How Do You Change "Have-to" into "Want-to?"

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I can't tell you how often someone asks me, "I don't know how you run so long" or "I wish I could work out like you." Well, my answer is usually, "What's stopping you?" And most people, I've come to find, don't truly have a good answer. Sometimes, they stammer through a quick refusal due to "lack of time" or "they're too busy." Sometimes, people are downright blunt: I don't want to work that hard. Well, if that's the case, then I can't change your mind. 

Most people think that working out is something you have to do to prevent the inevitable weight gain that comes with a) binge eating and drinking b) old age c) the environment, stressors, kids, husbands, wives, natural occurrences. While some of those things might be true, it doesn't mean that we have to do anything. I circle around to this idea of "have-to" because it so often comes up in conversation with me. When I say I'm going home early on a Friday night for my Saturday long run, it's a common that I hear, "Well, you don't have to run 10 miles." You're right. I don't have to. I want to. 

So, how does one create that mindset? In many cases, it's not an overnight switch, even if you want it to be. Changing your mindset is not easy and it can feel frustrating and overwhelming. I want to have a million dollars, but that doesn't necessarily mean that wanting something makes it happen. It does require some footwork. If wanting something immediately meant that you got it, then we'd all be living rich wealthy lives on the desolate islands of the Pacific with our thousand cats. Oh, not you? Okay, just me then.

Only workout in ways that you enjoy.

The first step is changing your mindset. It's a powerful statement to say that I want to change the entire way that I'm are thinking. Not only is a workout not something that you should dread, but it's something that you should enjoy. The quickest way to not enjoy something is to do something that you don't like. Now, you could also say that you just plain don't like to sweat. Which, potentially, could be a fair assessment. But likely, if you think about it, you just haven't expanded your horizons enough to try all the workout options out there. If you don't like to sweat, maybe running or a spin class isn't for you. If you don't like to lift heavy things, I probably wouldn't suggest Crossfit. 

It doesn't necessarily even have to be in a workout environment. If you find that you have an erratic schedule, maybe it's time to try something at home. If you're like me, you need to get out of the house to be effective! That works, too! Keep trying different workouts to see what works for you.

Try to engage your friends! Go for hikes! Anytime that you can be active, you're taking a positive step in changing your attitude towards working out.  Many times, local gyms and athletic stores will have free group workouts and events that allow you to try classes. If you find something you enjoy, even taking 15 minutes out of your day can lead to a change in your feelings towards working out.

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Treat workouts as self-care. 

Ultimately, the biggest change you have to make in yourself is changing your brain from the "reward and punishment" system. This creates a positive and negative environment for you and your brain doesn't run on black and white! Look, let's just take the statement, "I work out so I don't get fat." There's so many negative pieces to that statement. Of course those negative pieces are going to create a negative thought about working out! Instead, try thinking: "I workout to become healthier/stay healthy." Simply shifting the focus away from something negative to something positive immediately changes the way that you view the action. Start by picking a word that you resonate with. What would that be? 

"I'm doing this workout so I can become strong." Yes! Strong is such a powerful statement. We should all feel strong and capable.

"I want to have more self-confidence." or "I want to feel better about myself." Those two statements are so much more powerful than their negative counterparts: "I hate my body" or "I'm fat." See how simply changing the phrasing turns a negative statement into something so positive? It's just a little thing, but it can make all the difference when we are trying to rewire our brain!

Fitness is not a requirement to eat. 

Sometimes, when I'm writing these blog posts, it's like I'm saying these things to myself. It's branded in my soul, ya'll. Let me say it one time for the people in the nose-bleeds. You. Do. Not. Have. To. Workout. To. Eat. 

