Defeating Demotivators #1 – The Fear Monster

In the spirit of “Motivational Monday” I want to take a moment to touch on something I was talking about with a fitness friend at work over the last couple of days. It’s actually a loose end I need to tie up from the last couple of articles I wrote. In The “I Don’t Feel Like It” Syndrome I talked about people who just won’t get off the couch, can’t/won’t get motivated to work out in the first place, and never take that all-important first step. In Why Workouts Fail #1 – The Napoleon Complex (my favorite article so far) I talk about people who take the leap, try going to the gym or working out and run into a big issue that drives them away.

Ok…what about the people in the middle?

The people who aren’t entirely opposed to working out, but haven’t taken that step yet? Who haven’t braved the gym, the home-gym, the pavement, trail, pool, whatever? Or tried and gave up? If these people aren’t against it…and they might have some motivation to do it…why haven’t they gotten to it yet?

Fear. Fear can stop the most powerful locomotive in its tracks. Fear is, I think, one of the biggest demotivators out there. Fear of what, though? Fear of failing. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of embarassment. Fear of disappointing yourself or others. Fear of doing it wrong. Fear of the unknown.

Fear can be one of the toughest demotivators to beat. Especially if someone doesn’t have friends or family around them who are “into” fitness. Unfortunately, unless those people have a big life-altering event or a breaking point like I had (see My Story) that fear can be so paralyzing and show-stopping that they just never leave the safety of “not trying”. I would go so far as to say that over time, those people can start to suffer from The “I Don’t Feel Like It” Syndrome, forgetting the curiosity or motivation they had in the first place and losing it entirely to fear. It’s tough to get past the fear when you’re on your own little island and there’s noone around to help you ease into fitness. If you ARE a fitness type, be on the lookout for these people. How do you tell who these people are, though?

For one, they’re not already a fitness freak. They don’t work out, they probably don’t eat “right” (but might try to or make half-efforts), and for all intents and purposes they closely resemble the people suffering from The “I Don’t Feel Like It” Syndrome in all areas except their attitude towards fitness.
Though, I will say, that doesn’t necessarily mean they haven’t, at some point, attempted to do it on their own. Remember that part where Joey Howyadoin shows up and offers a spot (IDFLI Syndrome)? Where I’d say “Yeah, that was just a warm-up set, let’s DO this!”, someone suffering from this demotivator would probably say “Actually, that was my last set, I’m all wrapped up. Thanks though!” while they’re thinking sweet Lord, get me OUT of here! 

Aaaand that was probably the last time they set foot in anything resembling a gym.

The biggest tell, though, is that they’re curious. They’ll poke their head in while you’re working out. They’ll ask you questions about your workout for the day or the program you’re doing. They’ll make little comments that could be a conversation starter. In some form or fashion, they come to you. This is very important – as mentioned before…you just can’t force someone to get fit…they have to want it…and if they’re curious, any traumatic workout attempt they might have had in the past is far enough out of their memory that now they’re open to it.

So how do I help this person defeat the demotivator?

GENTLY. First off, yes – they’re open to it, and that’s incredibly important, but don’t forget…the demotivator we’re trying to beat is FEAR. I feel silly saying it but please don’t forget that you can…well…scare them away if you’re too aggressive. I know, seems obvious, right? What you might think is easy beans might be momentously challenging for them, so keep that in mind as you try to help them, and think of super-easy ways to ease them in.

Considering that they either have never worked out before or tried something and got scared away you might need to help them figure out what exactly works best for them.  

PRO-TIP: Something is better than nothing.

You might be a little disappointed when they seem like they’re trying something that doesn’t, to you, seem like a “real” workout – but again…what YOU think is easy and a waste of time might be super-challenging for them. ***Go at their pace*** There is no faster way to lose them to the fear than to go beyond their comfort zone. Too fast too soon is a recipe for disaster. I did this exact process with my mom – I started by working out and setting the example. She saw my transformation as it was happening and was there as my story was unfolding, so she was proud of me and wanted to see how I was doing it. I eased her in with Tony Horton’s 10 Minute Trainer. Literally 10 minute workouts. Over time, she started working in Cardio X from P90X (a 40 minute relatively easy cardio routine), and not too long after that she took on P90X in its entirety and was talking about doing Les Mills COMBAT with me and my fiancee. For your fitness-fearing friend or family member it may be running that does it for them – start with walking. It may be biking – start with a couple miles. Whatever it is (and I can’t say it enough) ease them into it.

This may be a slow process. STICK WITH IT!

What’s going to be SUPER IMPORTANT with these people is to keep them surrounded by positive images, encouragement and support. If they’re fighting against fear, its not going to be easy for them, and they’re going to need continued support until they finally break past the wall and get confident. It could very well be the case that not only do they need a cheerleader on the sidelines, but they need a teammate right there next to them on gameday. If they need a workout partner…be that partner or maybe find one for them. My fiancee was side by side with me throughout four workout programs and 103 lbs – it DEFINITELY helps. Everyone has something that will help them break through the fear barrier – whatever it is, help them find it and make sure they understand that there’s nothing in their way.

At the end of the day it will all be worth it. Don’t worry – given time and support, they can and will get there.