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How To Change Negative Self-Talk Of Fitness In 3 Steps

Written by: Lise Kiefer, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Have you ever thought that our self-talk can have varying effects on our fitness, nutrition, and sleep goals?

A young woman running in the city street in the morning.

This might seem like a soft concept, but the brain is exceptionally adept at picking up on small messages that can affect you on a much deeper level.

There was an article published in Psychophysiology about how self-talk can affect your perceived challenge and exertion during exercise. On a base level, your internal chatter (positive or negative) involves your perceived work during training, hormone response, and breathing frequency.

While it may feel as though the world is chaotic and messy, it is essential to keep in mind that there are only two things you have complete control of in your life:

  • Your actions

  • Your attitude

Both can feel incredibly difficult at times, but there are simple steps you can take today that can help switch how you perceive fitness. Word of warning, it isn't easy to do. If you've spent 30+ years thinking one way, it can be uncomfortable and challenging to work on altering your thought process.

Now let's dig in.

Find Your Deeper Why

This one can be the most difficult of all. It requires you to stop and actively think about what is the primary, underlying reason for wanting to work on fitness, nutrition or sleep in the first place.

I've heard many reasons, most of which are surface level when people initiate the first contact with me. The most common reasons are losing weight, wanting to be ready for a vacation, etc.

After I ask people, I usually discover they feel less confident and in control of their lives, want to feel as though they belong to something more meaningful or are worried about having a massive health event which might leave their family having to care for them.

Taking the time to dig deeper will make focusing on your health more enjoyable and aid in consistency.

Keep A Log of Your Self Talk

I never thought that I would be a big proponent of how you talk to yourself affects what you do. Three years ago, I didn't see the value in watching what I said to myself.

When I did actively pay attention to what I was saying to myself and how harsh I was, it made me pause. I once did an experiment where I noticed how many times a negative thought occurred in one hour. It came out to around one per minute (that was when I was at one of my worst points).

With that many thoughts in one hour, it's unsurprising that working towards sustainable goals became an uphill battle, and we face internal critic.

If you find negative self-talk is something you actively deal with, have a piece of paper and pen on hand (or your phone, if you prefer technology) and start writing down what you are saying to yourself.

It can be on a specific topic, such as how you think and feel fitness should be. Or it can be how you felt a workout went and whether there were any negative thoughts (like I felt awkward, stupid, silly).

Some of the most common words and phrases I have seen my client state include:

  • I'm too uncoordinated,

  • I'm not thin/athletic enough to do this,

  • I feel ridiculous, so I must look silly,

  • I'm not "in shape enough" to go to a gym right now,

  • I wasn't great at gym class, so I'm not going to be good at this,

  • I'm worried about getting too "bulky" (more specifically to people who identify as female),

  • Why did I do that? That was so stupid of me.

Pick One Word Or Phrase and Alter It

Much easier said than done.

It will feel awkward and weird when you first do this, especially if you have gotten used to talking about yourself in one manner for 20+ years.

For example, if you are saying that you feel stupid about doing some movement or class, try rephrasing it from

  • I can't believe that I did something that silly. I must've looked stupid.

  • I made a simple mistake that anyone can make. Maybe I looked a little silly, but at least I learned what not to do (and perhaps you can have a laugh at yourself in the future. I know I have).

The key is to practice this daily. More than a handful of times per week is needed to see the lasting results you want.

If you want to work on your fitness, nutrition and sleep while also developing self-compassion, feel free to connect with me through social media or by sending a message through my website.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Lise Kiefer, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Lise Kiefer is a lead in fitness, nutrition and sleep coaching. After living an active lifestyle in her youth, Kiefer took her experience in sports and transitioned it to coaching individuals in their fitness, nutrition, and sleep so enhance her clients quality of life. Kiefer believes that how we perceive each of these topics and ourselves will affect how we perform in our daily pracitces. Owner of Toned and Tough Fitness.



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