This train of thinking is highly toxic. But, it's also incredibly relatable. I struggle with it! I can't speak for everyone, but a large portion of the running community will probably say that they struggle with it. Heck, there are books written on "race weight" and "peak performance." The lighter you are, the less body mass you have to move = the faster that you can run. I'm not going to tell you that there isn't some science behind it, but what I will tell you is that the majority of us (and that overwhelmingly includes myself) are not in the elite percentage of athletes where one pound matters in my end game performance. But, I'm not talking about performance here. I'm talking about how you think and how you feel, right between your eyes. Deep down in your subconscious brain. It comes down to one thing and that is ultimately how you feel about yourself.

The body needs fuel to run efficiently. Whether you're a high level athlete or simply working out to stay active and healthy, your body needs food. You have to eat good quality foods to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Putting junk food, or no food, into your body is like buying sushi from a one-pump gas station. You're asking to have a bad time. When you don't eat enough calories, your body goes into starvation mode. You don't magically lose weight when you stay in this starvation place, in fact, you force your body to hold on to it. You destroy your metabolism and, ultimately, make it harder for your body to lose weight in a healthy fashion. If you deprive yourself of nutrients, you run your body into a fatigued state where you cannot function. 

As someone who has struggled with this so many times over, I just want to say: If you're struggling with this, reach out to me! There are so many building blocks of a healthy body. It's not just as simple as "workout more, eat less." It’s also not easy to break out of that mindset. But it’s so incredibly important to view your body as something other than the receiver of reward and punishment food. You are worth more than that.

Don't stress about workouts.

This section is truly a continuation of the one above. Workouts can be stressful enough. And, when coupled with work, a social calendar, and just general life musings, sometimes squeezing in a workout can cause more stress than simply saying, “Not today.” Now, I always like to clarify that there is a difference between “I’m not feeling like it today” and “I think my body needs a break.” This does take a bit of fine tuning in your brain, but many times, if I’m too stressed about fitting a workout in, it’s likely a workout that I don’t need to do today. Now, let me clarify further. One of my favorite phrases is: “We all have the same 24 hours in a day.” It’s true! You can choose how to use your hours most effectively. I talk about this in my post “Making Your Personal Fitness a Priority.” If you want to do something, you will find time for it. If you don’t want to do something, you will make excuses.

What I’m talking about here is when a workout (or working out) takes over your life. When your first thought in the morning, above all else, is how you are going to get your workout in. That stressful feeling where the workout takes complete control over your mind and you’re miserable until you fit it in. I’m talking about skipping social commitments to squeeze in a workout. I’m talking about skipping time with friends, family, or loved ones to make sure that you get a workout or a run in. I’m all for the cathartic, freeing, soul-cleansing freedom of going for a run in a stressful time, but when I find that I’m more stressed thinking about how I’m going to do it, then I realize I’m not truly listening to my body. The first part of taking control of your mindset is realizing that you will be fine without (insert thing here). If you’re training for a marathon, I would tell you that one day does not derail your progress. Hell, a whole week might not either. But what will derail you is the fatigue, burnout, and all around malaise that comes from pushing yourself too hard. When you lose the feeling of “want to,” it absolutely becomes “have to.”

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You never "have-to" do anything. 

And lastly, remember, you are in control. You never have to do anything. You don’t have to work out. You don’t have to go for a run. But, if you have dreams, if you have goals, there is grunt work that goes on behind the scenes. Remember that. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. If you’re unhappy with your body, with your mindset, with your lifestyle, your surroundings, you have the power to change it. But you don’t have to. You want to change the circumstances that you find yourself in. If you find yourself saying, “I have to change…,” then ask yourself, “Why do I want to change this?” What is driving that passion?

You are placed on this Earth to do a great many things, but ultimately, one of the greatest gifts we have as humans is our own free will. Sure, there are things that we don’t like to do. But that is different than things we have to do. Life is far too short to find yourself trapped in a cycle of the mundane. You should be out searching for things that set your heart on fire. True passion, the things that excite us, the things that make life worth living are the things that get us out of bed in the morning. There should always be time for that in your day. Finding that joy is the only thing that we have to do.

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Photography by David Lemon Photography