Five bad fitness habits and how to fix them

Three keys black conceptual keyboard - Bad Habits and Good Habits keys with arrow

By Tia Norris, August 2020 Issue.

We all have bad habits — no one is perfect — and it’s normal to not operate at 100% all of the time. But here’s what’s not acceptable: being unwilling to change those bad habits once you’re aware of them.

At least one of the following bad habits will apply to everyone, with regard to how they proceed through their diet and fitness journeys. Take a deep breath, and open your mind and your emotions to the following list and follow the recommended remedies for any that might apply to you.

1. Stop playing “the numbers game” — this includes fixating on a certain weight on the scale, or reaching your goals by a certain date on the calendar, completing your race in a certain time. If you play the numbers game, you’re destined to lose. This may be hard to read, as most people use diet and fitness for goals exactly like these. Unfortunately, there are a myriad of problems with this numbers-driven model. Many people fail to distinguish their own internal self-worth from the achievement of the external measure. Please read that again. If your worthiness largely hinges on achieving a particular number, it will only end in heartbreak. All you can do is your best … and so if you’re not giving your best, start with that. But if you are doing your best and still falling short, then maybe the problem isn’t your effort but instead the problem is your unrealistic, arbitrary standards. Having a good coach in your corner to manage expectations on times, dates, and weights, is always a solid start.

2. Similarly, stop seeing fitness as the means to an end — and instead, see fitness as the end in and of itself.  Everyone in this world needs to find an enjoyable way to move their bodies… period. If you haven’t found one yet and just find fitness “too hard,” then you need to stop being a toddler throwing a tantrum and grow up. Commit to an exercise program that you mostly like, that makes you a better version of yourself, and allows for improvement over time.  Learn to embrace the challenge of it, and embrace how energizing exercise can be. I’ll be direct: learn to like exercise, or accept that you will feel and look and move poorly. It’s that simple.

3. On a related note, stop looking at diet and fitness through rose colored glasses. Is there anything good in your life that you haven’t had to pay the price for? Relationships are hard, and take work — not every day is good. A successful career is hard, and takes work — and not every day is good. See where we’re going with this? A successful diet and fitness program is hard, and you will have bad days and bland meals and little injuries and other obstacles… accept the difficulty as another inescapable reality. Pay your dues, adjust your expectations. It will be hard. You can do hard things. Move forward.

4. Stop taking bad advice without checking sources or thinking critically about it. Almost every magazine that you see at the grocery store checkout is crap. Almost every quick fix pill or cleanse is crap. There is absolutely no easy way, no cheap way, no fast way, to achieve good results in diet and fitness. So, if you accept that as true, that probably rules out 95% of fitness advice out there. Once you sift through the impostors, now start checking sources more vigorously — what are the source’s qualifications, experiences, testimonials, and certifications in the goals that you’re pursuing? Remember, everyone is different and will require a subtly different approach to every single goal. You must do your homework and experiment scientifically to find what works best for you.

5. Stop complaining. You are likely tragically unaware of the power of your words. How many times per day do you complain? Is it a way for you to make conversation with people? Is it a way for you to connect with your friends? Well, wake up: complaining is useless. No one cares about how hard your workout is, how much you don’t want to do it, how bad the weather is, how tired you are, or any of that garbage. Control your attitude. Guard your mindset. Your complaining is contributing literally zero to society, your friends, or yourself. Choose your words carefully and bring your energy up; life is hard enough without that extra negativity.

The long story short is, it’s hard. It’s hard to transcend perfectionism, it’s hard to learn a new skill, it’s hard to do your research instead of just taking easy quick advice, and it’s hard to be intentional with your mindset. But remember, it’s the things that challenge you that ultimately can make you better. Commit yourself to being first aware of your bad habits, and then buckle up to do the work and actually change them.