One of the biggest reasons people go to the gym is to feel better about themselves. And in the pursuit of building self-esteem, we tear ourselves down by trying to “keep up with the Jones”. It seems we can’t but help compare every little thing about ourselves to all the others at the gym. It’s so easy to brutally criticize ourselves in comparison and leave the gym feeling as if being physically fit is pretty much impossible. How can we go to the gym and avoid being intimidated by those in better shape?
Stop the Critical Self Talk
First, we need to stop cutting ourselves down! Most of us wouldn’t dream of saying those same words to another person. This can be a hard thing to admit…that we say cruel things to ourselves. We are our own biggest enemies here, and if we don’t make a decent effort to change those thoughts, it’s going to be hard to feel good about ourselves.
Think about it…what would you do if your best friend said those things about herself? Now apply that to yourself. Those nasty words will try again and again to worm back into your head. Be stubborn, you can beat them! Start saying positive, affirmative things to yourself instead, and eventually a new habit will take hold.
Think of Exercise as Practice
If you wanted to learn to play the piano, you would have to practice! This applies to getting in shape as well. Prepare yourself for some challenging work at the gym. Expect it to be hard work. Exercise is meant to tax the body. Bring a towel for all the sweat and a water bottle to keep up your hydration. Block out time in your calendar to regularly practice exercise at least a couple times a week for 30-60 minutes a session.
Take a Break
Now that you are working hard practicing exercise, take a short break. ‘No pain, no gain’ is true … to a point. If you don’t let your body slow down and recover, you are adding more stress to your body. (The more stress we experience, the faster we age. Don’t go to the gym only to age quickly!)
Taking breaks to catch your breath or rest those burning muscles teaches your body how to calm down and let go of stress. Don’t be afraid to push a little and sweat. Get tired out, then slow down for a minute or two, and then sweat some more!
Plenty to Go Around
It’s tempting to look at people who are in great physical shape and to feel intimidated. Seeing people excel in areas we want to excel can easily lead to jealously. Feeling jealous comes from the fear that there isn’t enough talent or ability to go around.
We see someone run easily for an hour on the treadmill and feel as if they were born with ‘too much’ running ability, and now we won’t be able to run like that. Or posing next to the human pretzel in yoga class, it’s easy to tell ourselves we’ll never be able to have flexibility like that.
But that’s what we call “stinking thinking.” It’s up to each of us to change our thoughts. If we keep reminding ourselves that there is enough to go around, we can believe it. There is enough for each of us. So, work on squashing those negative thoughts and practice sweating/resting.
Who knows, maybe you will find someone admiring your athletic ability!
*Previously published April 2012.