Beat the Exercise Mental Blockers

Published by Jason Narog on

Leg press

Are you ready to get back into fitness up until that moment you actually need to start doing the fitness part? You wake up, pack your gym bag, throw it in the car, go to work, with 100% intention to go work out after work. Then lunch comes. Then 3pm. Then 4pm. And you go home instead of heading off to the gym. In the morning you had the best of intentions and then something happened and you found yourself not going.

Well, I have some ideas on how to get you back into the gym winning ways.

1. Work out before work / life / whatever gets in the way

This is where I personally am at now. I’ve found that working out as soon as the day starts ends up eliminating any of the usual “well something with [insert whatever reason here] came up and now I can’t do it.” Your brain hasn’t had time to run away with you yet early in the morning. Traffic hasn’t driven you batty (unless you live far away from the gym and driving to said gym in traffic has now driven you batty), your coffee order wasn’t messed up, and you didn’t have 6 people come up to you to talk to you about your TPS reports.

If you don’t have a gym in your house or close by you can always wake up with a stretching / ab routine. Or go do pull ups on your pull up bar that’s set up in the doorway. Or do push ups. Or go run in the neighborhood. Just do something active in the morning before life gets in the way.

2. Stop thinking so much

Easier said than done right? If you fall into the same category as me and need to work out in the morning before life pummels you with lemons (leaving you drenched in unsweetened lemonade) you may need to address those things that are making you think so much.

I have a working theory that I hope you, the readers, will help me out with. Being that the problem appears to be with the brain chattering too much, let’s test an experiment. I see 2 variations that this can take.

Variation 1 – List the mental / emotional reasons you don’t work out

This one is leaning towards the negative side, so I don’t know how productive it’ll truly be. Then again, the Church of Scientology is big on getting people to list every terrible thing they’ve ever done in their life through the process of writing overts and withholds to “get relief” so hey maybe the negative direction will work.

It’ll go something like this –

I don’t want to go to the gym because I don’t want to drive in traffic.

Look at the statement and see if it rings emotionally true with you. Is that really why you don’t want to go work out?

I don’t want to go to the gym because every time I go my hips hurt for two days after.

This statement has more of an “avoid pain, move towards pleasure” mood behind it. Written another way –

If I go do activity X at the gym, my hips will hurt for two days after.

The interesting part of the statement above is there’s a solution for the problem. If you’re doing certain movement patterns and don’t feel good afterwards there’s probably a solution. Hip is pretty generic, being that we could be talking about the outside of the hip, the inside of the hip, the front, the back, or maybe it’s not even the hip at all but a different part of the leg.

Regardless, a statement about something being hurt implies a muscle imbalance where corrective exercises could be prescribed. Regressing (doing a movement that is easier) the movement pattern or flat out changing to a different exercise to strengthen these muscles would fix the pain pattern and create a brand new behavior pattern where one is going to the gym to improve themselves without the pain, moving upwards towards pleasure.

The goal here with the negative is to try to get to the root of why you don’t want to go. Maybe the gym isn’t a good fit for you and you should go find another one. Maybe it’s too far from your work or home and you need to find one closer. Or maybe you’re just doing the [currently] wrong movement patterns and need to change up your routine to get you winning again.

Try writing down the negatives and see if it brings you to the root of what you’re avoiding. Then turn that into a positive that you can do something about. The negative is going to be rooted in the present, so it should be something you relate to in the here and now.

Variation 2 – Start with positive emotions and thoughts about your workout

This one is going to be more future looking than present. Think statements like –

Damn, I felt great after my last workout, I want to feel that great again tonight.

Again, we’re moving towards pleasure, we just have to get past that initial mental blocker that’s in the way. This one is assuming no movement compensation patterns or pain involved and the workouts in general are dialed in.

It’s future reward thinking. You know once you get going you’ll feel great, so now you just have to drag yourself in. A similar thought pattern would be something like –

I’m going to look damn sexy after a few months of working out.

This one falls into the category of someone who is looking to get fit / lose weight / gain muscle to improve their appearance for [insert name of group here.] Think school reunion or wedding. I think spinning this one into something a bit more long term will have longer term results, but it’s good to have a starting point. Get fit for that big event, then grow from there.

Writing it down gets it out of your head

The internet is full of people and articles telling you to write things down so they stop rattling about in your head. Both variations of listing the bad and the good help take those scattered thoughts out of your head and put them down on paper. It helps get them organized. It puts them in their place. Writing down positive thoughts helps give them power. Writing down the negative thoughts takes away their power. In both cases it’s a win.

3. Schedule a time to work out

Having a set time you’re going to work out can be beneficial, as long as that time works for you. Maybe you schedule a workout during your lunch break 2 or 3x a week. Or you’re going to work out at 6pm after work.

Setting that specific time that you’re committed to go helps take out any of the mental blockers. Co-workers want to go out and have drinks? Sorry, today is my day to go to the gym and work out.

Try scheduling that time to be convenient to your life as well though. If you get up, go to work, go home, then have to turn around and go back out the success factor may be lower. Then again you may be a very dedicated individual where once it’s on your calendar it’s on your calendar and you’re going no matter what. But this is an article about mental blockers and getting back off the couch after a long day is harder mentally than getting into the gym on your way home, before the comfort of home has taken you over.