Changing Your Mindset About Physical Activity

Last Saturday, I felt like I failed myself. I had looked at pictures of myself from the past month and I didn’t feel like I had achieved the progress that I so strongly yearned for. I mean, I’ve been working hard, giving exercise my all. So why was I miserable and simply losing the motivation to be active?impossible photo.jpg

I turned to trusty old Google and typed in something to the effect of, “how to learn to love running.” A three-year old article from Elle popped up and completely changed the way I think of physical activity. In the article, Virginia Sole-Smith talks about her lack of motivation to be active. Surprisingly, it’s not the story of the stereotypical couch potato who is simply too ‘lazy’ to realize the benefits of movement. No, this story spoke to a lifelong battle of body insecurities. Sprinkle in diets, fitness ‘kicks’, and fitness ‘fails’ and you’ve described the majority of women around the world.

Now here’s what I gained from the article:

Women often identify exercise in terms of weight loss or weight management. Even the so-called less vain response of “I’m doing it for my health” is often laden with weight loss rhetoric. According to her motivational coach, Michelle Segar, people (especially women) have to reprogram their brain to really see physical movement as a thing of everyday life not just as a means to the end of weight loss.

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Being physically active shouldn’t feel like a punishment. Yet, so many fitness gurus spend their time telling their clients, “no pain, no gain”, “summer bodies are made in the winter”, and other rhetoric that separates people that are willing to endure torture and those that aren’t.

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Lastly, if physical activity is really a part of your life, you won’t have a meltdown over one missed day or not going as ‘hard’. In fact, I missed the gym one day last week. Instead of spiraling into depression (like I normally would), I shrugged it off, made sure that I continued to eat well, drank enough water, and went to bed on time. I told myself the world wouldn’t end and guess what? It didn’t. I returned fully-motivated (even a bit restless since I skipped a day) and I actually appreciated the energy release.

Overall the article made me realize that I have started to internalize those non-motivating workout mantras instead of really enjoying myself. Although I said I was making “lifestyle” changes, I spent 90 percent of my time thinking about how my life could return to normal once I dropped the excess weight.Last month I discovered that I enjoy Pilates but did I allow myself to get too excited? No. I told myself that I needed to focus solely on weight loss which meant cardio, cardio, and just in case you forgot–more cardio! Looking back on that moment, it sounds so stupid. The point is to be physically active in as many ways as possible, hopefully in ways that I actually enjoy.

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I decided to share my good news with my partner. He thought it was interesting that I had just now come to that conclusion as he had been watching me damn-near kill myself for months at the gym. No really…

As he talked, I sat on the couch, embarrassed as I listened to him re-enact the excessive huffing, puffing, and gasping for air as I (in my mind) jogged my way to weight loss on the treadmill. He saw the moments when I cranked the speed up way too high towards the end of a long session. He saw my desperate attempts to grasp the rails for support. He saw my exasperated facial expressions as I clung to dear life, determined not to make a fool of myself by passing out.

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I was mortified. Simply mortified. The article helped me break through the mental block of motivation but my spouse reminded me how careless I was being on my warped, suicide mission for self-worth. This wasn’t self-care. This was torture. Geez, no wonder why I didn’t like this shit.

Then I started to think about how my obsessive behavior was not only affecting me, but also my relationship with him and probably others. So this Friday, I will be posting a special Q &A with him on what it means to be the partner of someone that is trying to be more physically active. Stay tuned…

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