Posted on May 31, 2022 by Harry Edwards
Today I wanted to write about a topic slightly different from the usual blog. Often, especially as a person working in the fitness industry, it is easy to have blinders on and only focus on the technical aspects of training: nutrition and health. We become so focused on HOW you should be training that we forget to examine WHY you are training. In this article I’m going to explore the relationship between mental health and fitness, specifically the motivations behind working out and what I believe to be the best ways to work towards peak health and fitness without losing sight of your personal happiness.
People have an endless array of different motivations for getting into fitness. For some it comes from concerns about body composition, whether it be that they are over or underweight. For others it comes from a love of a particular sport or activity and a desire to supplement their pre-existing training. Some have concerns about their health they wish to mitigate, some want to find a new group of people to connect with, and others are simply looking for a new way to spend their spare time. The different starting points are limitless and unique to each person, all impacting upon the way in which we go about our fitness journey. It influences the way we perceive ourselves, the types of activity we will lean towards and the approaches we will take. As such, its very important to reflect at regular intervals, on whether what you are doing aligns with your goals and whether your goals are actually the right ones.
So, what should I be conscious about?
I recall a conversation with a gym member about motivation and fitness. He explained that he had reached a point in his life where he was much more interested in improving upon his athletic achievements, for example the number of pull ups he could do or how fast he could run 5K, than being concerned about his weight on the scales. He was in good shape for his age, happy with his body and ultimately was more interested in pushing himself and having fun than grafting for some “dream” body type. I remember thinking that this was a great example of someone reflecting on their goals and working out for reasons that were true to them. My point in telling this story is not to say that you shouldn’t ever have goals related to weight or any other criteria. Instead, I want to stress the importance of examining the dialogue you’re having internally about exercise and making sure the dynamic that you have with yourself is healthy. If you imagine that it was another person speaking to you rather than your own inner dialogue, is that communication positive and constructive? For example, there is a world of difference between, “You’ve put on a bit of weight after your holiday, best to eat a bit more healthily and push it in the gym tomorrow” VS “God, look at all the weight you’ve put on! You look disgusting!” Be mindful of how you’re speaking to yourself, especially if you find yourself saying things internally that you would never accept from a stranger. This is easier said than done, but if you truly reflect on why you feel as you do, the positive versions of your inner dialogue will emerge and direct you in a far better direction for your fitness journey and towards a healthier relationship with yourself.
How to look after yourself while looking after yourself
So you’ve clarified, or at least begun understanding, what your deeper motivations for working out are. What are some basic pointers for maintaining your mental health along your fitness journey? Firstly, keep things in perspective. Having one bad workout or one day where you deviate from your nutrition plan is not the end of the world. No journey, whether it be for fitness or any other pursuit, is ever a perfectly straight line of constant improvement with no obstacles. Expect for things to be difficult and prepare to stumble and fail at times, that’s the best indicator that you are doing something worthwhile and challenging. As the old saying goes, “If you’ve never failed, you’ve never tried anything new.”
Secondly, you should never be completely giving up the things that make you happy to achieve your fitness goals. Spending time with friends or family, eating foods you enjoy, taking part in activities you like, these are all essential for maintaining your mental health and can be incorporated into your fitness journey without negating it’s benefits. Nutrition is an easy example. As weight management ultimately comes down to calories in VS calories out, it is technically possible to lose weight on a diet of chocolates, pizza and cake. With this in mind, if you are a lover of pizza for example, there is no reason why you couldn’t have a day each week where you eat one, or find ways to make lower calorie versions of the pizza you love. This applies to other aspects of life as well, so long as you do all things in moderation and in a way which aligns with your goals, anything is permitted. If you find that you need to make a change and remove something from your life that’s A ok! But you should never be making yourself miserable or feeling that you’re missing out in order to be fit and healthy.
Finally, don’t measure your progress according to anyone but yourself. Especially in the times of social media, it is easy to buy into the misleading and rose-tinted presentations others give of their lives. There are influencers who make a living by spreading this exact kind of misinformation, using photo shopped images in perfect lighting to guilt people into buying their supplements or merchandise. Even at a lower scale, judging yourself according to other people you see in the gym, other participants in the classes you attend or others you know, it’s a road to nowhere. Everyone is different and everyone starts from a different place. You’re never going to be the same as anybody, you can only be you. So focus on being the best version of yourself, rather than trying to be a cheap imitation of someone else.
I hope this article has been a positive read for you! Whether it has made you reflect on your own motivations, question what you’re currently doing or affirmed the path you’ve taken, everything is good! Ultimately, being fit and healthy in your body means nothing if you’re unhappy and unfulfilled in your mind. The ultimate goal of your fitness journey should be about showing your body and mind the most love you can by looking after it. Like a well maintained car, you should be giving it the right fuel, getting it out enough so the engine is in good shape and treating it to extra little cleans and buffs to keep it looking beautiful and shiny. We here at motive8 are passionate about helping you achieve this vision of your best self while keeping big smiles on your face. Come on down to Marshall’s Court and get started now, I can promise you won’t regret it!