Habits of Fit People: Believe in Yourself

By , SparkPeople Blogger
You want to be a fit person, right? That's why I'm sharing my own habits for keeping fit and staying healthy in the ongoing Habits of Fit People series.

Here's one that works for me: Believing in myself. OK, I'm not trying to get all new age-y on you, but your attitude really does matter when it comes to creating and sticking with a fitness routine. Beyond personal experience, I've got some research to back me up here. Turns out, the "secret" to starting and sticking with a workout routine may all be in your head, at least according to one recent study. In fact, if you "think yourself fit," you could be 139% more likely to stick to a workout routine!

When it comes to reaching any goal in life, attitude is important. Countless studies show that happier people are healthier; that positive people live longer; and that confident people are more likely to succeed. Couldn't we apply all of these same things to exercise?

The October 2008 edition of Annals of Behavioral Medicine included an article on this very topic. Researchers surveyed 205 exercisers about psychosocial variables, including their expectations and self-efficacy, which in this case, is the belief that you can do something successfully. Stick with me here. Applied to exercise, a person with high self-efficacy would believe, "I know how to exercise safely and correctly. I'm confident and capable of working out and sticking to a routine. I know that exercising will help me reach my goals."

After analyzing the survey data, researchers at the Miriam Hospital in Providence, R.I. found that the biggest predictor of maintaining an exercise routine was a person's self-efficacy, or, a person's belief that he or she could exercise successfully. That factor alone was, "responsible for a 139% increase in the odds of being active after a year," according to an L.A. Times story about the study.

In my own experience in exercise and in life, I know that believing in myself and staying positive are important predictors for my own success and happiness. But if you're not confident about exercising, I have some ideas for you. After all, you can always increase your self-efficacy. Here's how:

  • Build experience. The easiest way to increase your self-efficacy about exercise is to become more experienced. As they say, practice makes perfect! With fitness that means that the more you work out, the more experienced and confident you'll become. Experience can come from actually doing (figuring out how to use the machines at the gym, even if that means reading the instructions listed on the machine itself), practicing (using a yoga video at home for a while, and then trying a group class), and learning (by reading fitness articles or watching videos). Remember that everyone starts somewhere. As much as I know today about exercise, I started where you did—without any knowledge or experience.

  • Find a fitness role model. Ideally, you should be able to relate to this person. When you see someone who exercised to reach their goals, just like you're doing, your belief in yourself (self-efficacy) increases. ("I can do it, too!") That's why your SparkFriends are so inspiring. Each time you see a Motivational SparkPage or success story, you feel a little more empowered yourself. Fitness role models can help you build experience and confidence in yourself, too. If you're scared to go to the gym, out of fear that you'll mess up or look foolish, bring an experienced friend with you to show you the ropes, for example.

  • Encourage yourself. Even if no one else does, tell yourself that you can do it. Congratulate yourself for every mile you travel, every pound you lift, and every workout you complete, no matter how small. Whatever you do, don't psych yourself out. Even if you have a hard time believing an inner dialogue that's positive, trust the process. Turn every negative thought ("Everyone is watching me because they know that I don't know what I'm doing!") into a positive one ("Even if I'm not doing this exactly right, the important thing is that I'm here and I'm trying! No one's watching anyway—they're all paying attention to their own workouts.").

On a scale of 1-10, I'd say that I have high self-efficacy when it comes to fitness: maybe an 8 (I still have more to learn). I built experience, which boosts confidence, by reading about fitness, trying new exercises, and continuing to learn new teaching and fitness techniques. My fitness role models tend to be instructors whose styles and techniques (and extensive knowledge!) I admire, so I learn a lot from them by taking their workshops and asking questions. And do I encourage myself? You bet. I always have to tell myself "You can do it! Don't give up!" when I'm tired and want to quit. How about you?

Rate your fitness "self-efficacy" on a scale of 1-10 below. Then tell us how you've increased your fitness experience; whether or not you have a fitness role model; and what you say to yourself for encouragement.

