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Walking into a busy gym can be intimidating, especially if you’re a newbie. Struggling through a fast-paced exercise class or trying to make heads or tails out of the multitude of machines, pulleys and other seemingly torturous exercise devices can put the kibosh on morale and make it less likely you’ll continue working out.
Before you become a fitness casualty, take a deep breath and redirect these common, self-defeating thoughts.
1. "Everyone's more fit than me."
It’s hard to feel confident when you first start working out in a new gym, but comparing yourself to others and feeling like you fall short only increases your stress, says Elizabeth Lombardo, author of "Better than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love."
“This thought can lead to giving up,” she said. "Instead, think of yourself as an inspiration story just waiting to happen."
What’s more impressive: Someone who is easily fit or someone who loses the weight and transforms his or her body?
2. “I can’t do this.”
Keep thinking you can’t do something and eventually you will prove yourself right, said Lombardo.
“Drop the perfectionistic, all-or-nothing thinking and simply accept yourself for where you are," she said.
Using a new machine or even getting into a workout routine may seem awkward to you at first, but when you stick with it, it becomes less awkward and more automatic, said Lombardo.
Also, you get to prove yourself wrong. A study from the University of New Hampshire shows it may help to think about a time in the past when you felt motivated to exercise and you’re more likely to find motivation in the present time.
3. “Look at that body! She has it so easy.”
Every gym has its share of super-fit people who’ve worked out for years. Comparing yourself to someone who’s been training for a long time when you’re just getting started is not a fair assessment of where you may think you should be.
“Most likely, she has just been at this longer that you,” said Lombardo. “Feeling resentful can cause you to give up, so use others’ bodies as a motivating force for you."
Think: "If I keep at this, I can have a fit body, too," said Lombardo.
4. "I feel like everyone is looking at me.”
Whether it’s yoga, Zumba or Soul Cycle, everyone started off from the bottom, learning the moves and trying to keep up. That learning curve takes time.
“Being overly self-conscious like that will actually keep you from performing the moves as effectively,” said Lombardo. “Sure, you are focusing on every move you make, but guess what — everyone else is also focused on themselves, too.”
Ignore the crowd and stay centered on your own moves.
5. “I’ll just copy that woman; she looks good.”
It can be tempting to mimic another person’s workout when they look great. But just because someone looks fit doesn’t necessarily mean they know what they’re doing, according to fitness expert Tom Holland, author of "Swim, Bike, Run – Eat."
Even if you do the same workout, your fitness mileage may vary. "Genetics plays a role, too,” said Holland.
To find what’s best for you, look for a qualified trainer who can design a workout based on your goals and body type.
6. “I can never achieve the body I want.”
Many high-intensity workouts like P90X and CrossFit make it seem as if you can only achieve a fit body by following extreme workouts. Wrong.
“You can make huge changes to your body with small, consistent adjustments in your lifestyle, such as walking during your lunch hour instead of sitting at your desk,” said Holland.
One extreme workout a week may do more harm than good, actually, as you’re likely to become injured.
“Opt for some easy days and some hard days, not one killer workout a week,” said Holland.
7. “I’ll just zone out and watch TV while I work out.”
Many studies show that listening to music while doing cardio is shown to make your workout feel easier. But multitasking by watching TV while lifting weights — and not focusing on your exercises — takes away from your effort and results, said Holland.
“To get maximum benefit you have to concentrate on what you’re working," he said. "You should focus on feeling the muscle with each repetition as well as keep each rep slow and controlled.”
8. “Cardio bores me to tears.”
Walking or running on a treadmill or doing any repetitive type of cardio can become a big yawn fest. Shake it up by doing different things.
“There are so many different ways to make it fun,” said Holland.
Instead of doing your entire workout on the same piece of equipment, for example, try 15 or 20 minutes on the elliptical, then go to a stationary bike and include a treadmill or even Versaclimber or rowing machine. Holland also suggests switching up the time of day you work out or trying a new approach: outdoors if you usually run indoors or go to a different gym.
9. “When will I see results? I haven’t lost a pound.”
Working out solely to lose weight can be discouraging. A large percentage of weight loss depends on how many daily calories you consume.
“Even so, results don’t happen quickly, yet you’ll get so many other benefits that don’t show up as weight loss," said Holland. "You’ll sleep better, have more energy and feel sharper at work.”
When combined with lifestyle and dietary changes (e.g. cutting back on fast food), give yourself at least three months of regular workouts before you look for substantial results.
10. “I hate exercise!"
Ideally, the best way to stop hating exercise is to find an activity or sport you love to do or like to do. If either of those is not possible, find something you mind the least and do that for a short period of time — even five or 10 minutes, said Lorie Parch, founder of ih8exercise.com.
“Breaking down exercise into small, doable chunks this way can help prevent the feeling of overwhelm," said Parch. "Since hating exercise is something that many people have felt for many years, it can sometimes help to go back to a time before moving your body felt like a chore, or even painful.”
Looking at earlier enjoyable activities may provide clues to what you may like today.