February 16, 2022

You can't win if you do not show up



I have been training clients for a long time. It would be impossible for me to recall how many times I have heard a client say: “If it had not been for you expecting me to show up, I wouldn't have trained today”.

Indeed, most of my in-person and online clients are not “natural-born” exercisers. It is not a well ingrained habit of theirs. Exercising is, and will remain, a struggle for them to an extent. Therefore, from time to time it is quite challenging for them to put on their workout clothes and go train. That is a major reason why clients hire me in the first place; just so they can get that extra push to exercise and reason to show up to the gym.

However, I can confidently say that more than 90% of the time someone has expressed this difficulty to show up to training sessions, I witnessed their mood change drastically after just a few minutes of the session beginning. I hear clients express, “Wow, I feel so good! I am so glad I came and trained”. Most people instantly feel better both physically and mentally as well as prideful of their decision to take the initiative to start training. They literally feel the stress of their long and hectic day melt away. If they train in the morning, they feel inner peace. The benefits brought about by the hormonal changes experienced from exercising will remain throughout the day and help them overcome any challenges with greater ease. 

Therefore, for most people, the battle lies within getting to the gym, onto the cardio machine or beginning whichever type of physical activity they engage in. Half the battle is just showing up. Find a way to get yourself to the gym! As soon as you start moving, you will feel better. You will be happy that you trained; I guarantee it.

Finding a way to “show up” mentally and physically by ignoring the excuses that pop into your head is a major key to winning. You can accomplish this in part by not fighting against your natural tendencies. For example, if you are a morning person, do not schedule your workouts at night. Your energy level will likely be low by this time. Therefore, the odds of skipping the workout are greater. Instead, plan to workout first thing in the morning, when you feel fresh and energetic. On the other hand, if you are not a morning person, schedule your workouts after your workday. You will most probably feel miserable waking up at 5 a.m. to run on a treadmill.

In my book, The Things I Wish You Knew About Weight Loss, I discuss creating an exercise ritual as a definitive way to “getting there”. A ritual is a set of fixed actions performed regularly and in the same sequence. Think of your morning ritual for example: you get out of bed at the same time every morning, take a shower, drink a coffee, eat breakfast, leave the house, get in your car, and drive to work, following the same path every day. Rituals reduce our anxiety towards an ever-changing world and make us feel comfortable in our own environment. 

Many people become overly anxious when it comes to exercising. They might feel anxious about not performing well and having difficulties reaching their goal. These worries stem from reliving unpleasant memories of sports or physical activity in their youth or from having to sacrifice leisure time at the expense of training time, the anticipated physical pain, etc. Too often excuses to skip training are nothing more than underlying anxiety. Therefore, one of the best ways to win the battle is to create a ritual of exercising to reduce anxiety and overthinking:

  • If you want to run in the morning, put your running clothes by your nightstand and get dressed first thing when you wake up. Drink your coffee, get out of the house and run. Afterwards, take a shower, eat breakfast and leave for work. Running will then become a part of your morning ritual.
  • If you want to train at the gym after your workday, pick a gym that is on your way home from work. Get dressed in your gym clothes before you leave the office and arrive at the gym before you get home, so you avoid the possibility of creating excuses not to go. The action of getting dressed and stopping at the gym on your way home will become part of your training ritual. Moreover, the action of putting on your gym clothes makes a strong statement that you are committed to carrying through with your training.  
  • If you want to use your lunch break to walk every day, put your shoes on at 11:30 a.m. and as soon as your break begins, immediately leave the office to go for a walk, regardless of the temperature outside. You can then eat your lunch afterwards, thus forming another ritual. 

Sounds simple enough, does it not? It is deceptively simple, but it works. As I have said previously, most people fail to exercise regularly because they cannot manage to get to the actual training session. They choke, find excuses, and let daily circumstances dictate whether they will exercise that day. They do not lose the battle; they fail to reach the battlefield. If they could find a way to show up, most of the work would already be done, without even having sweat one drip. By doing so, they would be well under way to reaching their goals. And the fun part, the actual training, lies on the other side of showing up. That is what is most rewarding, the aspect you can easily get addicted to and can produce results that will positively change your body and overall, make you feel better.

ACTIONABLE TIP: Try to figure out what exercise ritual you can create this week. Imagine where, in your already set morning, day or night routine, you can include a short training session. Then precisely fit the session into your existing routine at a set hour and devote this time slot to that specific purpose exclusively two or three times per week. Begin your own training ritual. It will lead you to “show up” more often than ever before and will slowly, but surely, create a positive new habit in your life.

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