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KOALA_BEAR 8/25/2019
I believe in myself & would rank high. However that's not why I don't do certain activities; some just don't interest me & others are not convenient. I do regular walking now. Have used a recumbent bike along w/ strength training in the past & will once I get moved into my new home & set up the fitness room. Too many scary gangbanger types at the local gyms nearby. Report
CECELW 4/20/2019
I feel like I read this article before Report
KYRELYSE 12/16/2018
Very good article. Report
Good article... choice is either hospitals & medications in later age or exercise now..not that I am a young chicken now..but at least I can do what I can so no excuses...have already wasted a lot of time !!
Having always been fat, I was never chosen to be on teams. I was the last person taken and then by force. After a time you give up. I have tried a walking program around the neighborhood or at a local park and liked it. The problem was I let other things get in my way. I woke up one day in a rehab center. A machine was breathing for me. I could not talk due to the tubes and I could not write do to tubes and drugs. When I did write something it looked like chicken scratch. This was an eye opener. When I finally was taken to therapy I saw how hard most people were working to get better and felt bad for those who were giving up. Today I know that exercise and physical activity are important. I would rate myself currently at two. My goal is for a ten. I learned to move my legs between parrallel bars first, then with a walker and now with a cane and pulling my oxygen tank Not a pretty site or easy. You do get everyones attention just not in a way you would want it. With help from Spark friends I have found sitting exercise tapes. I now have an abundance of tapes from sitting, to standing using a chair, low impact, medium inpact and high. I am ready. You are right who cares what others think. They have no idea of where I have come from or were I will be someday. If they continue to exercise and eat healthy, they may never walk in my shoes. Report
Awesome article - I definitely need the information. I'm about a 4, I need to stay consistent and build on my time. Also, I need to improve my ST. Report
Great article! I'd say I'm about a 7 or 8. Hopefully a 10 by the end of this year. I'm not going to give up!!! :) Report
I'll say 5 but a year and 4 months ago I was in the negatives. I wasn't always in the negatives but I let myself slip into them. Coach Nicole's videos helped me get back on an exercise track. A year and 4 months ago it was a MAJOR struggle to get down on the floor. Now, it's much easier. I have learned a lot on SP about fitness, health, etc. Report
Great Article!
I'm about a 6 until I actually start running and then I plummet to a 1-2! I find my head filled with thoughts of how hard it is and how it'll never get any easier and I'm sure this makes me struggle more than I would if I felt more positive.
I have lots of reasons to be postive (I couldn't run 100m 3 months ago, now I can just about run 5k) but they all leave me when I start running! Definitely going to think up some way to stop this... Report
If 1 is a novice and 10 a triathlete or something similar, I would say I'm a 5. I use to be a runner - only. However, I am know training for triathlons, not an ironman but events for rookies and/or intermediate athletes. I joined a triathlon training group last summer and have been hooked since then. I'm still overcoming my fear of open water. I find that if I try the body of water the day prior to an event - I swim with more confidence and less nervousness. Report
I'm between 5-7. I've made exercising routine, so even when I say I'm not doing it I've already decided what will be done. My problem is confidence. When I finally feel like it's going to happen, something goes wrong, so I try not to expect too much. Report
I would put myself at a 5-6. I have taken up singing and dancing to increase my fitness and to shake up my routine. I don't konw if I have a fitness model but my sister and I are eachothers buddies. Report
I would say I am a 5 and working my way up the ladder. Report
I am at a 5 and climbing. It is not easy to make the shift. As I see myself becoming leaner and stronger it is really helping me renew my mind. The hard part is avoiding the "microwave" effect. "I want to be fit and I want to be fit now". This type of thinking has been termed, P.I.G. The Problem of Immediate Gratification. Hmmm. PIG, isn't that what got me here. LOL Report
I really enjoy reading these articles i would have to say truthfully im on my way to an 8 my workout ethic is great i workout 6 out of 7 days a week, my diet has come along way but i have my cheat days BUT when i do i keep it in portion to the serving size listed on the back. I am really trying to work on positive thinking @ this point, i think it's sooo ironic how before i was trying to lose the weight i was one of the most optimistic people anybody could know, now that im losing the weight i feel like i've become a little pessimistic @ times so im working on that one alot now.....i want to be secure, confident, and positive AND i could stand to learn alot more about fitness then and only then when those 2 thngs are downpact i think i will be able to consider myself a 10!!!! Until then everyday is a learning experience and im trying......baby steps, right? =) Goodluck to Everyone!!! Report
7.5! yey! Report
I went on vacation and let my exercise routine go. Now I'm having trouble getting back into it. I'd say I was at about an 8 but I'm feeling at about a 4 this week. I think one successful week will turn things around for me though. So far so good! Report
i am an 8 which isnt bad considering i started at a 2! Report
I think I'm about a 7. I'm definitely a positive thinker when it comes to how I view my exercise knowledge, but a recent setback trying to do the couch to 5k program probably put my mindset back from a 9 to a 7. I believe I was a little TOO positive in thinking I could tackle a running program and in the process, injured my knee and can't do any high-impact exercise now. I have a little less faith in my body now, and feel like I'm limited. I hate it and I want to get back that high positive view of myself. Report
I rate my self as a 9 and some time a 10 I am thinking about changes jobs as a life coach.Hello this is a reality check. If you don't see a doctor yearly and also If your eating bread, pasta,s,sugar, lot of fatty foods abd don't move your going to gain wait. The key is to have a 500 calories deficeit daily in other words. You've got to work off every thing you eaten for the day plus 500 calories to see true weight loss. I don't count calories every day . But I do tract my movements. I eat wisely, I get the most bang out of what I eat and when I workout. I also Supplement I drink 6 glasses of water daily.This is the only way to form a lean strong body. I am now working on gain more muscle. Report
I think I'm at approximately 6.75. I know I can do it, sometimes I just don't bother. Getting better with consistency though. Whoop Whoop!! Report
I am a 6 going on 7. Every couple days I rev up my workout. I am not feel so good in so long. Report
I rate myself as a 7 right now, the best I've been in months, years, due to this website and the lifestyle changes I've started to incorporate. I do try to exercise with maximum efficiency and "go for the burn" as they say, but safely. Currently, I am using high/low impact aerobics and strength training to reach my goals. The instructors who conduct the classes are all so wonderful and motivating, the epitome of where I want to be. Report
I give myself 3-4 because though I am positive minded, I am hampered by inconsistency in effort. I am tackling the problem and though it's a bit difficult for me, I am learning to say no, and putting myself first at least once or twice a week. I have for so long put myself on hold to cater for others and it hasn't proved an efficient way of going about things. So, I'm learning to take a bit of time off for myself and my own wellbeing. With time I'll learn to be good at taking care of myself too without feeling guilty about it. Report
I am rating myself as an 8.5. I love to exercise and when I sit out a day I feel so sluggish until I get back on track. I have added jogging to my walks in the park and that is so exhilirating. I pace myself and I tell myself I can and will do it. I focus on how far to run on my burst of jogging during my walks and I can do it because I see myself at the finish point. It is so amazing.

