Psychology of Exercise
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
We have all heard the following lines many times before, “It’s all in your head” and “Mind over matter.” Flashbacks to screaming coaches and gym teachers may give these concepts a negative connotation, but the principles behind them are positive and beneficial. Our mental outlook towards health and fitness plays a significant role in our physical ability to accomplish tasks.
Whether you are new to exercise, simply trying to survive a challenging workout, or racing for a personal best time, the “voices inside your head” can help you do your best. Learn from these experienced YMCA exercisers on how to make your mind work for you, rather than against.
As a long time triathlete and coach, Craig Congdon’s perspective comes from experience. “The more discomfort becomes the focus, the more uncomfortable the endeavor will become. Mental tricks such as focusing on one repetition or one mile instead of 10 repetitions or 10 miles can break up the task.”
Try Craig’s advice by breaking down your fitness task into small, manageable segments. Keep your focus small, and you will be more successful at achieving the larger task at hand.
“What keeps me motivated during hard workouts is knowing how great it feels to be finished and accomplished,” says Andrew Meinel, the Aquatics Coordinator for the East Side YMCA. In preparing for his first full-distance marathon, Andrew reflected on previous experiences where he regretted not working a bit harder to complete a given task. He stays motivated by recalling the feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction that follow the completion of a challenging workout or race.
Next time you successfully complete a workout or fitness event, take a few moments to capture your mental notes. Save the feelings of accomplishment in your memory for the next time you need a little extra motivation.
Certified personal trainer Nancy Kiehnau works with individuals, small groups, and large classes. She knows that not all clients share the same enjoyment in working out. During especially challenging workouts, Nancy instructs clients to “go to your happy place – a sandy beach, a sunny park, wherever!” We may benefit from mentally removing ourselves from the struggle of a workout or race by imagining a scenario that eases our mind. Using pleasant thoughts and images can ease the mental stress of fitness, allowing us to do more physically.
Incorporate Nancy’s advice by pushing through a physical barrier using mental imagery. Imagine your favorite vacation, family get-together, or dream destination. Smile along with the happy thoughts and notice the physical struggle melt away.
When your motivation is low and the physical struggle grows, learn to harness the power of your mind. Try one of these mental tricks and experience the positive effects your mindset can have on your fitness routine. You have all the support you need to successfully complete your next workout or race, you simply have to be willing to have the right conversation with the “voices in your head.”
Nick Rozek Greater Green Bay YMCA
Workplace Wellness Coordinator & Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist