One of the most common things gym owners, trainers, and coaches hear from potential students is: “I need to get in shape before going to the gym.” If you’re reading this and you’re one of those people, stop it now. 

You don’t go to the gym after you get in shape, you get in shape at the gym. The gym is not some exclusive watering hole only the fit are invited to go to. It’s a place where everyone, no matter where they are in their health journey, goes to get better… to grow. I get it, there’s a level of intimidation that comes with trying something new, or starting up again after months or years of being away, but here’s the little secret: No one is looking at you at the gym. Unless you’re at some “Bro” gym… then yeah some people may be looking and judging but you don’t want to go to that place anyway. 

Gyms That Work:

When you’re either going back to the gym after a long time away or going for the first time, you need support. You need a community that will hold you up, give you feedback, and hold you accountable because let’s be real, you’re not going to do it alone. You can do it alone. But it would be a whole lot harder. And why would you want to do it alone? Where’s the fun in that? 

Most of the time, in a large group setting, when you’re training with other people, they’re not looking at you because they’re too focused on what they’re doing. They’re too focused on their heart rate and their breathing. They’re too busy cursing the instructor in their head to be focused on you. While you think Suzy, the incredibly fit chick is judging you, she’s thinking, “Just get through this round without puking…”

Mindset and Reality Check:

Physical fitness is a highly personal and individual journey. Everyone has peaks and valleys. Everyone starts a beginner. The thing that differentiates the people that ultimately succeed in fitness is that they don’t stop. They push through the discomfort of being a beginner and keep showing up for themselves. They often have a community around them that keeps them accountable when they start to slip up. 

Saying I need to get in shape before starting the gym presents both a fixed mindset and an unwillingness to face reality. 

This is a fixed mindset because there’s an unwillingness to step out of what is known (the dreaded comfort zone). A fixed mindset searches for external factors of why something is not rather than searching for how something could be. 

This also is avoidant of reality because if you were real with yourself, you’d admit that you’re not going to “get in shape” before going to the gym. You’re going to continue to do the thing you were doing simply because it’s the easiest thing to do.

The neurons in your brain are a perfect example of how people work. This is called action potential. See Figure 1 for more information.

Figure 1

Action Potential and Your Weightloss

Without getting too far into the nuances of what action potential is, we need to pay attention to the stimulus and the failed initiations. The straight yellow line before the start of the stimulus is you doing nothing about your goals, continuing on with life as usual. 

Then something happens… maybe you glanced in the mirror for the first time in months and you were shocked to see yourself, maybe you got a negative comment from someone, maybe you got your test results back from the doctor. Whatever it was, it motivated you and you Googled your local group training gyms or a personal trainer in your area. This is displayed as the first yellow line rising in Figure 1. 

You go to the local gym. Take an awesome fitness class. Although you loved it, something within you is resisting. You probably felt self-conscious. Maybe you’re unsure if you can commit to yourself. Then you say, “I need to get in shape before starting the gym/personal training.”  Those words mark the death of your progress. As result, the action potential threshold is not reached and the second yellow line drops to the resting state.

This is you, proverbially speaking. By saying, “I need to get in shape before joining the gym,” you’re guaranteeing a failed action potential. There will not be enough of a charge for real change. 

Get in Shape

Getting in Shape Requires More

Unless the action potential reaches a certain threshold, nothing will happen. But if the “charge” is strong enough where it passes the threshold, action happens. While the image actually illustrates when a neuron sends information down an axon to get a specific action to take place in the body, it works well for the metaphor of the comfort zone and change zone. Change only happens when you move past the threshold of what has been your routine and ultimately what has been holding you back. 

You need a stimulus that is large enough to push you into action and that will help you create significant change. In the next article, we will be talking about why significant behavior change in adults is so difficult and why it is vital for you to break through that challenge in order to finally lose that weight once and for all, or finally sign up for that competition you’ve been avoiding, or start learning a new skill. 

Have the stimulus that prompts you into action BE signing up for the gym, not the excuse to keep you exactly where you have been. 

Nothing changes until something changes.