I love to dance and it has been that way all my life. I always knew all the new styles and could do them no matter how much I weighed. I also enjoyed floor exercises when I was in Jr. High, like tumbling, splits, round offs, balance beam work etc. I would have went further with floor exercises but I let my weight get in my way. My gym teacher even asked me if I wanted to do them in competition. I said no so fast.

Exercise is in me and I know I am to keep it in my life always. I push myself because I want to stay fit as I become fit. God helps me and my study of the Word, so being positive is not new to me. When I run I have to forget about who else is in the park and just do it. I am working on that area of wondering who is watching me exercise when I am in public, but Praise the Lord. I love Coach Nicole and how easy she makes exercise look. Bob from Biggest Loser has a cardio routine that is unbelievable and you would not believe how many calories and sweat you lose doing it. Gilad from ESPN and FitTv is great; Sharon Mann is so hyper and I love her excitement. Kathy Smith, Billy Blanks are excellent; and Leslie Sansone of course. So many people inspire me. Exercise is great and our muscles were made to move so lets keep moving. Report
Okay I'll be honest and say I'm a zero. I'm tackling one lifestycle change at a time, with SparksPeople's help, and I'll be a Success Story when I become physically fit and keep it off. Somewhere along the continuum between now and then, all the lifestyle changes will have added up to a TOTAL lifestyle change. I'm looking forward to telling others, "I started at 190lbs overweight; but if I can do it, you can do it too!" Meanwhile I'm a success today and everyday, as I work towards the goal. Report
My average is 7.

I'll give myself a 5 on my workout ethic since I don't always stretch, and I can and will work harder, but a 9 in positive thinking. I'm really making a big effort and I know that despite the slow gains in workout, I'm getting there. Report
"Build experience" is the big one for me, meaning early success multiplies my motivation. If I am on a losing streak -- even by ounces -- it is so much easier to keep going. If I start gaining then sadness comes and it is difficult to get back on track. I am trying to learn that it is NOT all or nothing. It's more like hang in there no matter what. Report
I'd say I am an 7-8 now. I no longer let a 'joints hurt' recovery week mean that I am not athletic- it's just a recovery. I no longer let a few days become a few weeks become a few months. I'm someone who loves life, and movement is life. It's all good!
I so appreciated all the role models here on Spark. Thank you all for the great energy and snyergy available on this site. Report
It's so true. We are what we think, so thinking positively is paramount. I never used to believe it, but it's slowly changed my life. I'm still not where I want to be, but I'm a lot more happy now! I've literally "thought myself happy". And now I'm applying it to exercise Report
i believe i am about a 5. got a long way to go, but have come quite a-ways!! Report
In terms of self-efficacy and exercise, I'm a 10. While I didn't start out that way 3 years ago, I've taught myself both proper technique, and how to mentally get myself to enjoy exercise and make it a daily habit. It took a while for me to get to this point, and in the beginning I felt like a fish out of water. I stuck to the machines until I felt confident enough to work with the free weights. I completely agree that we all can "think" ourselves into anything. Success starts with your head and our outlook. Believe you like working out, believe you enjoy healthy food, believe you have the power over food and the power to succeed at getting fit and healthy, and you will! Report
I would say 6 or 7 I love to exercise, and when I quit for some reason and resume, my body is so happy. I talk to myself when I am doing a new exercise or when I am on my bike or walking-come on you can go farther, or longer. Great article thanks. Report
This is what our team is all about! If anyone is interested, please join the Positive Sparkers at: http://teams.sparkpeople.com/POSITI
I'm at a 2 and that's more because I'm recovering from an accident. I plan to be at a 5 by May and be at a 7 by September. Yes, I encourage myself and I plan to succeed. Report
I'm at the point where I need to change up my workout routine. I feel like I'm in a rut and no matter what I do, I can't seem to budge the scale. I do think though, I've lost a few inches and I guess
that is okay. Report
Having completed bootcamp, I'd say I'm at least a 5 right now. I hope to up it as I coninue without bootcamp. So far so good. Report
I'll rate myself at a 5. On days when I don't want to do my cardio, I play a little mind game. I tell myself "OK, let's do 6 laps (my normal is 12) and see how we feel" at 6 laps I'm usually feeling pretty good and "sign up" for another 2 or 3 laps. Again I assess how I'm feeling and usually go the entire distance. When I go the entire distance, I celebrate the achievement with some "Well Done"s and "I knew you could do it" and "We did it" messages. Even if I stop at 6 laps I give myself a "Good Job" and figure that half is better than none and a lot more than what I wanted to do.
Coach Nicole--you rock!! Thanks for this article. I give myself a 5-6. And I am definitely improving. I exercise early in the morning and every night before I fall asleep I think of what exercise I will do the next morning. Just doing this little thing has motivated me to move from just walking to walk/run intervals, elliptical and circuit training. Needless to say my weight is finally starting to move now that I am doing more intense activity.

