Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Positive and Negative Associations

Oftentimes the thing standing in the way of many people and their fitness goals is themselves. People often come prepared with bullshit excuses about why they can't do something that you're going to ask them to do.

One of the things I saw most commonly during my time as a personal trainer is that people would come in to the gym with pre-determined associations to exercise and food. People would associate exercise negatively (It's going to hurt; I hate it; You're going to crush me; etc.) and associate positively with food (I need that cheese to survive; Carbs make me happy; I love food so much; etc.). I'm going to be making the argument here that this "positive" association with food is indeed a negative thing. 

People would often come in for their free personal training session with me expecting to get crushed and leave the gym on their hands and knees. This is never how I operated, and it bugged me that people would assume that. However, I can understand this train of thought given the history of the personal training profession and the "celebrities" of the industry like Jillian Michaels and Tony Horton running around screaming their fool heads off. 

This negative view of exercise immediately impacts people and does it for the long term. When someone has mentally committed to the fact that exercise hurts and they don't like it, it takes quite a bit of work to get them to see it a different way. Honestly, it's ok to not LOVE working out and training as soon as you start doing it (nobody is saying that you have to), but actively disliking it for no good reason is going to work in complete opposition to your goals. 

The best way to combat that is by working with a personal trainer who understands you and the road blocks that are standing in your way. You don't need someone to coddle you, but you need someone who understands that these mental blocks aren't something you can just turn off. The right trainer for you is the one who is going to progress you slowly in terms of exercise selection as well as volume and intensity. Getting smoked in your first workout is the surest way to cement the fact that you actually hate training.

The food situation is significantly more difficult to deal with. Cultures have long associated food with love (Hello Chinese and Italian grandmothers!) and this is a thought process that still exists. Being physically attached to food is possible but rare, but being mentally attached to food is quite common and very difficult to break. I've been told dozens of times by people that they feel like they NEED carbs to feel full, or that they DESERVE that bowl of ice cream after a long day of sitting at their desk at work.

These are both things that people tell themselves to get what they want. Carbs don't actually make you feel full at all, if they did I wouldn't be able to eat an entire box of cereal in one sitting (I haven't actually done this yet, but I know I could). And, truthfully, the idea of 'rewarding' yourself with food for a completely average day is a load of bullshit. If you had a day that was that physically and mentally demanding you should be rewarding yourself with a porterhouse steak and a loaded baked potato rather than a pint of Ben and Jerry's. One of those things your body can use to fuel and recover and the other just makes you feel mentally happy.

Getting over the food issue is pretty hard, I'm not going to lie. What has worked for clients of mine in the past is starting slow. Change a few meals per week for several weeks until it feels normal, then change a few more. It doesn't matter how long it takes for you to "change" as long as you feel good about the changes. Too, nobody is telling you that you can't ever have ice cream....ice cream tastes good! Everybody deserves a treat ONCE IN A WHILE. Treats and rewards lose their meaning if you get them on a daily basis.

Changing these things about yourself takes a lot of mental focus and desire, but if you never even try starting you'll never be able to see the results. Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit.