We've all heard the phrase "Mind over Matter" right? It's applicable to most things in life I would say... a positive outlook on life really does make a difference to how we live and feel, which I know for some people isn't always easy - believe me I understand. I'm not writing this post as an "everyone should wake up happy and be happy 24/7, and achieve absolutely everything at the same level as everyone else" type post; it's unrealistic. Instead I'm writing this post to try and help you change your mindset when it comes to training.
Not everyone enjoys exercise. I know it's hard sometimes, and it might mean stepping outside of your comfort zone. As a personal trainer part of my job is to help motivate you into wanting to make a change in some way or another, and to some extent you've already made that first step of wanting to change when you seek my help. I then continue to provide exercises to challenge you and to find something that you enjoy, to help make the exercise a little easier. Exercising doesn't have to always just be about weight-loss, building muscle or training for an event. Sometimes exercising is more about finding time for yourself each week to improve overall health (both physical and mental health) and helping to create a habit of regular exercise as part of your weekly or daily routine.
How should you go about changing your mindset in the first place I hear you ask? Well I actually would respond with a question... how much do you WANT to make a change? Very few people go from no exercise at all to exercising for an hour 5 days a week all in one go; most people need to break it up. Start by setting yourself small regular goals. For example, if your goal is about starting to run, then try to run for 1 minute, followed by a short walk - 1 to 2 minutes. Repeat as necessary, to what suits you best. Then the next time you go out running, try 1 minute and 20 seconds followed by a shorter walk. Build things up slowly.Your body will soon learn to endure a longer distance or a faster pace, and the thought process behind this changes without you even realising. You can look back and see how far you have travelled (sometimes quite literally if you're running!) but it will then spur you on to do more.
This method of mindset change isn't just limited to exercise. Nutrition and sleep are both very important factors when it comes to improving health - perhaps even more so than the exercise part itself. Good nutrition provides energy for the body and therefore fuels your exercise, whilst good quality sleep provides a chance for the body to recover and adapt to changes. If you're needing to improve eating habits then change one thing at a time - it's far easier to maintain one new habit each week, than it would be to change several habits all at once. For example, during week 1, you could increase the amount of water you drink - aim for 2-3 litres per day, and limit the amount of tea/coffee/juice that you drink. Once you have achieved this through the first week, you might decide that your next goal is to eat 2 extra portions of vegetables with your dinner each night. With regards to aiming to sleep better, you could bring you bedtime forward 10 minutes for the first few nights, then another 10 minutes the next night and so on.Try swapping technology for reading a book 30 minutes before bedtime.
Some people also find that they need the accountability of changing their mindset by working closely with someone else. Having a training buddy often means you'll stay motivated long after you would have done by yourself. There's less chance of cancelling exercise sessions since you don't want to let the other person down, and naturally we all get a little more competitive when training alongside one another, achieving an extra rep or two more than you might normally.
Other people may prefer journaling or using progress photos as a method to help change mindset, since you can look back on what you have been able to achieve and see positive results. Not all results happen as quickly as we may always want them to, but finding a method that suits you can have a huge impact on the way we view our training, nutritional and sleep habits.
As cliché as it sounds, mindset really is about turning the "can't's" into "can's". I'm not saying that you'll enjoy the first week, or even month of trying to change lots of habits because you will need to put in the work to be able to see the results that you want to see... what I'm saying is you have to go in with an open mind, and a readiness to want change. Small goals that are achievable will help you to find more motivation along the way and once you see the changes happening, the cycle of positive mind-setting becomes never-ending, enlaced with an increased motivation to achieve goals. Not every workout will be your best, but be proud of yourself for still doing the session; not everyday will be the best for eating healthily, so just get back on track tomorrow. Rather than think "I'm about to do a 30 minute exercise session", think about the fact that "this workout is less than 3% of my day".
With this in mind decide what it is you're wanting to change. Start with an open mind and give it everything you've got, since change will only happen when you step outside your comfort zone and put in the hard work... mindset over matter.