Well this is quite the article for me :) Right now I would have to rate myself at a 1.5..
Getting any form of exercise in is so hard for me on most days. My life is so unbalanced and in the process of getting some medical help/advice to get me motivated for "ME".
My goal is to get myself to a 5 -6 soon, then progress from there. I really want to get moving, but my "mind" just can't get with it. I have saved this blog page for rereading.
Thanks :) Report
I feel about a 7. I like trying new things and changing it up so I don't get bored. I also check out what everyone else at the gym for tips. Report
I would say that I'm probably a 5. I am always pushing myself during a workout and have tried new excercises in the past. I'm halfway there! I just need to stick to it and remember, slow and steady wins the race! Telling myself I can do it will help me keep it up! Report
This article is spot on. I'm registered to run a 1/2 marathon at the end of March. Up until January 5th, I'd never walked/jogged/run further than 4 miles. The thought of 13.1 miles seemed nearly impossible. I use all these tools to keep pushing myself and I'm up to actually running (no walking/jogging) 7 miles. So right now I'd ranked myself an 8 and climbing. Report
I love the motivational story section on Sparkpeople, some of them move me to tears. My own fitness role model is this tiny little Southern belle of an older woman whom I see daily at the gym. She has to be at least 90 years old and she walks on the treadmill, lifts some meager weights and is always checking out her form in the mirror. She is ADORABLE! I really want to go up to her and tell her what an awesome person she is, but I think she already knows it. :)

If she can do it, then what excuse do I have? Report
I would rate myself an 8. There are some things I feel completely confident about, but others that I don't challenge myself. I bought the new Biggest Loser Yoga DVD, but haven't tried it yet (I read the review of it on Spark, and got scared to try it). I also feel like the fitness level that I'm at, I'm ready to try something harder, like running. But I've never been able to get the breathing right when I run, and usually end up with a stitch in my side. So I'm afraid to try it. Plus, I've lost 225 pounds, and I've got a lot of extra skin flopping around, which isn't exactly conducive to running.

I just finished reading a GREAT book that I highly recommend for motivating people to lose weight and to try new things: "The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl," by Shauna Reid. I really loved the blog-type writing. Evidently she wrote a blog ( www.dietgirl.org ) about her weight loss struggles, and then turned it into a book! I found it very inspirational. Report
I know from personal experience how important positive attitude is in achieving your goals. Last summer, the day after finishing a 26 mile bike ride over hilly terrain, I found myself in an ambulance and the ER after suffering either a viral infection or food poisoning. The one thing I took away from that "wonderful" experience was that twice that day a medical professional referred to me as an athlete because of my low heart rate. Keep in mind that I am 68! It really opened my eyes to the positive effects that my exercising has had on my life. It still stuns me when I think about it. Me!!!!! An athlete. Report
Before recently I would say that my efficiency was around a 3-5 tops. Now I hover around a 7, 8 on a good day. I am working my way up to 10 by adding new ways to stay ft and not be bored. Report
I would rate myself 9. I built fitness expertise by trying fitness classes, then continuing to go and improving the moves. Circuit training also helps. :-) Report
I'd say depending on the day I am 7-8 range. Report
I would say a 5. I do exercise every day....but struggle with "pushing" myself. I do try different styles/types of exercise and hope that eventually....I can do more.....and better. Report