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In my nearly nine years of service in the health and fitness industry I have noticed a common thread among those starting a fitness program for the first time or the first time in a long time.    I have seen many people start gleaming with hope, enthusiasm, anxiousness, and even fanaticism.  I have also seen some of those same people crash and burn in as little as 3 weeks into their program.  As a point of clarification this is not always the rule.  There are many people that start with that kind of zeal and they continue to maintain it for a very long time.  But for those of you that have not found this kind of success, the common self-defeating thread that I am referring to is a negative state of mind.  It is your mental readiness for exercise. It is the excuses that you make. It is your self-perceptions and confidence to name a few.  In short it is all the mental barriers that you create and manifest as your reality.

Today I want to speak to those of you who have started an exercise program enthusiastically (or heck…maybe even hesitantly) only to crash and burn later.   We are going to talk about making excuses in particular. I want to speak to you as if you were here in my office right now getting ready to undertake a new lifestyle.  You are hiring me as a Lifestyle coach and Personal Trainer to help you along the way. The rest of this article will reflect that point of view.  For the sake of simplicity I want you to pretend that your name is John and that I am having a conversation with you about your desires to start a new exercise/nutrition program.  We will also see how it pans out in the first 3 weeks.

John:  I am so excited to get started on this program!

Trainer: I am excited for you as well.  John tells me what your main goal is in starting this fitness program?

John:  I just want to change my lifestyle.  I am a white-collar worker who is behind a desk all day and I eat too much junk food.  I have a family and I find myself taking them out to eat too often.  I find myself making bad food decisions because I am so busy.  Heck, my life is so busy sometimes I find myself eating just as a means of dealing with stress.

Trainer:  Ok, so you have a busy and stressful lifestyle and you want to change that right?

John:  Yes.

Trainer: Why?

John: Because I want to get back into shape and have more energy for the things that I enjoy doing!

Trainer:  That’s awesome…so what are you willing to do for that kind of lifestyle?  Are you willing to set aside one hour  of time per day to exercise, track your food and bring it to me, and hold yourself accountable to not only yourself but to me as well?

John: Of course that is why I am here!

Trainer: OK, then let’s get started

The trainer then proceeds to write down John’s goals and commits him by contract to follow the prescribed exercise and nutrition program.  The following conversation is held 3 weeks later in the same office as a follow-up visit concerning Johns exercise program.

Trainer:  Looking at my records it looks like you have only exercised about 25% of what I prescribed for you John?  It also looks like you have turned in 4 days of the last 3 weeks in nutrition food logs?  What seems to be the problem John?

John: I am so sorry about that.  I have had the best of intentions in getting this program started properly but I have found myself in a whirlwind at work and my family has been involved in a community service project for my son’s Eagle Scout. When I get a spare moment I just can’t seem to muster up the motivation to exercise!

The sad part about this scenario is that I see this pattern being repeated over and over again.  When John comes to meet with his trainer in 3 more weeks, if he actively hasn’t tried to change his priorities  the chances for a successful report are dismal.  People like John are always convinced that they are too busy to exercise and that too many important things keep popping up.

The truth of the matter is that exercise has not become a priority to John YET…that is the ROOT of the problem.  As excited as John initially was, it was not enough to carry him out of his habitual daily routine.  As each day passes the motivation grew dimmer and dimmer and his hopes started to go down the drain. John sunk right back into his comfortable unhealthy and physically unproductive lifestyle.

Today I wanted to paint a picture of what your life may currently be like.  You may share some things in common with John and don’t know how to deal with those barriers.  In the next few weeks I want to share some strategies that you can use to overcome the excuses and barriers that stand between you and your fitness goals.  Next week I will begin to talk about shifting paradigms.  The way you see yourself (in shape/ out of shape/ capable non-capable) and the confidence that you have to succeed in a fitness endeavor almost completely DETERMINES WHETHER YOU WILL SUCCEED OR FAIL!  It is that important.  Stay tuned.

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