My last blog was about making New Year’s Resolutions and how it is difficult for most of us to keep them. I recently read an article that brought the whole “mind over matter” issue to the forefront of my thinking. The article talked about how our way of thinking has the potential to sabotage our fitness ambitions. But if you think about it, our mind or way of thinking can sabotage any resolution we make!
I am going to focus this blog on fitness and physical activity and give specific examples of how our way of thinking can challenge us and make it harder to continue to push yourself. When we decide to get more physically active, this typically is spurred by our motivation to get healthier, lose weight, be more fit or any myriad of reasons. Initially, this motivation is exciting, uplifting and positive. We usually start out feeling like we can conquer the world and attain any goal we set.
What Happens Next
Over a period of time, our mentality starts to kick in. We start thinking “maybe this goal was too lofty”; “I have tried to get physically active before and failed”; “my spouse/friends/significant other does not have confidence I can do this”; etc. We start listening to those “little voices” in our head and start doubting what we have set out to do. What we need to do is change our mentality/way of thinking in order to help us succeed! So how do we do this?
Stages of Fitness & Psychology
Let’s start out by clarifying your fitness voyage is more than diet and exercise; you must realize the mental aspect of your voyage is just as important and be aware of it. We have to not only train our body, but our mind as well. There are psychological stages your mind goes through when you decide to make a change.
This starts with denial or precontemplation: you are aware of the need to make a change, but have no intention of doing so. In this stage, you make excuses as to why you can’t change or you may make a big deal of being “comfortable with who you are and how you look/feel”.
Next you begin contemplating the need for change. Looking at FWL’s blog and reading about resolutions and getting healthier are some examples of this contemplation. For some, this stage lasts for extended periods of time before moving forward into the next stage.
The next stage is preparing to make the change. You may go out and join a gym, buy new workout clothes, get fitness dvd’s for home, or ask a friend to begin a walking routine with you.
Now you are ready to get busy and start sweating. This is the stage where you take action and set your preparation into motion! Initially you feel great. You are more physically active, eating healthier and doing what you need to do and you feel like you are on top of the world…
Then the reality of change sets in. You realize making change is not easy. You may start doubting yourself and the reasons or methods for making the change. DON’T do this!! Think about all the positives of your change–think about how great you feel after a workout; think about how much better you feel eating healthy; think about your increase in energy; think about how much better you sleep at night; etc. You need to try to push past the doubt and stay on track. If you get off track, don’t fear; you can always get back to where you were and go beyond!
The final stage of fitness and psychology is the maintenance phase. I like to think of maintenance as more of the lifestyle change. When you make a change for life, you should plan to continue and “maintain” this change! This phase is ongoing, but it is very easy to become complacent and very easy to “fall off the wagon” so to speak. Every so often, you may need to change things up, challenge your body and your mind. Get out of the “rat race” and try something new. Mix up what you have been doing or change it completely. If you develop a mental block, you may have to take a little break from it all. However, if you do this, put it in writing and set a schedule and time line for when you will resume your activities and get back on track. By putting it in writing, you will be more likely to hold yourself accountable and get back into it, sooner rather than later!
I hope this blog helps you realize there is more to it than just diet and exercise and that your mind plays a big role in all of this. Good luck and get moving!