A New Way of Thinking About Training and Exercise

By on October 26, 2014

Too many of us frame health and wellness around deprivation – becoming healthier ends up being about the cake you can’t eat and the social activity (like drinking) you have to cut out. No wonder so many people don’t sticks with an exercise and healthy eating plan. Who wants to feel constrained as well as deprived of what they love?

My advice, flip your mindset, try and find the positive! Instead of “I can’t eat cake,” think “how great it is that I can eat these delicious berries?” Instead of, “I don’t want to go for a run” think, “how great it is that I can run.”

Focus on what you can do and what you can have instead of focusing on what your body can’t do and/or what you can’t have.

Athletes often get into the “negativity rabbit hole” when training and or racing. We often focus on what went wrong, or what we didn’t achieve in a race or workout instead of remembering how lucky we our that our bodies can race in the first place.

I am not saying that athletes should stop having athletic goals, or that Joe and Jane should feel badly about struggling to find the motivation to exercise. Learning to “embrace the positive” is not easy. This is a lesson that I learn over and over again. I guess what I am saying is that understanding the importance of a positive mindset is a lesson that is worth at least trying to embody.

Victor E. Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” (I am sure he wasn’t referring to exercise, but I am going to apply it to fitness since everything to me is a reference to health and wellness.) Think of the stimulus Frankl refers to as the food and exercise options available to you. Now, try to modify your response. Move away from understanding eating well and exercising as something that is constraining you. Instead, understand being able to move as something that is enjoyable, something we get to do. Embrace the joy in exercise. Although you can’t change many of the structural realities of life — such as work and family responsibilities — you can try to alter your response.

I am currently trying to “modify my response” and “embrace the positive” while I train. Every time a negative thought comes into my head while running or biking – such as, I am not fast enough, or my feet hurt – I flip the thought. I replaced the negative thought with a positive one such as, “the scenery is so beautiful” or “I am so thankful to be injury free”.

So, the main take-away – if you have been struggling to become active, try to move away from understanding exercise as something on your “to do” list. The “have to” ness of exercise often makes it feel suffocating and stressful, and spurs something akin to adolescent rebellion. Instead, try to embrace the privilege of movement. Find exercise you enjoy. Replace “I have to exercise” with “I get to move.”

Kathleen Trotter, MS (Exercise Science), BA (Honours) is an ironman competitor, personal trainer and writer. She is passionate about fitness and health and trains a wide variety of clients ranging from the avid athlete to individuals living with osteoporosis, Parkinson’s and scoliosi. For more great articles and fitness tips visit: www.kathleentrotter.com and join Kathleen’s newsletter.

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