003. Five Mindset Hacks For Your First Week Of Fitness

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Podcast 003: Five Mindset Hacks For Your First Week of Fitness

It’s almost December, right after Thanksgiving, and a lot of people are feeling fat and depressed. So, maybe you’ve checked out TheoFit or are doing research on which workout program will let you eat the most Ho Ho’s while still promising you’ll get the six pack by Christmas.

If you’re looking into the program here at TheoFit, I recommend going back and giving podcast 002 a listen — there, I walk you through the basic principles of TheoFit, which I believe are the ironclad laws of changing your body and becoming disciplined. If you’re looking for specific workout and diet principles, then just head straight to what I call the CORE SERIES, which is TheoFit’s comprehensive fitness program that anyone from any fitness level can use to radically transform their bodies.

So, if you’ve already done that — or if you already have a specific workout and diet plan chosen and you know exactly what day you’re going to begin, this podcast is for you. Today, we’re going to look at 5 mindset shifts you should have as you embark on your first week of fitness. If you can maintain these little tweaks in the way you interpret the difficulty of changing your lifestyle to become healthier and better looking, you’ll really increase your chances of sticking with it for the long haul. So here they are, the five mindset hacks for your first week of fitness.

1. Don’t Look For Post-Workout Results

It’s really common to look in the mirror after you work out. “Can I see a little bit of ab here? A little muscle there?” It’s tempting to look at yourself after a workout and try to see some results. Partially because you’re in “Health mode,” partially because it’s natural to want to have something to show for your hour of grueling work.

But constantly looking for results from fitness will just make your  whole journey feel much less satisfying, and it will feel like it’s going much more slowly than it should. There are other results you can focus on in the short-term, but the aesthetic goals are not one of them.

In the first week, your mind is the biggest fitness growth you’ll experience. Just try to take every single workout and diet success as a mental win. Celebrate your victories. Even though you can’t see it visually, your first week of compliance will grow your discipline quite a bit. The more compliant you are in this first week, the bigger your willpower muscle will be. 

And, if you are compliant your first week — as in, you’re working out intensely 4-5 days per week, following a program, eating a good amount of protein, and hitting your calorie deficit — you will probably lose 5-10 pounds. But realize that you didn’t lose 5-10 pounds of fat. Your body stores about 5 pounds of sugar inside your muscles so that you can exert energy throughout the day. When you’re in a calorie deficit, your body depletes that surplus that it stores inside the muscle and works right out of the food you eat and the fat in your body. To use a financial metaphor, in your first week, your body uses up all its emergency savings and transitions to living paycheck-to-paycheck.

This is good, because it means your body will be using your bodyfat for energy rather than its sugar surplus in your muscles. But it’s important not to let that set your expectation for following weeks, or even to take it as an indication that you’ve lose 5-10 pounds of fat. You haven’t. You may not have lost any fat, even if you’ve lost 5-10 pounds. But it means that your body is priming itself to get to work on some serious fat loss.

All that to say, don’t focus on results your first week. Even your first month. Focus on other results, like feeling healthier, building discipline, the joy of having a physical routine, the satisfaction of finally being on the right path. The results will come without a doubt. But if you obsess over little physique changes your first week, you risk discouraging yourself and sabotaging your willpower for the rest of the 3 or 4 months you’re aiming to work.

2. Don’t Give Yourself Self-Sabotaging Rewards

What this means is: Don’t erase all your compliance by giving yourself “rewards” at the end of the day or the end of the week. You can undo an entire day of diet and exercise with a single Family Sized candy bar. You can undo an entire week — hours of cardio and dietary compliance — with a single “cheat day.”

Your first week, think of yourself as a puppy who needs to be trained. No indulgences. Your first week, it’s more about learning how to say “No” to yourself in the areas of diet and exercise. You don’t want to get on the treadmill and walk incline for 30 minutes? You’d rather go home? “No,” you say to yourself. You’re getting on the treadmill, and you’re doing it. You want to order a cheeseburger because the rest of the guys are getting fast food? You want a slice of pizza? “No,” you say to yourself. You’re not doing that right now. You’ll eat something healthy, or better, just drink a diet coke or some water.

Don’t tell yourself, “Oh I worked out so hard. I don’t need to do cardio.” OR, “I did so much cardio. I can need a slice of pizza.” You’re just making the whole pricess of getting in shape that many weeks or months longer by having this “indulgence” mindset. Your first week, your compliance is the most important thing you can get down 100%, because you’re learning the skill of saying “No” to yourself.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t reward yourself. Just get yourself rewards that actually push you deeper into your good habits. So maybe if you’re 100% compliant your first week, you get to go buy yourself a nice new workout bag (I use the CalPak Terminator with rolling wheels and IT IS AMAZING). Or you get some nice new Jaybird bluetooth headphones for the gym (I use these). Or buy yourself a good Pre-Workout supplement (I use this one). Or even just some nice new workout clothes that you really like, and that look cool (or a TheoFit membership...). All these things can give you a big mental edge in the gym. These are “indulgences” that push you deeper into the habit. So choose those sorts of rewards for yourself — the kind that help you be better — rather than “rewards” that make being better harder.

