We’ve all been there during a workout: You’re breathing heavy. Your heart is pounding. You’re sweating, your muscles are burning, you’re maybe feeling a little unsure of yourself…and pretty soon, you start hearing this little voice in your head, saying something like this: You look ridiculous. You can’t do this. Why are you even trying? S/he’s so much better than you. You don’t have to try so much. Go ahead, ease up. Just give up. It’s too hard. Insert “blah-blah-blah” hand motion here.
The thing is, none of this stuff is necessarily true. You are what you believe, and your thoughts become your reality. Why then, is it so damn easy to believe this internal self-saboteur that we all have swarming around in our heads?
Why You Talk Yourself Down–And How To Deal With It
People, like most living things, tend to seek out the path of least resistance. When things get difficult–whether in the gym or in life–we tend to brace ourselves for the worst, avoid conflict, avoid strain, and avoid uncharted territory. Of course, this may have protected our ancient ancestors out on the plains, but in our modern age, it’s generally safe (and actually important) to do things that scare us.
So, in order to deal with this funny little mental hitch we all have, it’s helpful to have a few cognitive tricks in our back pocket. But before we get into it, we should mention an important disclaimer:
There’s a big big difference between pushing through something physically challenging and pushing through something when you really should back off. That saying “no pain, no gain” isn’t always true–at least when the pain is actual physical pain that signifies potential injury. You know your body, and you know what that kind of pain feels like. If you’re experiencing it, consider that warning voice in your head as a friend. In other words: don’t hurt yourself. It’s not worth it.
You May Also Like: Uncomfortable at the Gym? 5 Simple Tips to Ease Back Into Working Out
3 Ways To Overcome Your Negative Internal Self-Talk During A Workout
The following 3 tips are helpful for overcoming negative self-talk in any situation in life. We’ll use the specific example of working out because that’s such a common place where people come face-to-face with this self-destructive thought pattern. After all, holding yourself back during a workout may limit your potential to achieve your goals, whether they be for performance, aesthetics, or health.
Of course, it’s not about making the negative voice go away. Having this “voice” is part of human nature. Besides, most psychologists and philosophers will tell you that the more you try to resist something, the more it will persist.
Instead, we would all be wise to learn how to ignore that negative voice during our workouts. Here are a few ways to do this:
1) First, Recognize the Voice
In order to overcome something, you first have to be aware of it. During your next few workouts, pay attention to the thoughts going on in your head. Don’t judge them, simply notice them. You may even want to jot some of these thoughts down on paper after the fact. Seeing your subconscious words written out in front of you may help you realize just how silly and baseless they actually are. Through acknowledgment, we can simply allow these thoughts to be, without letting them maintain such a strong hold on our psyche. Think of them like mental hiccups: annoying, sure, but they don’t have the power to hurt us.
2) Keep a Favorite Mantra on Repeat
Repeatedly telling yourself something encouraging (in your head or out loud) while you’re working out can be a great way to stay focused and quieten that noisy little bugger telling you you can’t do something. These are some of our favorites: “It’s meant to be hard.” “I got this.” “I love this.” “Breathe.” “Just do it.” Yes, that last one is a slogan–but gosh darn is it a good one. For an extra punch of positivity, try to actually smile during the hardest part of your workout–research shows that turning your frown upside down can actually make you feel better.
3) Reflect on Your Goals Often
Knowing and getting excited about your reason for doing something (let’s call it your “why”) makes it a lot easier to stay disciplined when you actually go about doing it (let’s call it your “how”). Create a vision board, write down your goals on a piece of paper, and take a few moments before and after every workout to remind yourself “why” you’re kicking your own bum in the gym day in and day out. It’ll help you stay tough when you need it most.
Got a favorite trick or tip on beating back that voice in your head? Let us know about it in the comments below!