Make Your Mind Your Exercise Buddy
“The immortal gods have made it so: To achieve excellence, we first must sweat.” - Hesiod, 700BC The immortal gods may have wanted us to sweat to achieve excellence, and 21st century science backs them up, but when it comes to sweaty exercise, our minds often go to the physical activity as grinding punishment. Treadmills were originally used to grind grain, and later to punish prisoners sentenced to hard labor.
Sweat is a pillar of wellness, but hard labor is not something our minds want us to do unless sweating is necessary to obtain food or sex, to run away from danger, or to lift a car off a loved one. Our minds want us to conserve energy, but as the placebo and nocebo effects prove, our minds can be tricked. A sugar pill can have a therapeutic (placebo) effect if you believe it will ease your pain, and a salty injection can trigger side-effects (the nocebo effect) if you've been primed to expect a reaction. Similarly, if you expect exercise to be difficult, you will likely experience it as draining and unpleasant, but the good news is that opposite is also true: if you expect to feel invigorated during and after your workout, you probably will. Your mind creates your reality, so how can you make your mindset work out for you? Here are 5 simple ways to make your mind your best exercise buddy. 1. Reset your perception about your abilities. People who were told during a research study that their athletic performance was exceptional performed significantly better in a later fitness test...even though it wasn't true! Begin with the assumption that inside you there is an athlete in search of the right sport in which to sweat it out. 2. Make up your mind before you speed up your body. Point your mind in the direction you want it to go by deciding in advance of your workout how you want to feel during and after you exercise. Before my workout, I set the intention to have fun, feel good, and de-stress. It works! 3. Embrace performance enhancing spark plugs. You can set positive expectations with a “magic potion” (mine is a cup of espresso), fancy sportswear, and uplifting music. I always cue a favorite song to start off my workout on an energetic note. 4. Avoid upward comparisons. Women who looked at so-called “fitsperational” photos of fitness gurus prior to working out found their workouts to be more grueling, and, rather than lifting their spirits, exercise worsened their mood. Run your own race and don’t let comparison sabotage your efforts and take the joy out of moving your body. 5. Reframe discomfort. The first five minutes of my workout often feel the most challenging, so when my mind sends discouraging messages that make me feel like stopping, I remind myself that it’s just my body adjusting to effort and if I hang in for a few more minutes and focus on Harry Styles it will get easier. It always does. Your mind can change your reality, so be sure to give yourself a pep talk while you work out: commend yourself for showing up, remind yourself of all the mental and physical benefits of sweat, and tell yourself you how good you'll feel when you're done. The underlying message of all these tips is simple: if you prime your mind to have an enjoyable exercise experience, your body will often follow obediently along. “Mind is everything; muscles pieces of rubber. All that I am, I am because of my mind.” - Nine-time Olympic gold medalist, Flying Finn Paavo Nurmi Get Fully Charged on Making Your Mind Your Fitness Buddy
In the wonderful new book entitled, The Expectation Effect, science journalist David Robson explains how your mind is a prediction machine that you can manipulate for a longer, happier, and physically fitter life.
David Robson recently discussed the expectation effect on the Modern Wisdom forecast.
How much exercise is enough? Gretchen Reynolds of The New York Times explains how, when it comes to physical activity, every minute counts.
Here’s a suggestion for a song to spark your workout from Harry Styles.
Happy sweaty recharging! Lynne