How To Overcome Self-Doubt in the Gym
Intimidation and self-doubt are some of the first things I hear when talking to people about CrossFit. For instance, they are concerned they “are too old to workout like that,” “can’t lift weights,” “burpees are too difficult,” or they are “not able to do a push-up, pull-up,” etc. While coaches and other gym members may reassure you that they have been in your place at one time, it can be difficult to contain your anxiety when you see someone who can do every movement with seamless perfection.
Here are a few ideas that can help squash the self-doubt when first entering the gym and along your fitness journey.
1. Know you’re not alone.
Everyone has doubts. Rather than waste energy worrying, recognize that self-doubt can be helpful. Do not let negative thoughts overcome your will to succeed. Perhaps you’ll spend more time practicing or maybe you’ll put in more effort when you’re aware that there’s a chance it might not go smoothly. The more comfortable you become with the process, the easier it gets.
2. Stop worrying about what others think.
There will always be someone who appears to be doing better, getting further or lifting more. Do not benchmark yourself against others’ accomplishments. Take this year’s Open, for instance. Each person had their favorite workout that favored their best movement. Someone else’s accomplishments are not a litmus test to grade your own success. Remember when you find yourself in this thought pattern that everyone is on his or her own journey.
3. Set and record goals.
In addition to setting long-term goals, remember to establish attainable, short-term ones. For example, small goals can be losing one pound versus an entire 20, finally getting double unders or more than 10 single jumps in a row. Keep track of these accomplishments and your progress because it is motivating and helps keep your self-confidence up. Set goals for the day, during a workout, or for a week’s worth of WOD’s. Continue to chip away each day, week, month, and so on. It’s easy to let doubt creep in when your big long term goals aren’t immediately attained. By achieving smaller goals along the way, you can constantly take reassurance in frequent, albeit small, triumphs.
4. Surround yourself with the right people.
Keep the people who encourage you close and seek out their feedback on a regular basis. Do not be afraid to ask questions or ask for suggestions. As coaches, we want you to achieve your goals and to get there it may be the difference in a hand position or getting a little lower in a squat. Such slight changes in technique can really make a difference and help you get closer to ringing that PR bell!
5. Let go of negative self-perception.
Most people have an idealistic image of themselves, and I will use my own experience as an example. I don’t mind burpees, box jumps or dumbbell snatches, so when 17.1 was announced I thought “Yes! I like these movements, it couldn’t possibly be that hard, I got this!” Boy was I wrong! I failed to live up to that image of myself and I let doubt sink in. Despite your best efforts and intentions, mistakes happen and it doesn’t make sense to dwell on them. Instead, learn from each blunder and actively develop better habits.
6. Don’t fear a change of plan.
When joining a gym you have a plan: a plan to lose weight, get healthy, get in shape or become stronger. In all of these instances you must pace yourself. It takes time. Time for your body to become adjusted to new food choices, heavier weight or moving in ways you never thought possible. So a particular WOD didn’t go your way or you couldn’t lift as heavy as you did last week, sometimes it’s as easy as stepping away and refocusing. Take a rest day, do a different movement, take some weight off, look at your short term goals and reassess. Every day is a new day and you always have the ability to start fresh.
7. Face your fears.
The more you push yourself, the more you’ll realize what you are capable of. So what if you do not have push-ups today or next week or even next month! With hard work, practice and dedication, you will get there. You CAN do it, it will just take time. Learn to practice patience.
8. Worst-case scenario.
Self-doubt is fueled by thoughts like, “I’m not going to be able to finish,” “I can’t get a pull-up,” “I won’t be able to lift that.” When you find yourself guessing, things will go poorly. Instead, ask yourself “what’s really the worst thing that could happen?” If you do mess up or finish last, would it really be that bad? You are surrounded by others who know the pain you are going through. Fail or not you are encouraged to try your hardest and not give in to self-doubt. Remind yourself that even if things go terribly, you are there, continuing to change and making progress towards your goals. AND most of all, you are not alone!