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.

The “I Don’t Feel Like It” Syndrome

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about all the reasons why people don’t work out. I know I covered the Napoleon complex in another post, but that’s just one of many reasons. While there are many people out there who suffer from the issues of the Napoleon complex, there are even more who didn’t even get that far…they don’t try to start working out in the first place (hence why I didn’t even call this “why workouts fail”…we didn’t get to the workout yet!). But WHY?

The short answer is – It requires work, involves change, and people just don’t feel like it. Why do we need to when everything is more or less handed to us and made easy? The average American eats what they feel like when they feel like it (and if cooking is required, it can usually be microwaved). They watch a lot of tv, relax on the couch, and don’t do a whole lot of physical activity (unless required at their job). Yeah, there’s yard work or some light home / car maintenance to do, but once in a while, or in short bursts of a couple days – nothing regular and routine. They go out for drinks when they feel like it or come up with reasons to have a drink or two (or three) almost every night at home “because it was a rough day”. Maybe they’re carrying a little extra weight. So what? All in all, life is good. Nothing stellar, but it’s not awful.We have achieved mediocrity. Mediocrity is easy.

So…why change that?

Because, honestly…getting fit, eating right and making a change requires work. And this isn’t just any kind of work – we’re talking a complete lifestyle change. That kind of work is hard. People would have to give up or severely limit some of their favorite things – use free time they’d otherwise spend watching the 100+ hours of DVR’d T.V. shows they have to, instead, work out and sweat balls.

All manner of excuses come up at this point – on the surface they’re all invalid and complete BS as far as I’m concerned. I won’t bother listing them all, but suffice it to say – “I don’t have time” is not nearly the most creative one. People will come up with any reason to get people off their case about working out, and if that doesn’t work, they’ll either use humor or get hostile until you leave them alone. I was like that for a long time. There are just so many things that can demotivate a person, and they got me.

So how do you change that? How do you convince that person to start working out or get healthy?

Generally…you can’t.

I know…not the revelation you were hoping for. Problem is, these people can’t just be forced to do it. It’s a big change, and they have to want it. There’s way too much effort, change and plain ol’ work involved in something like this for it to work without SOME level of personal stake being in it. You can try to drag them into a workout with you, and they might go with it reluctantly…for a while. In the end, it just won’t maintain. They’ll complain and find reasons why not…and the first time you don’t work out with them, they just won’t do it. Why? Too many people are perfectly satisfied – or at the very least, able to accept – mediocrity.

This is the part where something has to happen within them.

I talk about what happened for me in My Story – and boy was it bad – but it’s going to be different for everyone. In the end, something has to happen – some kind of personal revelation or big change – to make them want it. The best you can do is keep making it appear as appealing as you can, lead by example. When they’re ready, it’ll make the whole thing much less intimidating. Many times these people will be hesitant to recant and join you since they’ve been so adamantly, sometimes vocally opposed to this whole process – they can’t just admit they were wrong and join you (what a blow to the ego!). So be there and be available. When the time is right, they’ll come to you. It takes something different for each individual person, but when the right motivation hits, they’ll finally want it.

On that note – I’m gonna go for a run before I work all day. What are YOU gonna do?

Why Workouts Fail #1 – The Napoleon Complex

Napoleon Bonaparte

So I got to thinking about why workouts fail – ultimately, why people don’t work out. I was one of those guys for a long LONG time. I just…didn’t work out. I’d go to the gym with my Delta Chi brothers and do…kind of a workout. In the end I’d only go a couple of times a month. I’d try going on my own since there was a gym conveniently close to my dorm…didn’t stick with it. Obviously there’s a LOT of reasons people don’t work out. Many of these reasons are completely lame and not an excuse…but some are actually pretty justifiable. My workout for today got me thinking about this…and about one reason in particular – the Napoleon complex.

