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Fitness Can Be Mental: Tips For A Positive and Worthwhile Work-out

Posted: April 27, 2013
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By Susan Brown, Farmgirlfit Intern Extaordinaire


When it comes to working out, it seems that people can fall into one of two categories; those who cannot get enough of it and those who it would be easier to pull teeth. For those of you that can’t get enough, the motivation and the will to get to the gym and push yourself rarely escapes you. However, for those of you that struggle to find the determination and enthusiasm to first, make it to the gym, and then really push yourself, there are some things you can do to make a workout much more enjoyable and over time something you look forward to in your daily routine.

Most of the anxieties and apprehension that surrounds those of us who struggle to workout are psychological and I’ve come up with some tips that are key in changing your mindset so you actually make it to the gym and have a positive experience while there!


Many women are intimidated at the thought of doing circuit training or lifts such as a Squat or Power Clean because of the association they have with these types of workouts are “more extreme workouts” or because “those are lifts that guys do”. Women are better off to hop on a treadmill or elliptical right? Nope! While running is good to include in your workout, it should not be the only way in which you work out. In reality, well balanced workouts that incorporate many types of high intensity training as well as lifts are much better to your overall health. When you go run for a standard amount of time or distance your body eventually adapts and hits a threshold.  By ensuring various forms of intense exercise you are constantly pushing your body in different ways so it doesn’t have a chance to adapt. This means that you are constantly elevating your fitness level. High intensity workouts also engaged your metabolism for a longer time than low or moderately intense workouts, meaning you’re burning calories for a longer period of time post training. Combining lifts and other weight bearing activities help to increase bone density, which we know is very hard to keep up in women (especially as we age). With that being said, it is especially important for women to incorporate lifting into their workout to prevent diseases like osteoporosis.

#2 Form:

So once the idea that this type of lifting isn’t just reserved for men and the women who go ‘all out’, the next step is to get the right foundations in order to be safe as well as get the most out of each lift. This is another area where women struggle. Because of the views women have had towards this type of exercise, many of us have never learned how to do it properly, and it keeps us from wanting to in the future. By taking the time to learn how to do the lifts properly we become much more comfortable them, and not so apprehensive to pick up a bar. This is why we require that everyone who joins Farmgirlfit takes our Foundations class! Not only is the class important to make sure everyone stays safe while lifting, it also gets everyone familiar with the equipment and how to use it. We want you to be confident in what you’re doing and beginning with your foundation is the key to start building that confidence!

#3 Progression:

Even after understanding the importance of working out, overcoming the myths surrounding lifting and being familiar with the equipment, it may still be hard to get yourself to the gym. One of the easiest ways to build up the confidence from your foundation and start your experience off well, is to not overdo it. Progression of a fitness plan is very important to ensure you don’t get discouraged. Make sure you talk to your trainer and ask where a good place to start might be. Trainers will have a great idea as to what types of modifications you can do to make sure you are getting everything you can out of your workout while not going past your limits. Don’t feel like you have to go in and do everything all at once. You will most likely end up making yourself so sore you won’t go back for a week! While we want you to push yourself, it’s important when you start up to ease into it. After each session you go through successfully, you build up that confidence I keep talking about. As your confidence builds you’ll be able to push yourself that much more each session.

#4 Break your workout into segments:

Once you start pushing yourself and you are able to get yourself to the gym consistently, another area of struggle is getting overwhelmed by the workout. This is very common, and results in people not pushing themselves throughout training or giving up prematurely. One of the easiest ways to help yourself get through a session is segmentation. Try taking each set one at a time - steps to completing your workout if you will. When you look at the workout don’t look at how much you’re doing (this usually leads to discouragement). If you have 50 pull-ups to do, look at it in a manageable way for you (ex: 5 sets of 10). Whatever way you need to break down the exercises to get you through them, is the way you should look at it. If you can segment your exercises, you can take them one step at a time which will eliminate much of the intimidation or nervousness going into the workout.

#5 Positive Self Talk:

Throughout all of these tips one of the hardest things to keep up sometimes is a positive attitude. A lot of the reason we become reluctant to go to the gym or push ourselves is a result of fear of failure, embarrassment, intimidation etc. This is where self-talk comes into play and a lot of people underestimate the value of it. For those that don’t make it to the gym, or struggle to make it through a session negative self-talk is usually a huge contributing factor. The fears translate into thoughts such as, “it’s not fun,” “I’d rather be doing something else,” “I can’t do it,” “I’m not very good at it,” etc… These types of thoughts create a vicious circle where you don’t want to do it - because you believe you can’t or would fail at it - because you don’t want to do it. This perpetuates the aversion towards the gym. As a result, the importance of changing the types of things we tell ourselves from negative to positive cannot be stressed enough.  Not only will turning your thoughts into “I’m being healthier,” “this is good for me,” and “I can do this,” help you get to the gym, it will help you through some of the toughest training sessions; and there is nothing like that feeling you get when you accomplish something that was a challenge!

#6 Intrinsic Motivation:

One of the easiest ways to fail at something is to do it because someone else wants you to. Working out is no different. You have to want it for yourself. Now hopefully after taking all of the steps provided up to this point, you will want to be doing this for yourself because you believe and have confidence in it! However, I still want to take the time to acknowledge the importance of intrinsic motivation and make everyone aware of its power to help us succeed.

Basically what intrinsic motivation means, is that you internalize your goal or want and believe in it. Your own desire to reach that goal is what motivates you to keep reaching for it. The opposite of this is external motivation, which is external factors like a coach, teammate, friend, or trainer pushing you to do something. While external motivators may lead you to short term success by encouragement and support through reward and punishment, in the long run you are more likely to fail. This is because when you don’t internalize something you end up not buying into it. This leads to less motivation to do well, and results in failure to reach goals. In order for you to succeed you have to be able to motivate yourself and that means buying into what you are participating in. When it comes to the gym you have to want to be there and be healthy or else you won’t have a positive experience and won’t be committed to becoming a healthier version of yourself. As I mentioned, the rest of the tips I’ve covered are all intended to target this type of motivation. By using the keys provided we want to try trigger that intrinsic motivation in you and get you to want to become more fit for yourself. We’ll be there to help you stay motivated, but we want to be sure you believe in yourself first and foremost!

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