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The initial jolt of motivation that pushes us to begin a journey of fitness is exciting, positive, and uplifting. When we start, we’re feeling on top of the world, inspired, and invincible because we haven’t yet encountered obstacles, setbacks, or challenges that attempt to off-road our plans to build new habits, a new lifestyle, or a new body. What I don’t think we always take into account when we start is how mental this journey really is – even more so than physical. Our minds will always give up before our bodies do. In order to understand this, we need to understand what’s going on in our mind and how it works.

There are two minds within us: The conscious mind and the subconscious mind. The conscious mind is fully developed around puberty and is active when you are active. It’s the one we’re using immediately upon opening our eyes in the morning. It’s the one taking over to solve problems, decide what we’re wearing every day, help make our breakfast in the morning, and obsess over all the stuff we have to get done daily.

The subconscious mind, however, is fully functional from the moment we’re born and never sleeps. It doesn’t filter information, it just absorbs it. It is responsible for emotions, our instincts, and non-analytical reactions to things. It gathers all information it is fed from the moment we’re an infant, and it doesn’t care whether it’s true or not or whether it’s what we personally believe or not. This fed information often becomes our beliefs. A lot of information we’ve gathered as children is fed to us before our conscious mind has had a fair opportunity to play. Because of this, our conscious mind sometimes has a really hard time breaking the barriers of our subconscious mind’s long-held information.

So how does this relate to a journey in fitness? If you’re struggling to develop a lifestyle in fitness because you end up quitting upon the first sign of discomfort related to exercise, food, criticism from others, self-doubt, or other fears seeping in, then it’s time to take a look at what could be going on in your subconscious mind and what’s buried in there.

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Possible scenarios:

  • Maybe you were overweight as a child and were made fun of by your peers for it.
  • Maybe you had an abusive parent and that impacted the way you feel about your body.
  • Maybe you were really tall and athletic and were made fun of for that body type because it made you different, so now striving to be athletic feels uncomfortable.
  • Maybe you grew up in a home where fit and healthy wasn’t taught and wasn’t a priority.
  • Maybe you associate weight loss with pain and discomfort.
  • Maybe you struggled with an eating disorder growing up or closely know someone who has.
  • Maybe you’ve simply witnessed a friend or family member go on diet after diet after diet.
  • Maybe you associate fitness strictly with losing weight – not longevity, energy, or quality of life, because somewhere along the way that’s what you learned.

As soon as we encounter an obstacle that triggers an emotional response or belief in our subconscious, that part of our mind – although it’s not consciously in control – will do whatever it can to stop you from moving beyond your comfort zone. Then our conscious mind, to protect itself from discomfort or pain, will rationalize and create excuses that relate directly to what’s going on in our subconscious mind. A lot of times, when we’re not aware of or prepared for this, our subconscious wins. Boo, right?! Who really wants the bad guy to win?! The good news is you can turn your “bad guy” subconscious into a “good guy” subconscious through training and awareness.

Just follow these 5 steps:

  1. Write down all the negative and fearful thoughts and beliefs that begin to crowd your head when you begin thinking about your goals for health and fitness.
  2. Determine their true worth. Do they really have any power or carry any weight? Be as objective as you can. If you need to, ask a close friend or family member to help you think through it.
  3. Write down the truth. Determine your true beliefs and affirmations – the ones you want to replace the fearful or negative ones with.
  4. Brainstorm all the possible circumstances or scenarios you might encounter that may trigger these negative thoughts and fears.
  5. Create a positive plan of action for when these circumstances present themselves, so you’ve got a solid set-in-stone plan for moving in the direction of your goals. This will help you physically learn to break through those negative fears and beliefs through action.

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Repeat these steps as often as you need to and review them on a weekly basis. I even suggest taking it a step further by getting yourself a journal and daily writing out your top 10 goals for the week followed by your top 10 affirmations every morning. This will boost your ability to replace your self-limiting beliefs and start your day out on a positive note leading to healthier choices throughout the day – and ultimately, to the achievement of your goals and a continuously healthy lifestyle.

This is a guest post written by Tanya Thurnau. To hear more from Tanya check out her site The Sneaker Junkie, check in with her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram!