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Starting a New Health & Fitness Program -- Part 1: Mindset Matters

You want to start a new exercise or nutrition program to improve your health and fitness. But getting a new plan to stick is so difficult. Experts agree the best way to begin making sustainable changes is to start with your mindset.

I'm Ready to Go. Sort of...

You've been Googling fitness programs and food plans for ages. You've watched every YouTube video on perfect form, and even practiced a few smooth moves in the bathroom mirror. You hit the mall without mercy, leaving an impressive trail of receipts from Lululemon, Foot Locker, and Whole Foods in your wake. You then scoped out a health coach or trainer, and published your heart-felt goals via sharpie etched Post-Its prominently displayed on the refrigerator. So, what keeps stopping you from sticking to your program?

Perhaps some of these thoughts from the back of your brain sound familiar to you:

  • NO TIME: "I’m too busy with..." [work], [the kids], [school], [fill in your own, overwhelming obligation: here]. You can't imagine adding the commitment of exercise to your already burdened schedule.

  • STALLING: "I'll get started as soon as... [things slow down with ___ ], [I don't feel so tired], [I catch up with ___ ], [fill in your own long-standing, currently unachieved goal: here]. You feel you need to wait for the perfect time to start in order to succeed.

  • LACK OF CONFIDENCE / PAST FAILURE: "Exercise programs never work for me. Why bother trying again?" "I have no will power. I can't control my eating." You've been disappointed before... maybe even in yourself... and might wonder if you are even capable of improving your fitness and nutrition.

In actuality, all of these obstacles, originate from one cause: Your mindset.

What is a Mindset?

The concept gets carelessly tossed around a lot these days. But what is it, exactly, and how can it be leveraged for success in starting a new challenge or circumstance, such as a new exercise or nutrition program?

In short, mindset is a way of thinking. It is a mental inclination or disposition, or a frame of mind.

Your mindset is your own collection of thoughts and beliefs that affect how you think, what you feel, and what you do. Your mindset impacts how you make sense of the world, and how you make sense of you. Your mindset is a kind of a big deal.

The intentional practice of shifting mindset helps people conquer addiction, depression, anxiety, and a myriad of other debilitating conditions. It can also help us conquer our fears and doubts about beginning and staying committed to new challenges, such as fitness and nutrition programs.

How Ready Are You to Make a Change?

Readiness to start a new program is much less about practical logistics, but rather, mindset. Before you take action, consider your mindset. For example (in starting an exercise program):

  • Are you excited by the idea of working out?

  • Does the thought make you feel overwhelmed?

  • Do you feel frustrated when you considering it?

  • Do you think you need to work out out of guilt or to please someone else?

  • Do you feel like you can't wait to start tomorrow, or would you rather think about anything else but a start date?

Take Inventory of Your Mindset

Take five minutes to write down your thoughts and feeling about exercising. Don't overthink or analyze things -- Try a stream of consciousness, free-write approach instead.

Be careful not to edit yourself unnecessarily. Your mindset is based on deeply rooted beliefs about yourself that may seem unimportant, but play a leading role in your future behavior. We all tell ourselves "stories" about ourselves that shape our actions, and can be a hinderance to new successes.

For example, you may discover that you think you’re smart but not athletic, or healthy but physically weak. Inner sound bites such as these may seem like harmless self-criticisms. However, over time, they can turn into limiting, behavior-shaping "facts" about who you believe you are, whether they are actually true or not..


Once you are aware of the stories you're telling yourself, the obstacles preventing you from successfully adopting a new program become easier to resolve. With the guidance of a Health Coach or with focused practice on your own, you can change the stories you tell yourself — and, ultimately, change your actions and life.

So, How Do I Change My "Stories" and Mindset?

Now that you've taken an honest inventory and know where your head is at, it's important to understand the stages of how people change their behavior.

Read tomorrow's article: Starting a New Health & Fitness Program -- Part 2: The Phases of Change to learn more.

~Dolores Harrell, CHC, CPT, CN, TES

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