Conquer Your Fitness Fears and Overcome Them for Success


They say you attract more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. I take this notion to heart in my own fitness journey. My personal belief is that no great things in life can be brought to you through motivations of fear or hate. Instead, love, joy and pleasure are the fuel that gives you the unlimited power to create the fit body of your dreams. Unfortunately, our fitness culture is very much based upon notions of fear and distrust. Don’t just take my word for it. Look at any book, website, program or even fitness class and you’ll see many undertones of fear. Diet books talk about how certain foods are poison or how eating a certain way is a terrible thing to do. Exercise books detail how certain exercises will ruin your body or prevent you from reaching your goals. Even many personal trainers will coach and give movement queues centered on how to avoid injury or to avoid doing something wrong.

All of these tactics create a fitness culture that’s centered on negativity and fearful practices. It almost comes to the point where getting in shape isn’t about doing anything right but rather avoiding doing something wrong. The fear-based strategies would be fine if everyone could agree on the best diet and exercise methods. But as we all know, talking nutrition at a cocktail party can be just as risky as discussing politics or religion. There is so much conflicting information on what is good and what is bad within our fitness culture and this conflict sends out a constant message of negativity and fear. No matter what options you select, someone is telling you that there’s something wrong with it.

In the marketing world, we learn that people are more motivated by the avoidance of fear than the pursuit of pleasure. This may be true, but it’s creating a paralysis of doubt within the minds of many who wish to be fit. If everyone can point at any method and say that it’s bad, for one reason or another, then what are we to turn to? What methods should we take refuge in? Where can we go to find the pleasure rather than merely avoid the pain?

I believe the solution is to embrace diet and exercise strategies because of the positive qualities they bring into our lives. If a method is void of positive aspects and merely avoids negative ones then it’s not an optimal method. Not to get too metaphysical, but I really do believe that the universe brings good things to those who act from a positive place rather than a negative one. It’s like positive thoughts create and build while negative ones destroy and break down. Here’s an example that might bring this idea more down to earth. Think of a time when you were head over heals in love. It may just be a time when you had a crush on someone. Love and joy are very positive and powerful emotions and as such they probably motivated you to do things you would normally have found difficult. You may have stayed up all night talking on the phone with that person or spent your very last dollar to have dinner with them. No matter what hoops you had to jump through you did so with an abundance of energy and motivation.

fear-love-heartNow let’s compare that to a relationship that may have had some fear or negativity in it. An example might be calling the doctor when you were sick or needing to discuss an issue with a coworker who you didn’t get along with. In that case, just picking up the phone or spending 3 minutes with that person would be a significant challenge. And even when you did engage in the activity it was more of a relief to get it over and done with than anything. This is a prime example of how positive feelings and emotions can give us far more motivation than negative ones.

Another thing to consider is the longevity of any activity that’s done from a positive place rather than a negative one. When we practice something from a negative emotion we will do it as little as possible. What’s more, we will seek to find a way to no longer require that action to alleviate the discomfort and the negativity. Someone dropping out of school or quitting the gym may be a good example. In addition, once the fear is gone so is the scrap of motivation that held us to our actions.

Joy, on the other hand, lends itself to longevity and consistent action. When you find something you love to do, you’ll actively seek ways to do more of it. You’ll also try to maintain your ability to keep up the practice.

If a road block comes up, you’ll find a way around it. Nothing will stop you for the simple reason that you’ll pursue that which you love. You could look at it from a glass half empty sort of perspective. Are you running away from something, or are you running towards something? Are you being chased or are you the one doing the chasing?

Pursuing health and fitness is a heck of a lot different from avoiding illness and weakness. It’s not too difficult to flip from negative to positive fitness motivations. Here are a few tricks I used to turn my own motivational tide.

Tip #1 – Know That You Have Options
Fear based diet and exercise practices will tell you that their theory is the best and not only should you follow their advice, but you’ll be screwed if you don’t. Joy based practices recognize that their method is just one of many options out there. Kind of like a single item on an ever-expanding menu.

Very few fitness objectives have mandatory diet and exercise habits. Almost everything is optional and has at least some wiggle room. You don’t have to give up cookies to stay lean. You don’t have to do yoga for flexibility. You don’t need to run long distances to build endurance. You don’t have to do deadlifts to build a strong back. Getting in shape is like climbing up a mountain. There are many different paths and they all lead to the top.

Tip #2 – Pick The Options You Enjoy Doing For The Sake of Doing Them
Having a goal is important, but I don’t recommend relying on your goal to supply endless motivation. We’re often told that fitness is a journey and not a destination. If that’s the case then you are probably better off basing your actions on the positive aspect you feel towards the methods you use rather than just the goal you’re trying to reach.

I recommend you listen to your own motivational tendencies. Both your conscious and subconscious are geared towards building motivation to do the activities that will bring you what you want. If your motivation is lacking towards something, there’s a good reason why. If you are drawn towards a certain type of diet or exercise method, that’s a good sign that you’ll find many positive results through using it.

Tip #3 – Have Fun
Fun and enjoyment are as essential towards your fitness success as food and water. No matter what scare tactics you come across, your own fun and enjoyment far out weigh the importance of the latest research or studies. If a new study tells you how evil a specific food is, but you experience nothing but good things from eating it, then by all means keep eating it. Remember, people have used fear to manipulate others since the dawn of time. Some fear is good. After all, it’s the reason why we buy insurance and buckle our seat belt. But when it comes to living your best life and building your best body, your diet and exercise methods are best to be based upon good feelings and enjoyment instead of fear. At the end of the day, excitement and joy build a heck of a lot more motivation than fear and regret.

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About Author

Matt Schifferle

My name is Matt Schifferle and I'm an A.C.E. Certified Personal Trainer, CrossFit Level 1 coach, underground strength coach and I'm a 5th degree black belt in Taekwon-Do. I specialize in outdoor and playground based underground and CrossFit style bootcamps. See my profile page for more information!

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