3. Respond to Your Failures With Curiosity, Not Frustration

This is really hard, because when you fail at first, it can feel like confirmation that you’ll never get in shape. This little voice in your head says, “See? I told you. You suck. You’ll never get in shape.” And because you don’t know how else to respond to your failure, you take this drill sergeant approach to yourself and just beat yourself up.

But there’s a much better way to respond: Not with self-hatred, but curiosity. Instead of saying, when you fail, “See! Told you, you’re weak.” Say, “Okay, what happened? Why did I fail?”

  • Should I have thrown out those potato chips before I started the diet?

  • Do I need to make sure I take a different route to work that doesn’t go past the McDonald’s?

  • Was the workout a little bit too intense, so that I’m not able to mentally put myself through this every day — should I back off a little to make this more sustainable?

  • Do I stress-eat when I get a text message or email from a certain person?

  • Do I lose my willpower when I have a fight with my spouse? Maybe I can create a workout alternative that is easier for me to perform in moments like this (like walking on the treadmill for an hour), rather than bailing on my workout and diet altogether.

This first week, especially, take the posture of a student toward yourself. Learn what works best for you? Are you better off eating 5 small meals a day to keep you sane? Or are you like me, in that you’d rather eat nothing all day and eat a big meal at night so that you’re not hungry when it gets late? Do you work better if you get to have a little indulgence to keep you sane like a square of chocolate? Or does the square of chocolate send you flying off the hinges eating an entire Hershey’s bar?

Your failures are self-teaching moments. Don’t take them as verdicts of failure over who you are. Take them as a moment to learn how to hack your own self-inclinations in a way that only you can know.

4. View Difficulty As A Sign of Learning, Rather Than As A Predictor of Failure

When things get really hard, I tend to think that I don’t really have the constitution for fitness. I think of other people who have crazy 2-hours workouts, and I feel like I should be able to do that without thinking twice. The truth is — when you hit a willpower wall, and you really don’t want to do something, that’s not a sign that you’re not cut out to do it. It’s a sign that, on the other side of that action, lies significant change. If you finish a workout and you don’t want to do cardio, it means your body doesn’t have the energy, which means it’s primed to burn fat. That’s a sign that what you’re about to do will directly contribute to your goal at a level of purity you rarely have.

Or, if you are really hungry and you sense an unusual hankering for unhealthy food or candy, it means that what you do in this moment in particular will either reinforce your body’s dependence upon those kinds of foods, or force it to rewire its instincts to burn your fat for energy, rather than push you toward unhealthy food that is easily converted into quick energy for your body.

When you face really, really hard moments in your diet and exercise, that doesn’t mean you don’t belong in the gym or on the fitness program. It just means you’re facing a moment of particular significance for your body and mind. So take advantage of it for your benefit. Don’t take it as a sign of weakness, but as a moment of opportunity.

5. Choose Your Pain — The Physical Pain of Getting In Shape, Or The Emotional Pain Of Being Out Of Shape

Listen, nobody likes getting in shape. It sucks. All of us would eat unhealthy food and binge Netflix in our leisure time if we could do that and still be healthy and good looking. But we can’t. So that reveals this basic truth — Life is going to hurt one way or the other. And it’s up to us to make this fundamental decision:

  • “Do I want to experience the short, physical pain of exercise and diet? Or do I want to face the perpetual, never-ending emotional pain of looking fat and feeling lazy?”

Which pain do you want to experience? If you choose to ignore the question, then you’ve unfortunately already made your choice. To choose the physical pain of exercise and diet is much harder. So when it gets really hard this first week, and it will get really hard (maybe even on the first day), you’ll be tempted to panic. You’ll be tempted to think, “I can’t do this.”

But remember, and all 5 of these mindset hacks can basically be summed up in this: You’re learning how to choose the short-term physical pain of diet and exercise over the long-term emotional pain of being lazy and fat. You’re used to the pain of being lazy and fat. You’re almost numb to it. But it does hurt you. And in those moments when it gets really hard, remember: The choice between fitness and laziness isn’t a choice between pain and pleasure. It’s a choice between periodic pain that makes you better and perpetual pain that makes you worse. Remember that when you’re tempted to quit.

And eventually — probably not your first week, but maybe in your second — you’ll find a way to derive pleasure from your fitness as well. The pleasure being disciplined. The self-satisfaction of creating evidence for yourself that you can take control of your body and your life. The confidence that comes from being physically stronger and healthier and less fat. The weird irony is that, just like the long-term pain of being out of shape is based on short-term pleasures, the short-term pain of diet and exercise yields long-term satisfaction that, when you finally experience it, you wouldn’t trade for all the pizza and lazy night on the couch in the world.

So, you’re on the path. Good for you. Remember these mindset hacks:

  1. Don’t Look For Post-Workout Results

  2. Don’t Give Yourself Self-Sabotaging Rewards

  3. Respond to Your Failures With Curiosity, Not Frustration

  4. View Difficulty As A Sign of Learning, Rather Than As A Predictor of Failure

  5. Choose Your Pain — The PhysicalPain of Getting In Shape, Or The Emotional Pain Of Being Out Of Shape

If you’re looking for a community of people who are committed to implementing these principles, join us at theo.fit/membership. Hope to see you there. And peace.