The Link Between Fitness and Mindset

Article contribution by Ariana Fotinakis

When embarking on a new fitness goal, whether it’s to complete a 10k or to bring body fat levels down to a healthy range, most new trainees focus primarily on the actual movement side of things. And for good reason - a workout is only effective if it’s actually completed (or at the very least, attempted). 

Nutrition is usually paid some attention as well - it’s no secret that the foods you choose to fuel your body with can make or break your success. But there’s an often overlooked area of fitness that’s crucial in not only getting results, but also maintaining them. 

Mindset: The Forgotten Element

There are three critical elements when it comes to improving your health - fitness, nutrition, and mindset. But when I begin working with a new client and I start talking about mindset, I’m often met with a confused look. “Mindset? What does that have to do with squats?” 

So often people expect to go through the motions, do the workouts, say no to the doughnuts, and to be in their peak level of fitness in no time. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. 

Let’s look at weight loss as an example. In the vast majority of cases, it wasn’t just an excess of food and a lack of movement that led to the extra weight. What compelled the individual to make food choices they knew weren’t in their best interests? What caused them to avoid walking outside in favour of spending the evening on the couch? 

Usually there’s an underlying experience, belief, or pattern that led to the current situation. It may be as deeply rooted as childhood trauma, or it could simply be the belief that exercise has to be hard and uncomfortable based on what’s been seen on TV. 

In either case, when we fail to address the reasons why we got to our current situation in the first place, we’ll have a much more challenging time making and maintaining progress. 

Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset

So let’s say you’ve begun to address those root causes, beliefs, and patterns. You’ve opened some doors, gotten honest with yourself, and maybe even got a little uncomfortable. But you’ve set the ball in motion and you’re taking action! 

At some point or another, you’re bound to encounter resistance. 

The workout your trainer has given you to do on your own looks WAY more challenging than anything you’ve ever done by yourself before. You have an overwhelmingly busy week ahead, and the only thing you think you can do to manage it is to drop your workouts. You have an off day, skip breakfast, grab the greasy takeout for lunch, and consume precisely zero vegetables.

None of these situations are ideal, but they don’t have to equate instant failure as many may initially think. 

Through her years of study, psychologist Carol Dweck popularized the terms “growth mindset” and “fixed mindset”. When applied to fitness, we can begin to see how impactful these two very different mindsets are on our results. 

An individual with a growth mindset would view the above situations as opportunities to learn or grow. They may see that ultra-challenging workout as a chance to push themselves and see what they’re really made of. They may look at that busy week as a chance to improve their time management skills and to get a little creative with how they fit their workouts in, even if that means doing a modified version. And they will see that zero-veggie day as a chance to learn more about the situations and feelings that lead them to self-sabotaging behaviour. 

Somebody with a fixed mindset, however, would immediately view those situations as roadblocks. As a sign to bring action to a halt. They may get frustrated while trying that workout and give up. Maybe they don’t even start because they’ve already told themselves it’ll be too hard. That busy week will mean everything is a write-off and since they can’t stick to the initial plan there’s no point trying, and by falling off the rails with their nutrition for one day, they’re a complete failure. 

See how two individuals could go through the exact same situations, but come out with very different results?

You Create Your Reality

At the end of the day, you create your reality. You have the opportunity to choose whether to try something that seems hard, or to save yourself the potential frustration and to hold off. You can make a choice about how you speak to yourself when you slip up or things don’t go exactly as planned. 

You can tell yourself you’re a failure, or you can tell yourself you’re trying your best with what you have. You can say that workout is too hard, or you can say “it’s tough, but I know I’m tougher”. 

It doesn’t matter how many years of negative self-talk and self-sabotaging behaviours you have behind you. It’s never too late to begin changing the way you view yourself and the way you interact with the world around you. 

About Ariana Fotinakis


Ariana is a personal trainer, blogger, triathlete, and self love advocate living in Vancouver BC. After years of alcohol abuse and negative self talk from anxiety and low self-esteem, Ariana turned her life around by making her health a priority and improving her relationship with herself. It's now her mission to help other women struggling in self-defeating patterns become their happiest, healthiest, most confident selves. When she's not training clients, writing, or prepping for triathlons, Ariana can be found scouring the city in search of great coffee.

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