Exercise – The Most Important Thing: Mindset

Every year, we write our new year resolutions. For many of us, exercise is near the top. But if we look back to previous years, how many times has that happened? Sure, you wrote down like run a 5K or lose 20lb. You’re all fired up, join a gym, do some workouts, post them on Facebook… then what happens? Things just fizzle out as other things crowd exercise out of your Life and Facebook.


Einstein defined insanity, as doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. So this year, let’s heed his wisdom. Let’s take a different approach. Let’s not worry about exercises, programmes,  equipment, shoes. Let’s talk about the real key that helps people make real, lasting changes. The MINDSET.



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I’ve worked with clients and patients for over 20 years, as both a physiotherapist and personal trainer, and I learnt something early on: STARTING exercise is actually very easy for most people! These days, personal training is more affordable and so much information is freely available on the internet. Even home equipment doesn’t have to be bulky or expensive, which removes one reason people avoided them in the past.


But to SUSTAIN it… that’s the trick. The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, but the initial step is easy! It’s continuing those steps that’s tough! Because outside of exercise, there’s LIFE, and with it comes the challenges of work, business, family, relationships, the environment, even the weather. To handle that, your MINDSET’s the most important thing. Without it, you can have the best exercise programme, personal trainer, equipment… and as soon as obstacle pops up, exercise goes out the window!


And that’s really why I moved into coaching six years ago. Because I realized to facilitate the kinds of changes I wanted for my clients and loved ones, it’s not just the how-to on eating and exercising. That information is easy to obtain and frequently direct clients to several read sources so we don’t waste precious time on that. What I now use is a holistic approach that considers each individual situation. Then using the appropriate tools and techniques for each person, we create the right context for success. Here are four ideas that will help you shape your mindset for that success.


Idea 1: Aim to Build Habits

As I’m writing this article, I just Googled “How to lose weight with exercise”. I got 221,000,000 hits.  That’s 221 million results to sieve through, and you’re going to get a lot of chaff with the wheat. That’s tough to wade through, and with so many different opinions, ideas, and manifestos telling you different things, all sounding good, it’s tough trying them all.


Here’s the trick. Pick just 1-2 ideas that have a good backing (you’ll have to do some research, read/ watch reviews, or feel free to write in for my opinion). Then, do them consistently until they become automatic habits like brushing your teeth. Only THEN do you add something else.  If you try to do it all, you’ll be overwhelmed, and you won’t sustain it. You wouldn’t master any of it, and neither will you have enough experience of it to know if it works or not before you moved on to something else.


A concept I teach when I coach guys on relationships is “fall in love slowly”. That applies surprisingly well here! When you start a new Lifestyle, you’re in a sense creating a new relationship with yourself. So nurture and integrate it slowly, and don’t create sudden shocks into your Life.


Idea 2: Take Small Steps to a Big Goal and Measure Success Against Your  Baseline

If you’re over 35, and you haven’t exercised for over ten years, don’t go crazy and kill yourself trying to run a four minute mile or bench press 500lb! You need to break in slowly or you will get broken.

Here’s how: Aim for a small, measurable improvement in some aspect.

Maybe aim to add just 2 minutes to your jog or just 1kg to your bench press every week. Don’t worry where other people are at. Just keep elevating your OWN baselines.

As you improve, your goals will evolve. So when you lose 5 pounds, you set a goal for the next 5. You achieve a 3k run, you set a goal for 3.5k. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a BIG goal though. I find if you aim too low, it’s not motivating enough to act on. Nobody is going to get fired up on a goal to lose just 5lb, but 50lb… now that is a motivating figure! Just don’t fixate immediately on that 50lb or that 10k!

If you keep at it, you won’t believe what you’ll accomplish in a year. Incidentally, this applies to all areas of Life.


Idea 3: Plan for Obstacles

Here’s the truth. We’re all working, running a business, have families, and other commitments. Something WILL come up!

It’s not a matter of IF, it’s a matter of WHEN.

Recognize that, then identify common obstacles YOU’LL encounter. The easy part is, if you’ve tried to start exercise before, you know from history, what they are. Have a plan for each setback BEFORE it happens.


Remember, you don’t have to take care of 100% of all contingencies. Just take care of enough obstacles so you can do 70% of your action steps and you’ll already get further than if you did 0% because you didn’t plan ahead.

For example, if you often didn’t have time to go to the gym because something always came up, include short walks throughout the day as part of your exercise plan.  If you know you’ll get bored in the gym eventually, choose something exciting, like games, or a Muay Thai class. If family obligations often arose, plan physical activity for the family.

Another thing is, if you miss a workout, DON’T get into defeatist mode and miss more workouts! Don’t say “I’ve messed up the programme now, what’s the point?” Just make your goal getting back on it as soon as possible!  As the saying goes, fall down seven times, get up eight.


Idea 4: Know Your Why

Now, this one is the biggie. WHY exercise in the first place?

There are of course health reasons to exercise. For example, your doctor might tell you your blood pressure or cholesterol levels are high, or that you’re in danger of getting diabetes or a heart attack.

BUT… Do these numbers or situations actually MEAN anything to you… RIGHT NOW?

Are they YOUR reasons to exercise?

Do they fire you up and make you enthusiastic or excited about it?

What if you had no joint pain, don’t care that you can’t run, and have never fallen or had a heart attack before?

See, to start anything challenging, you must have YOUR reasons. They need to be REAL for you to actually want to start AND continue. Otherwise, you’ll fizzle out. I’ve seen that happen with many people. They start exercise for OTHER people’s reasons. Or try to use extrinsic motivators like money, or some other reward. Because they weren’t INNATELY motivated, they couldn’t sustain it.

So you’ve GOT TO find YOUR powerful reason to exercise, YOUR compelling vision for what you’re working towards.

Maybe you recently injured your knee, and while you were undergoing physio, it was debilitating and frightening, and now you want to preserve the highest level of function you can.

Maybe you just got divorced, or broke up, and you realise you’re out of shape, and you want to look more attractive to get back into the dating game.

Maybe you just had a newborn baby, and you look into her eyes, and you realise you want to live to see her get married and have that wedding dance with her.

Now any of these might seem strange or superficial to someone else, but WHO CARES. They’re real for YOU. And if that’s what sustains you for exercise or ANY other positive change, that’s all you need. And that’s what you hold onto when things get tough.


So, invest in thinking through these four ideas, and find your own answers to 2, 3 and 4.

Idea 1: Take small slow steps

Idea 2: Set realistic goals and measure success against your own baseline

Idea 3: Prepare for obstacles

Idea 4: Identify YOUR personal why for exercise

Reaffirm these four things at the start of each day, and it will prime you for what you need to do that day. Whether it’s go to the gym, or prepare your next two meals, you’ll move forward bit by bit.

Let’s make THIS the year you start and sustain exercise, because that is part of a healthy lifestyle, and that in turn is one key foundation for a fulfilling Life. Ultimately, that’s what we want isn’t it? A Life full of happiness, rich experiences, and unlimited possibility. It starts with cultivating the right mindset. And next year, starting exercise won’t be another repeated new year resolution!

If you do that, you’ll hit the ground running when we look at how to quickstart your exercise program next!



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