There’s no magic pill for weight loss or strength development. Unfortunately we don’t just wake up one day and our beer belly has vanished and in its place is a fresh six pack. We know that, to lose weight and build muscle, many things have to happen– we need to exercise regularly, eat fueling and filling foods, scale back on alcoholic beverages, and change other unhealthy habits. But there’s ONE key thing that we have to do in order to be successful at these changes and make them long-lasting: change our mindset.
Before I became a coach and personal trainer, I was your average fitness enthusiast. I was a runner in highschool, a yogi for several years, rock climber, Zumba attender… you name it, I did it. Simply put, I loved to move and took advantage of any opportunity to do so. About two years ago, I was introduced to strength training and immediately fell in love with it and the overall gym culture. That’s when the trouble started. I started working as a coach and was led by someone who has been in the fitness industry for over 20 years. He had so much experience working in the field that I was brand new to (in a professional sense) that I held onto every single word he said and firmly believed in the vision that he had. His approach to fitness was rooted in strength– brutal strength. Unadulterated strength. Like, pull 500 lbs off the floor type of strength. I was all about it and knew immediately that I wanted to get stronger in this way. I started programming for myself and working towards my goals diligently. Guess what happened, I got stronger! My hard work paid off, but it came with a big price. I started to look down on my friends who were also into fitness but were doing things differently. I scoffed at exercises that included bosu balls, I discounted cardio and endurance exercises, and I lost a lot of my mobility and flexibility because I stopped working at it. I became extremely closed-minded and realized I was being coached by another closed-minded individual. I knew it was time for a change.
The first thing I had to change was my mindset and approach to fitness. I couldn’t believe I had started looking at the things I used to love to do as ineffective and useless. I began watching YouTube videos on different training styles, started working on stretching and mobility again, and put my focus on what was useful and beneficial to me and my body. I think somewhere along the way, I had forgotten that health and wellness doesn’t look the same on everyone and that not everybody can (or wants) to do the same things that my body can and wants to do.
Generally, there are two different mindsets that we have in life: there’s the growth mindset and the fixed mindset. Let’s explore them both:
1. Fixed Mindset
When we have a fixed mindset about something, it closes the door to other viewpoints, opinions, and experiences of that “thing”. We’ll use exercise as an example to keep it simple. When I started getting into strength training, I developed a fixed mindset about exercises that were
effective and ineffective. I was not open to accepting that there were other ways that people could lose weight and get healthier. Strength was the only way for that to happen. Individuals that live with fixed mindsets are often prone to failure as they don’t accept criticism and more often than not, they are sticking to their routine because that’s how they’ve always done it. Regardless of if it works for them or not, that’s all they know. Characteristics of a fixed mindset can look like:
● Giving up easily after failure
● Focus on performance
● View challenges as barriers to their success
2. Growth Mindset
In contrast to the fixed mindset, a growth mindset is a frame of mind that sets you up for success. When I began to expose myself to the different aspects, variations, and lifestyles of health and fitness, I planted seeds for that growth mindset. I began to accept that there are so many roads to health that I neglected and discarded and opened my mind to the possibilities and perspectives of other people with these experiences. I used my knowledge to implement these practices into my own exercise programs as well. I knew that if I was going to be coaching people with different preferences, that I would have to practice them as well. Characteristics of a growth mindset can look like:
● Viewing challenges as learning experiences
● Being open to criticism from others
● Focusing on the learning process of a new experience
Whether it’s exercise, your career, or a new culture, putting yourself in the right frame of mind is the key to being able to absorb all of the information and experiences that are open to you. Understanding that failure is part of the learning process will help you shift your perspective of what success means. When I began changing my training program and focusing on these other aspects of health, was I good at it immediately? No! I had to (and have had to) continuously practice these new skills and develop a style and format that works for me. I have to continuously expose myself to professionals in this field who know more than me and accept that I might not get things right every single time. See what happens when you start looking at things with this new set of eyes. You might be surprised at what you can learn from yourself and from others.