That’s him, right at the top of this post – Napoleon Bonaparte. I linked to Wikipedia for those of you who weren’t in school that day, but the short version is, he was short and didn’t like it. Wikipedia sums it up nicely:

(A Napoleon complex) is characterized by overly-aggressive or domineering social behaviour, and carries the implication that such behaviour is compensatory for the subjects’ stature. The term is also used more generally to describe people who are driven by a perceived handicap to overcompensate in other aspects of their lives.

 See that part I made bold? There’s the workout problem right there. I think nearly every time I’ve gone to the gym I’ve seen other people working out, and I feel like as soon as I start putting weight on the bar I’m going to be judged. And I sit there, with what I feel like is dinky weight, feeling like everyone’s looking at me like…

Seriously, Bro. Do you even lift?

At that point many people just kinda…leave.

“Whoops! I forgot about an appointment!”

“Crap! I totally midjudged my time, I’m late for work!”

However, it is at precisely this moment that people like me do something stupid. Because it is at precisely this moment that Joey Howyadoin shows up like he’s God’s gift to lifting and goes

“Hey Bro, you need a spot?”

OF COURSE! Because that was just my warm-up set. Let’s crank this up! Aaaaand on goes the weight. Next thing you know I’m putting myself in a really bad position where best case scenario I embarrass the ever-loving bejeezus out of myself and worst case I end up hurting myself. Why? Because everyone else in the place looks like they’re lifting this:

Over 1000 lbs on a barbell

and there I am with my two marshmallows on a straw. So the Napoleon complex kicks in and I try to go hard. Whoops…guess I’m not showing my face in the gym for…ever. It’s ok…my pals Mr. Couch, Tony the T.V. and Chester the Cheetah (Cheetos, anyone?) will comfort my ailing ego.

So what’s the moral of the story?

Don’t worry about what everyone else in the gym is doing. Don’t worry about that guy benching 400 lbs like its boring. Don’t worry about the people on Facebook posting pics of their one-handed handstand when all you seem to manage is somersaults. Worry about YOU. Because at the end of the day, what they did doesn’t matter in YOUR fitness world, and their mind-bending workout isn’t what’s building muscle on YOU. Or burning fat off YOUR body (even though watching them might make you feel worn out). Don’t be afraid to start with (what you think is) light weight. Don’t be afraid to take it easy the first time you do something. It’s good to feel out your abilities and test the water. If you do it right this will not be the last time you do this workout. You will have the chance to up your weights next time…when you have a better idea of what’s ACTUALLY a good idea.

During every dvd at-home workout program I do, the coach/leader/whatever basically says this same thing in different ways, but I think Tony Horton (creator of P90X) said it best:

Do your best and forget the rest!

The “Music While Running” Controversy

So here’s something I wish I had heard before I started running. Silly me, I just ASSUMED that you could listen to music while you run. How foolish of me! Apparently there’s a big controversy in the running world about listening to music while you run. Many people argue that you shouldn’t, that it will interfere with your run, that its better to listen to nature and whatnot…some even go so far as to say that it’s dangerous (in the case of road running or urban running). Others (the camp I have fallen into) say that running while listening to music can help improve the quality of your run and help make it a more enjoyable experience. There is nothing I love more when I’m on a run than a power song coming on and feeling a surge of energy hit my stride (Chelsea Dagger – The Fratellis is a PERFECT example).

That said, I COMPLETELY understand why the “Anti-Tunes” camp believes what they do, and THIS is the part I wish I had been told before I started: the wrong music can COMPLETELY ruin your run.

When I started running I, enjoying music and having a large music library, had a number of playlists. I picked one, I put it on shuffle, and off I went down the street. THAT was my mistake. The playlist I picked was a lot of The Offspring (No Brakes, Walla Walla, etc) and other fast-paced tracks. I could not for the life of me run to that music. Something just wasn’t right. I ended up going slower, my strides shorter…I couldn’t sync up with the beat. After long enough trying to deal with that, I figured it out. CRACKED THE CODE!

