a vision board of photos that symbolize the “whys” that you chose and be sure to choose the pictures wisely. The pictures should be able to depict the emotions that are most important to you and serve as a constant reminder of why you are changing your lifestyle.
Discover who you are
You cannot improve what you do not measure and analyze and a great way to do that is to know your self at your core. You must understand what drives you to feel happy, sad, angry, fulfilled, and all of the other array of emotions us human beings feel. This will require some self-reflection and being honest about your emotions.
To start to discover who you are you are going to need a personal journal that you will log in to each day so you can discover trends in your behavior so you can improve it and eliminate the sabotaging ones.
In this journal you will want to look back into your childhood and think about the events that have helped shape who you are today. Think about and write down the events that made you happy and felt loved and cared for. You will also write down the events where you felt sad and down. I want you to write these down in as much detail as possible including who was there, why you felt the way you did, what you liked or disliked about the event, and what environment you were in.
Next I want you to continue this all the way through your life until today. Put some serious thought and effort into understanding all the events that have happened and how it has shaped your personal daily habits in life, exercise, parenting, work habits, and relationships. This will bring out some interesting findings about yourself and take you off of autopilot and teach you why you are doing some of the daily activities you do now. Once you are off of autopilot you can then start to make the necessary adjustments to create the exact environment you need to succeed.
I had a client that when she was growing up she was really close to her family and every time she accomplished something that her family was proud of, the family would go out to eat to celebrate. This made her feel really good and connected with her family and made her feel loved. This was an event that hit a core emotion that us humans have, which is to feel love from people that we care about immensely.
Those were the times that she valued and cherished the most, to not only feel the endorphin rush of accomplishing a goal but most importantly the acceptance of her family. Nothing could replace this feeling of importance and in those moments that’s where the food association with love was created.
Now with that female client as she grew older and started a family she became extremely busy tending her kids and taking care of the household chores and her husband. She had become a very loving and caring mom but always putting the family and everyone else first. She forgot to take care of herself and she started to gain weight and body fat.
While she loved her family and got great fulfillment by being a great mother, when the kids were asleep and her husband off at work, she would feel lonely and she needed something to fill that void. Well if no one was near her to give her the personal interaction to fulfill those needs she naturally turned to food to comfort her because it was easy and available.
As the food comforted her and she started to gain some weight she decided that she wanted to do something for herself. So she purchased a gym membership and a personal trainer and went faithfully because she was a committed individual but she noticed that for some reason she was just not getting the results that she wanted. We analyzed her workouts and she was training the right way. We analyzed her cardio workouts and she was performing those correctly as well. She was doing everything right and we were dumbfounded.
Finally when we analyzed her nutrition, she was struggling to eat consistently healthy and stick to a nutrition plan, she just could not stick to the nutrition plan for the life of her. She could not figure out why she couldn’t she just thought she lacked will power and it started to affect her self-esteem and self-worth. She was extremely frustrated and felt hopeless.
It was not until we discovered together that the real reason why she could not stick to a nutrition plan was that she lacked “will power” but it was that anytime she would feel the normal human emotion of being lonely she would use food as a way to fulfill that need.
That was a “aha” moment because we knew that if we could satisfy that need in more creative ways outside of eating, then we would be able to successfully create and stick to our nutrition plan. So instead of mentally beating her up and making her diet more strict we took an outside the box approach and came up with some different solutions.
To fulfill that need of being connected and loved we looked at some other options such as developing a deeper relationship with her husband on an emotional level. Letting him know he was not failing as a husband but that there were specific things that she needed from him in order to help her improve her life.
Also we came up with the idea of having a girl’s night out where she developed deeper and more meaningful relationships with her friends. We budgeted some time out of the week to have that “friend time” to allow her to feel those emotions of being connected and loved in other avenues as well.
Needless to say her life is more fulfilling and balanced as well as she is able to stick to her nutrition plan and reach all of her fitness goals.
The purpose of sharing this story with you is to challenge you to think outside of the box and not think that it is your will power that is lacking on why you are not reaching your goals but it is a deeper issue at hand that usually has to do with emotions.
How do you want your life to be?
Defining where you want your life to be is extremely important in the goal setting process. Not knowing where you are going will be the start of a frustrating journey. By defining what it is you want to accomplish you can not only put together a game plan but you can also begin to get yourself excited to reach your goals.
When you think about where you want to be you will normally begin to start thinking positive thoughts and get excited about the opportunities that lie ahead. You will begin to think of all of the ways that you feel your life will change for the good. The thoughts of being the “perfect you” will give you the initial motivation that you will need.
The questions that you may want to ask yourself to get you in the mode of being positive and excited are going to be
How will I feel about myself when I reach a goal that I set out to achieve?
How much more confident will I feel when I want to go swimming or go to the beach?
How great will it feel to shop for the clothes that I want instead of for settling for clothes that I fit into?
What exact date do I want to weigh my goal weight?
What are my benchmarks on the way to my big picture goal?
When you are goal setting you should follow the S.M.A.R.T principle.
Specific – an example would be lose fifteen pounds.
