5 Signs your Fitness Mindset is Holding you Back

Do you ever find yourself wondering why other women seem to be more successful than you at reaching their health and fitness goals?


Why your best friend can enjoy wine and dessert without ever gaining a pound, while you diligently stick to your lunchtime salad and can’t lose one? Why the woman on the spin bike next to you hardly breaks a sweat during a steep climb, while you’re barely keeping up and there’s a lake under your bike at the end of class? How the woman who’s always in the squat rack at the gym never seems to miss a day of training, while you struggle week after week with consistency?

Chances are your mindset is holding you back. Those unspoken beliefs about yourself, your abilities and your capacity for change.

Wondering if your head is hampering your progress?

Here are 5 signs your fitness mindset is holding you back:
  1. You’re resistant to trying a new approach, even when the old approach isn’t working (what’s that quote about the definition of insanity?)
  2. You use limitations as excuses (time, energy, equipment, injury…)
  3. You have unrealistic expectations and are quick to judge yourself
  4. You’re threatened by other women’s successes
  5. You’ve been convinced by the media that weight loss and muscle gain are easy (lose 10 pounds in a week!)

In my experience, women who make consistent progress towards their health and fitness goals share a few key attitudes;

  • They focus on change and growth, rather than restriction and limitation. Exercise isn’t viewed as simply a way of cutting calories. Food isn’t ‘good’ or ‘bad‘, just a way to fuel your body to perform well and feel good. If the old approach to eating and exercise stops working (as it often does for women in their 40’s), they’re open to exploring new solutions. They see change as potential, not something that threatens and scares them.
  • They concentrate on what they can do, rather than what they can’t. Limitations can either stop you cold or force you to work around them. Whether you’re working through a knee injury, don’t have much time for exercise or are travelling and don’t have access to your regular workout equipment and foods, focusing on the things you have control over and letting go of those you don’t is key to feeling good about the process.
  • They aren’t threatened by the success of other women. Success isn’t a zero-sum game. Just because your girlfriend can squat 100 pounds doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to some day as well. Her victory doesn’t come at the expense of yours. Celebrate the successes of other women and use them as motivation and inspiration rather than letting them trigger thoughts of inadequacy and failure.
  • They don’t expect it to be easy and aren’t afraid of hard work. The biggest myth perpetuated by the fitness and weight loss industry is that results are yours for the taking. ’21 days to a bikini body’, ‘drop 2 dress sizes in a month’, ‘lose 10 pounds in a week’ headlines trick us into thinking that our goals can be met quickly and without very much effort. Expect the work to be challenging, but rewarding. Both during the process and ideally, for the rest of your life.

Remember, you already know everything you need to do to successfully reach your health and fitness goals. Don’t let your fitness mindset hold you back!

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  1. So very true!! I think I have recently broken through my mindset barriers – especially by finally giving up what was no longer working. I am focusing on strength training with shorter, interval cardio after. I feel stronger already! I’m consciously only giving myself positive feedback and cutting the negative self talk. Thank you Tamara for your dedication to helping women over 40 with our fitness goals. Realizing that our bodies are literally reacting differently than they were just a few years ago has been so eye opening!

    • That’s fantastic Kathy! I truly think that mindset change is the hardest part of it all. For me, getting to the gym and committing to eating better is much easier 🙂

  2. Such a great post! Comparison is usually such a waste of energy – it’s important to really take a look at what’s going on in our own minds and bodies in order for us to look and feel OUR best!
    Ruthie@She’sWickedHealthy recently posted…Friday Favorites – It’s Feeling Like Fall!My Profile

  3. Hi Tamara! It’s so true that what we tell ourselves influences what we do. I recently wrote a blog post about “decluttering negative thoughts” because I had this thought I was not a runner since I was a child. I’m proud to say I finished a 10 mile run last year. Thanks for these tips!
    Angela @ Setting My Intention recently posted…GPS for the Soul: Suggestions from One Harried Mother to AnotherMy Profile

  4. An insightful list, especially point #1. As for me, I am waiting for that magic pill. ….. Still waiting…… Dang, that’s what a magazine promised.
    kymberlyfunfit recently posted…Menopause, Weight Gain, and Weight Loss: GrrrrrMy Profile

  5. Thank you for articulating these principles that I may have had halfway swimming around my head. Seeing them set out so clearly helps me hold on to them. I am pretty dedicated to fitness, but sometimes I lose focus or lose motivation. I like your upbeat, no-nonsense approach!
    Karen Austin recently posted…World Thrombosis Day 2015My Profile

  6. As usual, Tamara, you hit the nail on the head–or on the mindset. This is such a good sister post to the one you wrote earlier on the subject from a different perspective. Having some awareness about what holds us back as well as what propels us forward seems like a winning combo to me! A good read for sure.
    Meg Root recently posted…How to Live Well: Lessons from Inspiring SurvivorsMy Profile

