How to Be a Badass at the Gym

Fierce women are dominating our fitspo boards. Between Ronda Rousey, Serena Williams, CrossFitters, and badass bootcampers, fitness has taken a turn for the strong—and we’re all about it. In fact, following suit—and learning exactly how to be a badass—is at the top of our fitness goals.

But what is a badass? Jen Sincero, author of You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life (awesome book title, we know!), says: “When you’re a true badass, you really live your life like it’s the only one you’ve got,” she says. “You’re not only in better shape, you’re doing what you want for a living, you’re having more fun, and you’re more inspired and energized.” Hence why Rousey has coined the term, which she says is the antithesis of her life motto, of being a “do nothing bitch.” (In fact, Ronda Rousey Defends Her UFC Title—and Badass Status.)

And the benefits are real. For one, when you’re doing what you want and having more fun, you’re likely happier. And researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health suggest happiness has huge effects on health—especially when it comes to the heart. In one study, they found that emotional vitality (defined as a sense of enthusiasm, hopefulness, and engagement in life) reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. This happiness effect even overrode the negative effects of smoking and lack of exercise, they say.

Even more: According to a study conducted at the University of Germany, people who adopt a badass mindset are tougher than the rest of us. In the research, endurance athletes—who train themselves to power through pain with an “I can do it” mindset—had a higher pain threshold and better staying power than the average Joes (or Janes!). Why? Your brain tells you to quit before your body does, so with mental strength comes a better ability to max out your body’s capacity and endurance. (Learn more on How Suffering Fosters Post-Traumatic Growth (Which Is a Good Thing).)

Okay, so, we want in. How’s it done? Here are four ways to get there.

Think Positively
Success starts with confidence, right? “One of the biggest predictors of performance is self-efficacy, which is the belief that you can complete a task,” says Jonathan Fader, Ph.D., a sports psychologist in New York City. According to Fader, it’s all about that mind-body connection. “If I have the expectation and the sense that I can do something, I’m more likely to be able to do it,” he says. (We have the Therapist-Approved Tricks for Perpetual Positivity to get you started.)

Stop Giving a Damn
Another trademark of a badass: an “I don’t give a damn” attitude. Do you think Serena pays attention to the haters? In a study of 600 people from the University of Ohio, researchers found those who based their sense of self-worth on what others thought about them actually had lower health scores. As for those who did their thing and didn’t care what their peers thought? They were less likely to experience drug abuse and eating disorders and reported overall lower levels of stress. To adopt this way of thinking, Fader says it’s about focusing on the things you can control and forgetting the things you can’t. You can’t do anything about the outcome of a race, but you can focus on your form and breathing when you run.

Take Some Risks, Why Don’t Ya?
“A badass athlete is just someone who went for it on a massive level,” Sincero says. “Pick your heroes and then follow suit.” Fader stresses the advantage of following the sports psychology principle of setting S.M.A.R.T. goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-oriented. Taking a totally unrealistic risk (like trying to run a marathon when you’ve never run more than a 5K) can be demoralizing if you fail. But taking risks and being successful can help your brain fine tune what’s motivating you to reach your fitness goals in the first place. (Need some badass inspo? These Strong Women Are Changing the Face of Girl Power As We Know It.)

Try Something New
Sincero challenges all of us wannabe badasses to go out and try that kickboxing or acro yoga class we’ve been talking about forever. “Everybody’s got something they’ve always wanted to do,” she says. “So make a point to actually go do it.” Like, today people. And adding novelty to your training plan will actually increase your fitness gains. According to a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Strength Conditioning and Research, periodization, or switching up your workout routine, improves muscular strength. BRB, checking out some Free Fitness Classes You Can Take On Periscope.

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