How to Fend Off Fitness Trolls

Fellow Portland blogger J.D. Roth, owner of Get Rich Slowly, posted a great article today titled How to Fend Off Financial Trolls. While reading his article, I couldn’t help but think about fitness trolls, and how the advice that he was giving translated really well into a fitness context, so I decided to modify the main points of his article for the purposes of our interest in fitness.

Get Rich Slowly is a fantastic resource for those interested in learning how to pay off debt and build a financially sound future. I recommend that you go and visit his site and read the original article. The article below borrows heavily from Roth’s original article. Again, I give him full credit for his ideas – my goal is to translate his ideas into the fitness realm. (J.D., if you read this, think of it as an homage!)

Fitness is about motivation and willpower every bit as much as it is building muscle and elevating heart rates. When you work to eliminate the excuses not to work out, you’ll find that you actually enjoy the process as well as the results. However, as many of you know, there are always little voices of doubt and temptation that can derail you from your fitness goals. It’s difficult to stay focused when you’re besieged by fitness trolls.

What Are Fitness Trolls?

Fitness trolls strive to sabotage your fitness pursuits. These trolls can be internal or external. They’re the people who make comments like, “I can’t eat all of these doughnuts by myself, you should have just one doughnut!” They don’t take into consideration how hard you work and how easy it is to be derailed from your goals. Fitness trolls are also the internal voices that say, “You don’t have to work out today, you can always do it tomorrow.” Fortunately, there are good strategies for dealing with both external and internal trolls.

Beware the Fitness Trolls

Coping With External Trolls

Naturally, there are a lot of people in the fitness industry that want you to think that their way is the only way to get fit, and they point out flaws in your approach. Of course there are always going to be people who disagree with you or have their own way, but there are many paths to the same goal. Don’t get distracted by others’ paths when you formulated your own intentionally.

Others will leave you negative comments because they are not happy with their own health and fitness, or life in general, and they will try to derail you in some manner. People sometimes have a hard time confronting their own limitations when they see others attempting or excelling at activities that they know they should be doing themselves.

A big percentage of these kinds of people aren’t interested in a rational exchange of fitness ideas and information. They’re external fitness trolls. They have chips on their shoulders. They’re clinging to preconceived notions. They don’t want to accept the blame for allowing their own deconditioned state.  They might just want to argue. Recognize these people, and know that they are not worth your time. Other examples of behavior you might see in external trolls include:

  • You might have a goal, and have a plan to pursue it despite the risk involved. The troll in your life focuses on the obstacles, on the reasons you can’t achieve it: “You don’t know what you’re doing,” “Think of all the things that might go wrong,” etc.
  • Perhaps you admire other successful and fit people. Trolls often resent success: “Jillian Michaels can stay really fit because she can afford a personal assistant,” “Lance Armstrong is only fit because of genetics and substances,” “Fit people don’t have as many chores and responsibilities as the rest of us.”
  • Some trolls complain all the time. They complain about their jobs, they complain about their lives, they complain that they don’t have good genes. They complain, but they rarely take action. Complainers are poisonous.

Defeating most external trolls is straightforward. Because they’re not internal, you can usually just remove yourself from the situation. Ignore the troll. Change the conversation. Leave the room. Hang up the phone. Do not argue. Any time you argue with a troll, the troll wins. Do not engage the troll.

Coping With Internal Trolls

Internal trolls are more insidious than their external brethren. Because they are a part of you, eradicating them takes self-discipline. Examples of internal trolls include:

  • Self-defeating thoughts and behaviors: “I can’t do this — it’s too difficult”, “I’m not smart enough”, “It’s too much work”, “I don’t deserve to be fit”
  • Procrastination — “I’ll start next week”, “I’ll worry about this later”, “I can start exercising next month.”
  • Rationalization — “Eating just one slice of pizza won’t blow my diet”, “I’m out with my friends — I should join the fun”, “I should reward myself for how well I’ve been doing lately”
  • Barriers — “I don’t know how to exercise at home”, “It’s too much bother to prepare a healthy lunch”, “Sure I could search around for a healthier recipe, but it probably won’t taste as good.”

Conquering internal trolls can be non-intuitive. Most are a product of self-doubt, which is best combated through exercise, discipline, positive social interaction, and a healthy diet. Seriously. The following can also help:

  • Talk back to yourself! It makes sense to avoid arguments with external trolls, but confronting internal trolls is an excellent tactic.
  • Read success literature: personal fitness blogs, before and after stories, and biographies of successful and fit people.
  • Educate yourself. Learn about fitness. Find new ways to exercise to keep things fun and interesting.
  • Find a mentor, a coach, or a fitness instructor. Learn from others.

I have much more trouble with internal trolls than I do with external trolls. They’re a constant threat.

Know When To Seek Help

Some trolls are difficult to defeat. What do you do about a spouse who insists on sabotaging your nutrition plan? How do you deal with your own compulsive eating? Problems like these may require the assistance of a trained professional: a nutritionist, a personal trainer, or a psychologist. The important thing is to deal with them. Until you defeat them, they’ll only hold you back, preventing you from achieving success.

  • Farasha

    You left out the external fitness trolls who brag on and on about reaching impossible goals (like dropping a dress size in a week and then losing an inch in one day), and belittle others by setting themselves as the “high standard” that everyone else ought to aspire to, thus negating all the good work other individuals do in their own lives. Right now, I’m having trouble with such a narcisstic, self-centered troll in my subforum I help moderate on a message board. It’s NOT FUN.

    You need to rethink this whole “fitness troll” thing. Sometimes it’s not some lazy person that hasn’t reached their own goals; sometimes it’s an unrealistic person with a severe superiority complex. >:/

    • JohnnyFit

      Thanks for another example of an external fitness troll.

      Everyone is unique, and not every aspect of “fitness” can be attained by everyone. That’s why there is no one size fits all approach. Age, genetics, injuries, and previous levels of attained fitness are all contributors to our differences.

      There certainly is no need to belittle others for not being like you. Encouragement to keep going is always a better approach.

      The good thing about moderating your own forum is that you can always ban an individual that isn’t contributing positively, or constructively to the conversations. There’s nothing wrong with excluding someone who is wasting everyone else’s time. Good luck with that!