If you want to stay motivated and strong on your fitness journey – avoid this mental trap that tends to cause discouragement and throwing in the towel
A few months ago, I went to Ledges State Park with Amanda and some friends.
It’s one of the few places in Iowa that gives you the illusion that you are in mountainous terrain like Colorado (or Missouri at the least).
We hiked down a canyon road where streams typically flow over the road. Since it was winter they were frozen over. The ice was slick so we skated our way across to reach our hiking trail (which overlooked a spectacular, unobstructed view of the Des Moines River since it was February).
On the way back, it had warmed up so much that these “ice crossings” were starting to melt and even opened up to the stream below in some places. At first, we slowly stepped on the ice expecting it to be slick but it wasn’t. So we strolled across the slushy ice without a hitch.
Reflecting on this little hike made me realize a few lessons about the fitness journey… something that can make it less daunting… yet allow you to get back on your feet and moving again. Whether you are trying to lose weight or put on lean muscle mass or just overall become healthier.
#1: Beware of “ice crossings” along the way.
On your fitness journey there will be “ice crossings” - sections that really push you, potentially slow you down and test you. And they often arrive when you least expect them. Sometimes when you first start. Sometimes midway through your journey. And sometimes right before the home-stretch. Sometimes they are physical challenges, other times they are more mental. But you will cross them at some point during your fitness journey. (And if you don’t, then chances are you didn’t set a big enough goal.)
What’s interesting is how unpredictable they are. Sometimes the hardest workouts are not necessarily the ones where you did the most weight... the most repetitions… or the most miles.
Sometimes the hardest workouts are at smaller milestones.
For example, when I trained for a 5-minute plank I found the hardest days were not doing a 4 or 5 minute plank. They were doing 3-3:30 minute planks. For whatever reason, those milestones were much more challenging for me. But once I broke through them though, I shot up to a whole new level of core strength.
This brings me to my second realization:
#2: Just because an “ice crossing” was difficult to cross before, doesn’t mean it will be the next time.
Meaning: Just because your first workout kicked your butt and you were sore for days, doesn’t mean the next one will.
Just because the first week of your new diet had you brain-fogged or craving junk food, doesn’t mean the next week will.
Just because losing the last 10lbs was brutal, doesn’t mean the next 10 will.
Why? I’m glad you asked.
For one, you have more experience. You know what to expect. You have more distinctions with how to navigate the “terrain”. You may even have a better map (strategies to help you eat better and exercise more). Plus, conditions may have changed. You may be in a different place. You may be stronger, more conditioned or mentally stronger so it might not be bad at all.
In fact, you may surprise yourself when you have the resolve to work past these “ice crossings”.
It may not be easy, but it’s certainly not impossible. You may think your nutrition plan or your upcoming workout is going to be hard. And it might be – but it might not be nearly as hard as you are making it out to be. Because sometimes our imagination makes it far worse. So we get intimidated and don’t do anything at all.
“The scariest, most terrifying thing that I fear? Yes. My imagination.”- Stephen King
Keep showing up.
Know that some days will be harder than others. But you will develop the physical and mental fortitude to continue along the way. And be willing to play full out each day because you never know when you will have that breakthrough.
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