Even the best intentions can be foiled by your brain. Here's how to beat it!

By Jené Luciani
Updated: June 12, 2012

You may have the best intentions when it comes to working out, but sometimes your mind just gets in the way. Have you ever said "I'll start tomorrow?" or given up after one really tough workout, convincing yourself you just don't have the time anyway? You're not alone.

"Women are constantly overshadowed by obstacles they cannot shake!" says Carla Lundblade, a licensed clinical therapist who works with some of the country's top professional sports stars and celebrities from her practice in Beverly Hills. "They will most likely not achieve their workout goals because they are not preparing themselves enough mentally for the many challenges ahead."

If you focus on coaching yourself psychologically rather than just physically, you'll get better results, Lundblade says. "Sports psychologists and therapists have studied MRI scans which show how important emotions and mental imagery are to the physical gift of an athlete," she explains. "Women can incorporate brain training techniques very quickly that will make their physical training programs more effective and give them a competitive edge."

Here are five mental mistakes you may be making at the gym-and how to change your brain for better results!

1. Low Self-Esteem


Maybe you're just not confident enough to meet your fitness goals. "This is a problem that has everything to do with mental skills training and requires regular positive reinforcement coaching," Lundblade says. Try picking a personal trainer who provides plenty of support, or a workout buddy who can encourage you along the way.

2. Fear of Failure


It can be embarrassing and discouraging to hit the workout circuit and feel like you can't keep up with other women. "Women are highly affected by what other people think of them and their performance," Lundblade says. "I've seen a lot of women quit working out due to the fear of failing and it's a travesty." The bottom line here? Don't worry about what other people think, if you keep at it, you'll be up to their level in no time.

3. Great Expectations


Putting too much pressure on yourself to reach your fitness goals can also be a confidence buster. "One small hiccup can plague a whole workout and training program," Lundblade says. "When we have a bad experience, a mental block is developed. But the good news is we can train the brain to overcome this."

4. Perfectionism

No one is perfect, so don't try to be. "Most top athletes will tell you their performance is either 'perfect' or 'awful' and there is no in-between, but that's not realistic for most people. Most women need coaching or a group of friends to help them deal with failure and re-package it to their benefit."

5. Motivation

How you deal with stress may be affecting your performance at the gym. "A person may be feeling stressed and compensating with bad habits like overindulging in alcohol, thereby affecting her workout motivation." If you could instead channel that stress into your workout, you'll be killing two birds with one proverbial stone.

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