When you start your fitness journey, you think of your goals, not the obstacles in front of them. Training can get off to a great start, and it’s the new passion and excitement that lets you powerhouse through your first few weeks (or months) without slowing down.
Then you might start to face challenges, ones that make you second-guess whether you really can do what you want to do.
Or you face physical setbacks — muscle cramps, soreness, lack of strength, or low stamina. It can happen to anyone. Even pro athletes experience setbacks from time to time, but they don’t let these barriers hold them back.
What’s their secret? Knowing what these barriers are, what they mean, and how to get through them. With this post, you’ll know how to overcome anything standing in your way, too, and see any struggle you face as part of the journey.
What are physical barriers?
Physical barriers often arise when you embark on a fitness or athletic journey, only to realise you don’t have the strength or stamina you need to reach your goals right away. Imagine you decide to run a triathlon. It’s incredibly exciting, but you will soon discover that there are months of training behind every successful triathlete’s story.
They work tirelessly, sometimes dragging themselves to training, so they can build the muscles, endurance, and agility they need to reach their goals.
Any physical barrier holding you back can be overachieved or adapted. It doesn’t matter whether it’s something you can change, like your weight or muscle mass, or a disability you live with.
You might need to change your game plan now, or even alter your end goal a bit. But what matters is that you don’t let your physical barriers become complete roadblocks. They don’t define your success, and they definitely don’t negate your efforts.
What are mental barriers?
When you start to feel your passion waning, stress, fear, and even self-doubt can creep in.
Am I really able to lose the weight?
Can I really train like this?
Could I ever really compete in a competition?
Second-guessing yourself leads to a variety of mental barriers that alter your performance and stop you from reaching your fullest potential. And even on days when you may not be the best, they stop you from giving it your best.
How Physical Barriers Get in the Way of Your Fitness Goals
Physical barriers affect how often you train, how you train, and what sort of activities you can do. They can make it more difficult for you to achieve your goals, because your goals may not currently align with your abilities. If that’s the case, you wind up struggling to reach a standard that’s too far above your current level.
Is this a bad thing? No. It’s natural.
Every athlete begins somewhere. Every person’s fitness journey starts when they aren’t where they want to be. The incredibly flexible yoga instructor may have started his journey with a 10-minute daily practice, and on hard days, maybe he only managed 5 minutes.
The football player who is always leading his team to victory now could have once struggled to even exercise for more than 15 minutes at a stretch. It’s all relative, and you can’t compare other people’s chapter 10 to your story’s beginning.
How Mental Barrier Get in the Way of Your Fitness Goals
Physical and mental barriers have a lot more in common than you may realise. A physical barrier, whether it’s a lack of skill, resources, or time, can also make you more stressed and less motivated all around.
They’re obstacles that exist entirely in your head, but they may still be backed up by some real challenges you’re facing. Your brain can make these circumstances all the more evidence to doubt yourself and even try to make you give up altogether.
Remember, mental barriers are real, but they’re still just thoughts and beliefs. Both of those things can be changed and overcome.
Overcoming Mental Barriers to Improve Athletic Performance
Getting over mental barriers starts with naming them. When you can put what you’re feeling into words, it becomes a lot more manageable. You can also begin to talk about it with others, which makes it feel a lot less threatening and insurmountable.
Here are some of the most common mental barriers athletes experience.
1. Loss of Confidence
Think about when you first started your sport. What drew you to it? Changes are that you didn’t even think about yourself during the process. You were just in love with what you were doing, and felt amazing because you got to be a part of it.
Then some time went on, and you began to notice others around you. They’re so amazing. They’re more skilled. They’ve got loads more experience. You begin to compare yourself to them, and suddenly, your confidence feels like it’s a house of cards, ready to collapse at any moment.
Loss of confidence can stem from comparison, as well as a lack of success. Success measured solely by a set outcome can limit your growth. Because whenever you fall even slightly below an idea in your head, you feel as though you’ve failed.
And instead of growing from that failure, you feel like a failure. This only perpetuates your feeling of insecurity and uncertainty about yourself.
Remind yourself that you do have what it takes to succeed. And even if you don’t have the skills you need just yet, you have the drive and ability to learn them. Focus your attention on things you can do each day, and celebrate those efforts.
Your journey isn’t just about the highlights. It’s about the story you’re writing every day you wake up and commit yourself to what you’re passionate about.
Fear is one of the most paralysing emotions an athlete can experience. It makes you feel small, inferior, and incapable of overcoming whatever’s in your way. It can also come with physical symptoms, like an upset stomach, shakiness, and racing heart, that make it difficult to even perform skills you’ve practised hundreds of times.
It isn’t realistic to think you’ll just hit a switch in your brain and shut off fear. If it was that easy, none of us would experience it in the first place!
Rather than thinking you need to have zero fear, remind yourself you can do anything, even when you’re afraid. Focus on the positives in any situation, while respecting the negatives for what they are. Just because everything isn’t perfect or certain doesn’t mean that you can’t still do your best — and have fun along the way.
Also, try reassessing your standards. Are you being too much of a perfectionist? If your standards are too high, then fear is natural. You’re framing your performance through a scrutinous lens that is fixed to see your efforts in a negative light.
Shift your mindset, and focus on all the things you’re doing that are rewarding. Running a marathon, for example, could still be one of the best things you’ve ever done, even if you come in last.
3. Imposter Syndrome
Imposter syndrome makes you feel like a fraud. You’re waiting for people to realise you aren’t nearly as talented or skilled as they think. And when they do, you’ll be a laughing stock. At the heart of imposter syndrome is both anxiety and insecurity. You’re worried that you’re not good enough, and worried what will happen when people finally catch on.
Remind yourself that imposter syndrome is highly common, and even the most experienced professional athletes will feel it at times.
Create a mantra you can use to counter a negative thought. When feelings of being fake arise, identify the thought as imposter syndrome, then counter it with your mantra. Labeling the thoughts can make it easier to dismiss them.
You can also shift your thoughts whenever bad ones spring up. Instead of dwelling on the negative, remind yourself of all the compliments you received, great performances, or even personal achievements that made you feel wonderful.
Overcoming Mental and Physical Barriers in Fitness
No matter what you’re facing there are ways to get through it. Research suggestions, talk to people you trust, including your coach and teammates. And remember, there’s always a way over or around a barrier.
If you’re struggling with physical barriers, like lack of stamina, then consider adding more cardio and endurance training into your routine. You may need more time building up your body’s strength before you can go the extra mile.
If muscle cramps are standing in the way of your performance, then you can focus on stretching, hydration, and even using a muscle reliever. CrampFix® was built for athletes to help them prevent and alleviate muscle cramps in 2 minutes or less.
From cramps after exercise to performance anxiety, we understand the rollercoaster of being an athlete. And we want to remind you that even during the difficult parts of the ride, it’s still an incredible journey.
Click here to learn more about our story, and follow along with us for more tips and tricks for training and living your best.