How changing your ‘why’ can make you fitter and stronger.


If like me you are inclined towards an all or nothing approach to life, it is easy to fall into the nothing phase. Falling off the wagon of whatever new initiative you have can lead to negative feelings towards whatever it is you are trying to achieve.

Many of us, myself included in the past, have come to movement or fitness to manage our weight, only to stop when we do or do not see the desired results.

I recently started learning to play the drums and I was apprehensive starting out on learning an instrument. As I child I had lessons to play the flute an instrument I loved and still do, but I hated practicing. As time went on and I didn’t put in the practice I was set each week, I would dread the next lesson as I knew the teacher would be cross, I would get told off and told to do better. I would promise them and myself I would practice, then before I knew it I was there a week later dreading the next lesson.

Starting the drums as an adult learner brought these feelings back and I put off starting something I knew I would enjoy. I eventually had my first lesson and my teacher started off the session by saying that I could progress as quickly or slowly as I wanted to. I could play in the lessons or I could practice some of the drills in between sessions and learn at a quicker pace. He started off by giving me full permission not to practice if I didn’t feel like it taking away that worry that I had about not practicing and feeling guilt before each lesson. Consequently most weeks I would do some practice, even if it was just 5 minutes and that is how we continued. I have been learning for over two years and I look forward to each lesson.

By taking away the all or nothing approach to the goal I have sustained my practice much longer than I thought I might. The negativity and worry was replaced with acceptance and enjoyment.

It’s the same when it comes to strength and fitness.

Growing up I didn’t enjoy team sports or athletics. Finishing at the back of the group was the opposite of a motivator for me, missing the ball over and over was demoralising and humiliating so PE was an hour week that I dreaded. It was a negative experience repeated over and over – until one week they had an aerobic instructor come to the school to do a 40-minute session for us all and suddenly there was a glimmer of light. Movement that I didn’t hate. Unfortunately it was only a one off and then the negativity was back.

This negativity around movement continued while I was at university, I started going to the gym as I had started to put weight on, I thought exercising and dieting was what I should do. I spent 20-30 minutes of boring training in the gym a few times a week. I didn’t enjoy it but my ‘why’ was working (in the short term anyway) I started loosing weight and when I was the number on the scales I wanted to be, I stopped going.

Repeat this over and over through my 20s. Sometimes I would get disheartened when I didn’t see my weight drop and would fall off the exercise wagon (as I then saw it) quickly. Months would go by before I visited the gym again. I was erratic and would then return and feel guilty and sluggish. My ‘why’ was all over the place.

Does any of this sound familiar?

I was stuck in a start stop cycle. That is, until I started attending indoor cycling classes. Loud music, a darker room and I was in control of the bike resistance, finally something physical that I loved. My ‘why’ was still to manage my weight but at least I really enjoyed this movement and I started to feel fitter and stronger.

I started to make the connection between the stress relief and movement I enjoyed. I was starting to move away from weight loss or management as my ‘why’ for my movement.

Fast forward to a few years ago and the shift in mind set was fixed, it was for my mental health that I moved my body. Once that was set I was made up, my consistency improved, I started trying to find other movements that helped me feel better and manage my stressful job. Along the way I gave up the stressful day job and trained to become a personal trainer.

Fast forward to the start of lockdown and it couldn’t have been more starkly obvious that movement was one of the ways I was going to cope with the worry of the pandemic. I have never been so consistent with my own movement and my own training.

Why am I writing all this?

I want to help you take away the negativity and punishment side of exercise to open up space for movement to make a huge improvement to the quality of your life.

With this in mind I have a few questions for you to mull over.

  • What’s your why when it comes to exercise and fitness?
  • Is it really your why or do you just kind of mean it?
  • Does your why embody positivity? If not, can you flip it to make it a positive why?

For example:

“I exercise to eat what I want” – could flip to – “I move to feel strong in my day to day life.”

“I exercise because it’s what I should do” – could flip to, I gain xxx (fill in the blanks) from movement.

I talk to my clients about weight loss being their why and help them shift their why to something more positive which leads to enjoyment and through that consistency. They might come to loose weight but get so much more once their why comes out as gaining so much more.

A holistic approach to movement can open many doors for you.

To chat through how I can work with you on your fitness why please get in touch.

Sara McDonnell

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