Elizabeth Kovar by Elizabeth Kovar

It's a New Year, which is the time for new beginnings. Every New Year, clients commit to becoming healthier and making lifestyle changes. Some do this with good intentions, hoping to make permanent changes, while others simply want to lose the extra weight they gained over the holidays.  

With so much focus on diet and exercise, many clients forget about their mindset, which makes or breaks their fitness efforts. Initiating a fitness journey can be tough. But with the right mindset, clients can achieve their fitness goals as their path unfolds. 

Of course, becoming mentally fit takes time. Many clients have to overcome adversity, which in turn strengthens the mind. Those who strengthen their mindset enhance their overall outlook on life, from belief systems to self-efficacy. Like the Buddha says, "The mind is everything. What you think, you become."

Here are five ways to help your clients start the New Year with a healthier mindset.

Understand the Journey

A journey, or a chapter in one's life, takes time, patience and perseverance. Fitness is similar to the stock market. There are minute gains and losses that occur on an overall path of progression.

In a society that strives for perfection, clients need to accept that their journey will not be perfect. Bumps in the road may seem like barriers to success, but altering a fitness program to accommodate life’s challenges still places them on the path to reaching their goals. Clients who accept that challenges will occur are more prone to handle the situation with a sound, instead of a chaotic, mindset. 

Set Realistic Expectations and Small Goals

Mindsets strengthen naturally when people set realistic goals around their lifestyles. Many mistakenly believe that being healthy takes an overwhelming amount of time. That’s why it’s so important that clients specifically define what they want out of their fitness journey, which will have a huge impact on the time and effort required. For example, feeling good requires different time commitments than something like body building or competitive sports. Whereas one can feel good from a combination of brisk walks, deep breathing and moderate exercise, body building or competitive sports typically require a strict diet and exercise regimen.

Ask your clients: How realistic are your fitness goals? How much time can you dedicate to fitness alongside your work, family and personal life?   

For example, a client who struggles with obesity may have an overall goal of running a marathon, but realistically it may take two or more years to achieve that goal. Taking small steps and progressions contribute to the overall goal, while being mindful and realistic regarding what is possible in the present moment. For this client, the first goal could be to dedicate time to exercising or simply showing up to the gym. Focusing on small goals allows clients to reevaluate their priorities throughout their journey. 

Write in a Journal

Journals are an underrated, yet powerful tool. Journaling allows people to express themselves without judgment. After some time, clients can look back and see how far they’ve come on their journey. Benefits include:

• Reduces stress—getting thoughts down on paper helps us stop ruminating on them
• Increases self-understanding—regular writing "shows" us what makes us happy and what doesn’t
• Helps individuals resolve problems internally—writing allows us to see the connections that we make with negative health behaviors.
• Provides a record of significant achievements—whether it's losing weight or deadlifting 100 pounds, journals help us recognize and celebrate important events
• Uncovers important questions and brings awareness to thoughts and feelings. For example, "I like working out and feeling energized, but sometimes I exercise three times per day and I find myself sore and tired. Sometimes I wonder, is this really healthy?" Sometimes we need to "see" something in order for our minds to process it consciously.

Surround Yourself With Positive Messages

We cannot live a life without discouragement or negative thoughts. Staying positive during tough times is important. An effective way to strengthen one’s mindset is to feed the mind with positive quotes or motivational messages. Positivity should not simply be about "wearing rose-colored glasses," but used to help us through a difficult time.

Where can you and your clients find positive messages?

There are many Instagram and Facebook accounts that revolve around sharing inspirational quotes and thoughts. The ACE Instagram feed, for example, features plenty of motivational messages to inspire both health and fitness professionals and their clients. 

In addition to journaling, writing one quote per day trains the mind to overcome adversity and achieve anything you set you mind on. Not into writing? No problem. There are plenty of Youtube channels that promote inspirational messages. 

Change Your Perception

Many clients struggle with exercise because they focus on what they have not achieved instead of praising their current successes. Focusing on the negative is common because it’s easy, and many people acquire a "glass half empty" perspective.

Changing perspective takes time, practice and awareness. With greater awareness, we are more likely to "catch" our negative thoughts. A client may say, for example, “Ugh. I still have 50 pounds to lose.” Clearly, the client is worrying about the future, rather than acknowledging the progress that has been made. Help your clients focus their thoughts on how much they've accomplished in the past that got them to their present moment. For this client, the thought can be redirected as, "Ugh. I still have 50 pounds to lose, but I’ve already lost 20 and learned how to read nutrition labels and now know how to cook healthier." 

The body is nothing without the mind and the mind is nothing without the body. When both work in unison, amazing things can happen. 

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