You have to pick songs that have the right BPM (beats per minute) for the pace you’re running (or trying to run).

That’s about how I felt when I finally figured it out. (img from fanpop)

Well, with that bit of genius finally unlocked I sifted through over 14,000 songs (between my own music library and outside suggestions) to put together a playlist. First I had to figure out that I ran about a 9:00 to 9:30 /mi pace and I’d like to shoot for 8. As far as I was concerned, anything just below 8 all the way up to 9:30 pace for music was fine, so I searched. There are a TON of google results for “Top running songs” “best running songs”, etc. I took ideas from many of these sites, but I will be so bold as to say…there CAN’T be one perfect running playlist. That would imply that everyone runs the same, or that there is one standard of “perfect” in running world…if there’s one thing I love about fitness its that there’s never perfect, its the journey and the evolution that’s important.

Better, not perfect.

Aside from everyone out there with a blog that thinks they’ve figured out the definitive list of the best songs for running, there are other resources too, like Jog.fm. That site gives you a TON of song suggestions listed with (and sortable by) BPM/time (it matches up BPM with what pace that gives you). GREAT resource!

While I did figure out a great playlist, it is not “THE BEST”. Your playlist will need to evolve over time just like your run does. I have cut a bunch of songs from the list…some I wanted to be able to run to and they just weren’t right, some I liked and then fell out of love with, and some I can’t run to anymore because they’re too slow. I threw Blurred Lines (Robin Thicke) on my playlist and I really want to run to it, but I have a feeling its going to end up cut.

That said, here’s my current playlist (current because I have no doubt I’ll edit it soon). DISCLAIMER: Just because I’d run to it doesn’t necessarily mean I’d listen to it in real life.

The Trouble With Leg Day

So as I sit here, waiting for the basement workout space to free up, I’m reflecting that in less than a month I’m supposed to be running the Falmouth Road Race, the big race I’ve been working up to since March when I first started running, and I can only go for training runs about one day a week. Why? Leg Day. That’s why.

See, the trouble with Leg Day is…it’s deceptive. During, its miserable – stumbling to my water bottle after putting the weights down. After, my legs are Jell-O as I try to ascend Mt. Everest to take a shower. But after that…I’m fine! I feel great. Why not go for a run?

Then tomorrow happens.

Because you’re not going to be all that sore ON Leg Day. No, no. Tomorrow you’ll be sore. After you thought it was a good idea to add in a run, too. I have made this mistake, and I have learned.

Why is Leg Day so damn awful?

Just like any other workout, you’re not REALLY gonna feel it until the next day. So why does it ache SO much when you get there?

Leg Day seems to require the most recovery time of any workout I’ve done – not just strength training, but workouts period. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say its because they don’t get to rest unless you sit. Think about it – every day for 16 (or more) hours a day your legs cart you all over creation. Even when you’re not going anywhere, they’re still holding you up. But once a week, when that just wasn’t enough, we pound on them even harder in the spirit of fitness. During sets, they’re on fire. Between sets, they’re still on fire as you stumble to get water and write down your weights. It’s a relentless pounding. I usually have to wait until the second or even third day after a serious Leg Day workout to be able to go on a run. I’m sure there’s a more scientific “factual” answer, but…I did say I’m not a professional, right?

The trouble with Leg Day is…its frickin’ hard! That’s probably why so many people don’t do leg day, or don’t do it right. It’s also easy to hurt your back or knees on Leg Day (but that’s a topic for another blog post).

When all is said and done, the trouble with Leg Day is it’s a lot of hard work that knocks out your legs for a couple days. Nevertheless…

****UPDATE 7/18/13 1:35 pm****
A fitness friend tipped me off that apparently the whole “it doesn’t hurt till tomorrow” thing is a legitimate condition called Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness.

http://saveyourself.ca/articles/delayed-onset-muscle-soreness.php

 See, we’re learning together!