“I’ve never been able to.”
“I’ve always been weak.”
“I doubt I can.”
“It’s too heavy.”
“I’m too old.”
How often do you say these things to yourself? Even if you aren’t trying to be negative, when you say these things you defeat yourself before you even try.
When I first started working with a trainer, I used to say these things to him. He’d very quickly call me on them and say in a gentle but firm voice, showing his confidence in me:
“Don’t defeat yourself before you start.”
Soon, we had eliminated any negative self-talk from my workouts. I learned the importance of believing I COULD do something rather than thinking I couldn’t.
What you say to yourself matters so much!
Things Women Say About Themselves
Here are some common things I hear women say. Think about how many of these things you say to yourself:
“My upper body is so weak.”
“I’ve never been able to do push ups.”
“I’ve never been coordinated/athletic.”
“I’m so fat.” (Sometimes they’ll say it jokingly, other times they won’t want to look in the mirror.)
“I hate these rolls.”
“I’ve got fat legs/calves/lots of cellulite.”
It breaks my heart because I hear women talk about themselves in this way every day.
3 Ways To Overcome Negative Self Talk
1. Check and stop yourself
The first thing you’ve got to do is listen for it. You might be surprised at how often you talk poorly about yourself and your abilities. That’s ok. But it’s time to change things.
Negative self talk can ruin your efforts at the gym. And chances are pretty good the gym isn’t the only place you think negative things about yourself.
If you can start changing the way you talk about yourself at the gym, it will translate into other areas of your life. Stop creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, or at least start creating a better one.
2. Bring focus to your workout
Negative self talk often comes from a place of worrying about what others think about us. You don’t want to look foolish if you can’t do something.
But the gym is all about pushing your limits. You can’t push your limits and change your body if you don’t try things that will challenge you.
Here’s how to bring focus to your training:
1. Before an exercise, mentally block out the rest of the gym. You can do this with some good music and by only looking at the weights/bar you are about to lift.
2. Pause for a moment and visualize yourself doing as many reps as you want. Most women aim too low so set a slightly scary goal. If you only think you can do 8 reps, think to yourself “I’m going to smash out 10 reps.”
3. Then smash out those reps with lots of energy. View it as a challenge. Stay focused on the muscle you are trying to work during your set.
3. Create a new story
When I was younger, I felt like I wasn’t very good at sports. I knew the “athletic” girls in school but I wasn’t one of them. I hated gym class, fitness tests and most sports we played growing up. I dreaded playing volleyball and basketball most of all.
I also knew that my brother was the “athletic” one in the family. I wasn’t coordinated, couldn’t catch a ball, and couldn’t do the long or the high jump no matter how much I practiced. I loved being on the ice – figure skating was my sport – but it wasn’t enough to counteract all the negative experiences I had around other sports and the low self esteem I had as a result.
By the time I hit my 20s I would have told you “I’m not athletic”, “My upper body has never been strong”, etc. I loved going to the gym but I never would have thought that I was athletic in anyway.
But then one day it all changed for me. This was probably somewhere around my early 30s. One day in the gym someone said to me “You are so athletic.”
And I realized – I actually must appear athletic to other people. My body had changed and I was really strong. I could rock out a set of pull ups, do a one arm push up and I actually looked like an athlete. My story had changed.
The point of all this is that you can change your story too.
If you’ve “always had a weak upper body” it’s probably because you haven’t trained properly and consistently. Not because of some genetic defect that you’ll never be able to change. Not because you are a girl.
You can get stronger, fitter and more athletic. Regardless of your age and any other limitations you put on yourself. Just change your story.
The Takeaway Message
Pay attention to the things you say when you are working out. Try to catch any negative self talk and change it to something that will help you generate the positive energy that should be powering your workout.
For example, “My upper body is so weak” could become “I’m getting stronger everyday.” Instead of worrying about how heavy the weight is, visualize yourself smashing out 10 reps.
Just because you’ve never been athletic, strong, or coordinated doesn’t mean that’s your destiny. Change your story.
And remember, how your talk to yourself matters so much. Don’t defeat yourself before you start.