Today I have a guest blog post by my mate Zoey, the woman behind Operation Move. She has helped and continues to help many women to live healthier lives. She taught herself to run and now mentors others to do the same. She is someone I look to with admiration and awe. She is one strong, generous soul. 

Learn to run and learn to change your mindset

The greatest mistake that people make about fitness is that you need motivation. And the worst part about that mistake is people use it as a reason not to try something new.

So many times, people will say to me:

“I wish I had your motivation” or “I wish I had your will power” but the truth is, I don’t have those things either. If I had will power it wouldn’t have taken me 20 years to quit smoking.

Or people will say, “I’m just lazy, I guess.”

And the thing is, by relying on motivation or will power or innate laziness, it’s all just an excuse to let you off the hook, so you don’t feel bad about failing something.

But you are not unmotivated or weak willed or lazy or a failure. You are just ambivalent. And it is the ambivalence that stops you from doing what you think you want to do.

Here is an example of an internal dialogue that would happen when I was quitting smoking.

“Quitting smoking is so hard, I coud do this tomorrow”
“But I want to quit and then I’m going to just have to do this all over again”
“You are too much of an addict to quit. What does it even matter if you can’t?”
“I don’t want to fail again”
“It’s not like you can really help it.”

At which point more often than not I would have a cigarette. To stop that conversation because it is exhausting. And then all my worst fears about myself where confirmed, I felt like a complete failure and it all started all over again. And it’s not because quitting smoking is so hard. It’s because deep down, I was not really sure I wanted to quit. I was allowing that conversation to go on because I knew exactly how it ended – with an excuse to enable me. And I quit successfully when I stopped allowing myself to have that conversation with myself.

Fitness is the same way. It’s just a habit, like anything else. If I needed motivation or will power or determination to do necessary things my kids would never get dinner.

So from a mindset point of view that’s what you have to do. You have to start viewing it as necessary. You don’t argue with yourself about if you are going to pick up your kids from school or brush your teeth or have a shower. You just do it. And it’s the argument which enables you to opt out.

To create a habit you can’t say maybe I’ll go for a walk tomorrow. There is no maybe. There is you, there is a calendar and there is you writing down the days and times you will go for a walk just like you would with any other necessary meeting you had during a week.

So if you do want to start a new habit, without relying on motivation – who let’s face it is a fickle mistress at the best of times – here are some ways to get started:

1) Write it down. Write down what you are going to do where you can see it.
2) Write down your reasons somewhere prominent – so when you are tempted to have that argument with yourself, you are reminded why it is necessary
3) Sometimes you do have to change plans. If that happens, you write down the new day you are going to do and you never change plans when you wake up in the morning. If you leave it as a question, you are always going to opt out.
4) Lay your clothes out the night before. The more decisions you have to make to get out the door, the less likely you are to get out the door.
5) Go early, before your brain realises what you are doing.
6) Lie to yourself if necessary. If you are starting a running program you could lie to yourself and just tell yourself you are going for a walk. I guarantee once you get out the door you will go for that run.
7) Spend time with people who support your goals. Sometimes you don’t need someone to say oh it’s ok that you didn’t go for a walk today, you need someone to kick you out the door.
8) Not everything that is good for you, feels good all the time. But I’ve never gone for a run that I regretted either.
9) Start small. Really small. Start with things that you cannot possibly fail at, so you can show yourself what you are capable of.
10) Set goals for four weeks, two months and six months. Specific and measurable things. Not: exercise more or get fit.

And always remember there is no failure – there is only tomorrow. Choosing to focus on fitness is not one decision once. It’s what will you do today? What will you do tomorrow? It’s asking yourself is this choice going to take me towards my goal or is it going to pull me off course? It’s getting rid of that idea in your head of what you are supposed to look like or what activities you are supposed to be doing and start thinking about what you want your life to look like and go there.

Maybe you want to feel more comfortable in your skin, maybe you want to have more energy every day, maybe you want to just run and find out how far you could go, maybe you want to find out how strong you could be. Whatever you choose, just make sure that it gives you more than it takes. Because that’s the thing that you will stick with. And you don’t have to be motivated or strong willed or determined, you just have to be you and be willing to find out who that is.


The awesome team at Operation Move have got a special offer for Bigwords’ readers. Use coupon code bigwords for 20% off our Learn to Run 12 week online coaching program which starts 1 February. Be quick!

Who knows? Maybe I’ll give it a go too.