Measurable- an example would be documenting your weight loss every two weeks.
Actionable- an example would be I will lift weights three times per week to increase my lean muscle tissue.
Realistic – an example would be to set a goal of losing two pounds a week as opposed to losing forty pounds in a week.
Time- an example would be I will hit my goal of fifteen pounds of weight loss by June first.
Oftentimes we are afraid to set goals using the S.M.A.R.T. principle because we are inherently afraid to fail. There is a subconscious thought that holds us back because we are too concerned about if we hold ourselves accountable to a goal we may not follow through and achieve it. From the beginning this is a flawed mindset and you have to work through this to reach your fitness goals.
When setting goals you have to understand that there will be setbacks and failures. You must be realistic and no one who has achieved worthwhile goals gets their smoothly. The road to success is not a straight road. There will be ups and downs and it is how you handle those setbacks that are going to be how successful you will be in your goal attainment.
Think of the setbacks as a test to see how bad you want it. You must ask yourself when the going gets tough how you are going to respond. Where most people get stuck is when they are gaining that great momentum in the beginning of getting great results and then all of a sudden their results start to plateau.
Most people get frustrated and think that it is them and that something is wrong with them genetically or that maybe they just are not made to be at the goal that they want. This can not be further from the truth. It is just the science of how you are going to break out of the plateau that matters. Getting educated and knowing what to do will help you.
How to handle fitness setbacks
Some strategies that you may want to employ will first come from if you are doing the correct exercises or not. This would require looking at your training regimen and the data to see if you are doing the same workouts over and over again. Second you may want to see if your intensity is lagging and you are not giving it your best effort. This is where you have to be brutally honest with yourself and use the reality principle.
Many times the reason why you are not getting the results you want is because you are not committing one hundred percent into your goals. You may have a fear looming in your head that prevents you from giving it your full effort.
I advise that you create a list of some of the setbacks that you are going through and write them down on paper. When you write the setbacks and problems down you will be taking the first step to controlling the setback instead of letting the setback control you.
After you write the setbacks down you will want to isolate each setback and come up with at least five different solutions to the problem. By having more than one solution you can try several strategies to see which one works the best.
When you come up with a plan on how you will overcome the setback seek a fitness professional and then ask him/her for their opinion and if they think your plan is a solid plan. Ask for feedback on what they would do differently with the plan you presented them.
After you seek out a fitness professional then you should then find someone who works out regularly in the gym and who knows what they are doing and seeing great results and ask them their opinion on your plan. Jot down the feedback they give you as well.
After you speak with someone who works out regularly in the gym go online to a communication platform such as fitocracy.com or tumblr.com and join the fitness communities there online and ask the audience what their opinions are. Jot down the feedback you get.
After you have consulted with several different sources find the trends and similarities on what they all recommended and then formulate a plan based on that feedback to start trying in the gym or at home.
Mental Exercises for dealing with setbacks
Everyone deals with setbacks differently and you may want to look at how you deal with them specifically and if they serve you in the best ways or not. A majority of setbacks in our life are going to be best handled by having effective strategies for coping with them.
One way to deal with setbacks is to make some humor out of the situation and give yourself some credit for the effort you are putting in. If you put too much pressure on yourself to hit your goals you will most likely not reach them and also be unhappy in your life. Always maintain the attitude that you can laugh at any situation and don’t take yourself too seriously. Be patient.
Another way to deal with the setback is to give yourself a mental break and focus more on other aspects of your life for a short period of time. This does not mean quit and focus on something else but rather keep exercising and tweaking your workouts while simultaneously allowing something else to use your mental energy such as your relationships and friendships. Have multiple other goals outside of your fitness goals to allow you a chance to succeed in another area of your life to keep getting that positive reinforcement.
Focus on the positives of what you are doing and the results that you have achieved. In our quest to be successful and achieve our goals it is easy to forget all of the great things that you have achieved in your journey. There are always positives and nothing is too small of a victory. Celebrate the fact that you even have fitness goals that you are striving for. Celebrate that you are exercising regularly. Be proud of when you eat one healthy meal in a day. These are different ways to keep a positive outlook on your journey and feel like you are progressing.
Read a book on having a positive attitude. These books can serve a great purpose and give you motivation when you are feeling down. A book is also a way to slow down a racing mind and to focus your energies on something else other than staying in your own head about your obstacles.
Listen to motivational speeches in your car or on your mp3 player. These speeches oftentimes can be that push that you need to realize that this is just a phase and this too will blow over and you will succeed.
Find a friend who will listen to your struggle and have a nonjudgmental attitude and will just listen. Sometimes all you need to do is get that bottled up disappointment out of you to be able to start fresh. This is a great way to also bond with a friend or a loved one and they will most likely want to support you even more on your journey. They may help to keep giving you that push when you feel like giving up.
Discover and define your “why”
Study positive attitude and thinking daily
Keep a detailed journal to log your feelings as well as your workouts
Define what makes you happy and what makes you unhappy
Write a detailed page on how you want your life to be
Have fun with your journey and keep things light