December 21, 2018

I want to workout vs. I need to workout

Fitness Myths

I need to workout. 

I want to workout.

These two sentences, provide a unique experience for us and our bodies.

I’d like for you to read aloud both one more time.

How did it feel for you? 

Did they feel the same or different?

In this blog, I’d like to discuss concepts, perspective, and language. And how each intertwine and contribute to our personal experiences with our body, health and overall happiness. 

What are Concepts?

Concepts are what shape what we want to see. Concepts shape what we feel. Concepts are not hardwired. We can shape them, rewire them, and with time and consistent work we can change our beliefs (ex. the belief that I need to workout everyday or I’ll lose my progress).

What are Perspectives?

Perspectives are typically shaped from past experiences, all the “good” and all the “bad”, provide us with a lens on how we see the world. Similar to concepts, perspectives are not hardwired. We can shift and change how we view the world with patience, time and consistency.

What is language?

Language is our method of communication. The words we use, mean little without perspectives and concepts. Language allows us to better communicate our experiences, relate and connect to one another. 


It is important to reflect on the following:

  1. Concepts and perspectives are not hardwired

  2. Behavior change often involves shifting our perspectives and developing new concepts

  3. The language we use can influence our experience

  4. Language is subtle yet impactful

  5. How we speak, view and interpret the world around us contributes largely to our own personal life experience

  6. Often times becoming “healthier” or happier requires a shift in our way of thinking and the words we use

Here is an example of a conversation I recently had with a client:

Client: “I feel like I want to exercise more”

Me: “Is it because you want to? or because you feel you need to?”

Client: “A bit of both”

Me: “Could you describe both scenarios to me?”

Below are some examples of wants:

  1. I want to move my body because I feel stronger

  2. I want to move my body because I feel more mentally clear and refreshed

  3. I want to move my body because I feel a little achy and stiff

Below are some examples of needs:

  1. I need to move my body because I need to lose weight

  2. I need to move my body because I should be doing something more to be improving my health

  3. I need to because I feel lazy

The “I need to” sentences are typically driven from our history: what we’ve been told or led to believe, what’s expected, personal fears, what we’ve personally experienced, etc. Need to’s coming from external resources (peer pressure, social pressure, expectations) can cloud our personal desires of simply wanting to exercise, just because. 

Your needs and wants are not one in the same.

”I need to” exercise verses “I want to” exercise are experienced differently by our bodies. The same goes for how we fuel our bodies, i.e. I need eat a salad verses I want to eat a salad. 

Language is powerful! In many cases, changing how we speak of food or movement can shift our entire experience. It provides us more freedom. It puts us back in the driver’s seat of our own journey. We have less rules to abide by and rather tap back into ourselves. 

If we spend our time constantly in a world of needs, fueled specifically by fear (i.e. fear of not being worthy, good enough or loved) it may sound like this:

“I need to lose weight. In order to do so, I need to workout 7x/week and I need to burn 2000 calories a day and I need to only eat salads.”

But, what if we tried this?

“I want to improve how I feel in my body. I want to move it because it improves my how confident I feel physically. I want to eat salads because I like how it makes me feel refreshed.”

Does it feel different?

Keep in mind “health” also includes how we speak to ourselves .

So now that we covered the impact of the words we use, I’d also like to touch on our perceptions when it comes to hearing, reading or even saying these statements. 

Remember that our perspectives began to shape at a very young age. Our eyes started to observe. Our ears started to tune into key words. Our brains began to interpret all of that input to create our lens of the world. Therefore, we cannot merely change our language in hopes of successful change. Rather, we may also need to challenge the way we’ve been viewing the world. 

For instance, you can also express your needs in a way that does not hinder your emotional and mental growth. The statement “I need to workout”, could be simply that, just a statement of needing to move the body. The lack of emotion works well for us in this context. It all comes back to perspective. 

The hard part about change (essentially all health/fitness journey’s involve change) is that we have to filter through concepts, perspectives and language in order to really hear ourselves. Often times faulty concepts, perspectives and negative language which makes it challenging to know what’s really “real”.

This is why listening to your body is so challenging! Your brain is filtering through EVERYTHING all at once with emotions. 

My encouragement to you is:

  1. Try to say both scenarios “I want to’s” verses “I need to’s” and see what shifts you experience in your body. Just take some notes and bring some awareness.

  2. Implement more I want to’s when the time is right and you feel the most confident. There’s no need to jump through hoops and adjust your language all day. Instead, try it with smaller instances, maybe at home when deciding to pick a piece of fruit to snack on: I want to eat this banana. You will need more reps of you vocalizing your wants. Again, start small, start where you’re comfortable.

  3. Try to entertain an alternative perspective when it comes to old thought patterns. For instance, I need to workout could be simplier. It could be that as humans we’re meant to move and you may actually need to move your body to feel better. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the statement I need to workout, it’s the context and perspective which we give it that creates potential stress.

“Fitness” and Health  often go far beyond knowing how many reps to complete or what micronutrient to ingest at at lunch. In many scenarios, it’s about understanding what lens you are viewing the world? What words are keeping you fearful of food or keeping you in the same thought patterns?

Take your time as you explore the concepts you’ve adopted, the perspectives which you see the world and the language you use. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *