A better figure, toned arms and a bikini-ready belly are all admirable goals for hitting the gym. But one of the best ways exercise can benefit you isn't a killer bod, but a mental boost. Exercising on a regular basis can help you feel better about yourself, and not just because of what you see in the mirror. Instead of making weight- and appearance-based goals, try making your self-esteem the main focus and the other stuff will follow.
Set fitness goals that don't revolve around how much you weigh and the way you look. Instead, try performance-related goals, like running a mile without stopping or moving up a weight in your strength training. These allow you to see tangible progress in direct relation to those early mornings and long workouts, making you really feel the girl power behind your progress.
Take baby steps to those goals. Going from 0 to 60 in terms of fitness and performance can make you feel discouraged if your body isn't exactly ready to run the Ironman after a week of training. Instead, choose goals that are easily achievable within a week or two, but that contribute to your overall success. When you're boosting self-confidence, even just making it a goal to exercise every day for a week can help amp you up.
Find a coach and cheerleader to help spur you on for those days when you get down on yourself. Whether it's a workout buddy or a quick call to your mom, having someone by your side that can banish bad thoughts and talk you through darker moments helps you put things into perspective.
Measure your success in ways other than what the scale says. The scale can be an inaccurate way to measure progress anyway. Instead, keep a workout journal where you detail speed, reps, weight and time. As you improve, you'll be able to see how far you've come to boost your confidence. Or, you may see a difference in the way your clothes fit, even if the stubborn scale won't budge. Make sure that the scale isn't your be-all-end-all for progress reports.
Offer yourself non-food rewards for hitting your goals and seeing progress. Maybe you buy a new workout outfit after two weeks of regular gym sessions, or plan a quick weekend getaway for reaching your running goal. Whatever it is, use those rewards to spur you forward and feel better about your body and your fitness skills.
- Jornal of Pediatric Psychology; The Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Psychosocial Functioning of Adolescents Who Are Overweight or Obese; Gary S. Goldfield, et al.; June 2012
- Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 5E; Robert Stephen Weinberg, et al.
Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.