Thursday, December 1, 2016

How to Keep New Year's Exercise Resolutions - Fire Your Inner Critical Coach

Prepare for 2017 By Firing Our Inner Critical Coach

by Kathleen Lisson

As a half marathon runner, an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and RRCA Certified Running Coach in San Diego, I have seen the effects of positive and negative coaching on athletes. But what about the coaching we don't see - the voice inside each of our heads as we run?

“You’re fat.”
“You’re not good enough.”
“If you don’t work out until it hurts up every day, you will lose your edge and someone will come along and beat you.”

These are some words from an athlete’s inner critical coach. Each of us have a voice inside our head, perhaps an echo from a parent or a high school coach, that sets the tone for our workouts.

“That workout was hard, and I made it through all the tough miles.”
“My workouts were solid and I’m ready to increase my weight/distance next week!”
“I feel sick today, I’ll take care of myself and focus on eating healthy so I can get back to a full workout in a few days.”

These are familiar phrases from an athlete’s inner compassionate coach. Which types of messages are running through your head during and after a workout? If they are more critical than compassionate, 2017 is the year to fire your critical coach and hire a compassionate coach.

Step One: Conduct an Inner Coach Performance Review.

Over the next week or two, put the voice inside your head through a performance review. Just like a manager observes employee behavior and conducts a yearly performance review, notice the messages your inner coach is sending you before, during and after workouts.

Here are some questions for your performance review checklist:
  • Would you say those things out loud to a friend who needed your support at the gym?
  • Do the messages you hear from your inner critical coach push you closer to loving your sport more or burning out?
  • If your coach is critical, can you think of a specific person that voice reminds you of - a critical authority figure in your youth?

Step Two: Give your a coach a raise, Put him/her on probation or Fire your coach!

Raise! If you have an inner compassionate coach and find yourself saying mostly positive things, congratulations! Give your coach a raise by taking time to let the feeling of success sink in after a great workout.

Probation: If your coach is critical, is it a voice from your youth? If so, recognize that the person may have meant well and thought he/she was protecting you. You are an adult now, and your inner coach needs to coach you as an adult, not as a child. Put your inner coach on probation and remind yourself that you are not a child every time a negative, punitive thought crosses your mind.

You're Fired! If your inner coach is critical and you know listening to negative coaching will lead to burnout, fire your critical coach. Evaluate every inner coach comment - if you heard someone say it to a friend, would you agree with them or tell the person to shut up? 'Hire' a more compassionate coach by finding something that went well every time you exercise and taking ten seconds to fully feel a sense of accomplishment and success.

Awareness of the coaching voice in our head is a powerful first step in changing the way we view exercise and overcoming obstacles like busy schedules, physical pain and fatigue and burnout. Let your inner compassionate coach make a positive difference in how many New Year's Resolutions you keep in 2017.

I share my personal story about my inner coach here:

Kathleen Lisson is a certified Meditation Teacher and Labyrinth Facilitator and teaches Meditation and Mindfulness at IPSB college in San Diego. Sign up for a private meditation lesson or labyrinth walk in the comfort of your home here:

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