  7. Great post Tamara! But wait, it isn’t easy…darn it 🙂 Especially love #1. The good vs bad food leads to binging for me. It is and always has been my downfall. Instead I can say, I am going to enjoy this treat. it is not bad just an option I am exercising right now 🙂
    Stephanie Robbins recently posted…AdSense Makes Me Cry: Here Are Three Reasons WhyMy Profile

  8. This has truly been a Weight Loss Journey. I’m definitely #1 and part of number 3-judgement. I have always been a health and fitness person. I used to run 3-4 miles 2-3 times a week, I was also s gym rat, I taught group exercise at my church. And trust me it was not an easy routine. I challenged the participants. And taught dance on sat at church as well. Soooo, life happened,. Now during this time I would deprive myself of indulgences and if I did have cheesecake I ran/jog 4 miles to make myself feel better. For the most part exercise became a stressor. I knew if I did not keep up with diet and exercise I would literally blow up. What I have learned about myself is, when it come to eating. I’m extreme. If I start to indulge, it’s a never ending cycle. I have such a difficult time pulling the reigns. I would rather just not endulge. And when I do spiral out of control, years ago I would just work it off. Now I’m a bit older joints, knees, hips, are not as forgiving.
    So after all the foundation I laid to be on the straight and narrow, it all went to the moon. Once again life happened. I became depressed and I had just about enough self suppression I could take. I ate, and ate ate ate, initially of course I gained but it was not bad at all because the weight looked good on me, still toned going to the gym. I gave up. Let go. At my fittest I was 115 pounds with 19% body fat. At my biggest I was 182 pounds. So it has truly been a weight loss journey. I still get very angry with myself for allowing this to happen to myself. I know my genetic make up is one of hips and thighs. I knew the difficulties of losing weight as we aged. I counseled many many people on health diet and exercise. And here one of the very things I feared the most came to pass. So here Iam now trying hard to live a life of moderation Everything in moderation. Well I don’t think that rule applies to me and my body. I have done so much research. Different schools of thought on how to lose weight. I have been on this journey for three years maybe four. I lost a lot of weight then gained some back. I got tired of ….. Can’t eat this. Can’t eat that, better options are…… Around the time I started again I was 172 pounds. I went to a local weight loss clinic for appetite surpressents. Well, I didn’t feel right taking it. By this time I had gotten down to 165. I stopped taking the pills. Wanted to do it the old fashioned way. One school of thought. The 80 20 rule. Weight loss is 80% what you eat and 20% exercise. Boy was that depressing. Anyway I’m between 153 and 156. I’m having a Very difficult time moving from this weight. I do strength training, aerobics, HIIT (hi intensity interval training). I walk/jog, mixing it up. I have gone from 3 pound weights to 8 and 10 pound weights. I know I will not be a size 2. But for a 5 foot frame a 4-6 sounds like a good size at 120 – 125 pounds. I’m tired. Do I go crazy with eating, yes I do but I don’t slack off with exercise. My binges are limited to Friday, sometimes sat and depending on what the family is doing, may not eat so healthy the weekend. This behavior does stop on Monday. This is not consistent behavior either. In terms of my cheat day or days. I push through. My goal is to take 5000 steps a day everyday, with or without exercise. My time frame for exercise can be 20 to 70 mins depending on how I’m feeling muscle fatigue etc. oh yoga and Pilates. Not sure what else I can tweak, give up. Start doing. I’m not even sure anyone can give me a response that I had not known or know. I feel trapped in this body. Iam healthy blood work is great. I’m just tired of trying to think about….. How to lose this 30 or so pounds and maintain

    • Natalie, it sounds like you’ve tried a lot of different approaches. I wonder if you’re just not sticking with one long enough to see results. I understand how frustrating it can be when we work hard and don’t get the results we’re hoping for. I’d strongly suggest that you hire a local personal trainer with a nutrition background. Sounds like you’d benefit from a hands-on approach! ~ Tamara

  9. I have a problem with #2. NO energy! I am going through perimenopausal right and I get fatigued (it’s really been since Jan of this year). I eat 95% clean eating (sometimes I eat a pizza or ice cream or chips-like once a week), take my vitamins, drink 64-70oz water/day. I do workout (I am doing P90X3 right now) 4-6 days a week depending on my fatigue. My goal is 6 days, but when that fatigue sets in I need to take a nap so I don’t get but 3-4 days/week for exercise. I am 45 (almost 46) and I know it’s early for me (according to my Dr) to get perimenopausal — I am definitely not embracing it. I feel like my triceps have gotten flabby because of it too because I don’t have the strength due to the low energy. Maybe it is a mindset? I don’t know… Anyway, thank you for the blog. 🙂

    • Chris, 46 is definitely not early for peri-menopause. Some women start experiencing hormonal fluctuations as early as 40. Unless you get your hormones tested, you won’t know.

      I can’t say for sure, because I don’t know the specifics of your workouts and workout intensity, but it is possible that you’re actually doing too much? I’ve found that I need more rest between workouts now than even 5 years ago. When you say that you don’t have the strength to lift heavy due to low energy, that suggests to me that your muscles aren’t getting enough time to recover and repair between workouts. Just something to think about…