Banish the All or Nothing Mindset

The “All or Nothing” mentality is a damaging mindset when it comes to getting fit and making positive changes towards a healthier life. (The only mindset more damaging- “Nothing or Nothing”- in other words, never caring enough to even try) Many of us exhibit this mentality and have suffered greatly from it. The “All or Nothing” attitude often results in overuse injuries and an unsustainability of a fitness regimen. This prevents us from being successful, and more importantly, from feeling successful. “All or Nothing” keeps many from even starting a healthcare regimen. The All or Nothing mindset pervades our society. We have an obesity epidemic of massive proportions… pun intended. While at the same time, Crossfit thrives with killer workouts that have a very high injury rate. We are either complete non-exercisers or we crush ourselves with exercise. Ironically, both ends of this fitness spectrum could benefit from a change of mindset.

On one end of the spectrum, we have non-exercisers. Non-exercisers with an “All or Nothing” attitude fail to start a fitness commitment because they believe that if they can’t exercise at least 5 days a week, it’s not worth it to even begin. It’s an easy excuse, further ingrained by an often misleading fitness industry where more and more is better and better. It’s amazing how many times I have heard people justify not exercising at all because they “only “ have 20 minutes a day, or only have 2 open times a week. But 20 minutes is still plenty of time to do something. In 20 minutes, you can strength train 2 or 3 body parts, do a core workout or crank your heart rate up with HIIT. In reality, even 1 or 2 exercise sessions a week can be the start to good habits. And each small move towards better health creates feelings of success that can be built upon over time. But, “All or Nothing” people do not like small changes over a long time. They want instant results. But, there is no such thing. We forget that sometimes the smallest step is the greatest leap.

Then we have the polar opposite group. The crossfitters- toughmudders- marathoners- undereaters- gluten free-strength training maniacs. They eat quinoa and brussel sprouts and don’t think you can classify something as a workout unless you’re puking at the end. Many fitness professionals are among this elite group, and this is a problem on multiple levels. Besides the high injury rate and chronic pain among this “All or All” group, it also sets up a “you’re not as good as me if you don’t exercise like me” attitude. Elite exercisers and fitness professionals make up less than 5% of our US population, and yet their methods and madness are touted in magazines, on TV and in the press as “the way it needs to be done”. Think about fitness magazines, for example. If 60% of Americans do no exercise at all, what kind of message are fitness magazines sending, and to whom? How can the 60% even relate to the information provided? Sadly, the 60% buy the magazines anyway, lured into believing they too can look like the crossfitting-toughmudding-gluten free bunch. But they can’t. The gap is too wide and the message too shallow. The “All or Nothing” mentality hurts everyone. It’s a shame we can’t find middle ground. But I have an idea.

How about a new mindset? I propose thinking that “Something is always better than nothing”. For non-exercisers, it gives them hope to begin. For the AAA elite fitness types out there, Yes, it is lowballing it. Yes, it is under-committing. But it might just be laid back enough to get you to relax….to take a walk in the sunshine, play with your kids rather than hit the gym. I can say this with truth because I used to be like that AAA persona. A nice walk in nature was not good enough. Teaching 1 class a day (with incapacitating foot pain FYI)… wimpy. Strength training without crippling soreness? No pain, no gain. Luckily, I’ve been injured several times, aged quite a bit, and found middle ground. I’ve also realized that my elite fitness attitude wasn’t relate-able to the average person. And if the average person can’t relate to me, am I doing the best job to benefit those who need it most? Something is always better than nothing.