Exercise – The Most Important Thing: Mindset
With the new year, many of us would have put regular exercise as one of the top resolutions. But if we think back to previous years, how many times has that happened? Perhaps you wrote at the top of your list: Run a 5K. Lose 20lb. You were all fired up, joined a gym, did some workouts, posted them on Facebook… then what happened? Things just fizzled out as other things crowded exercise out of your Life and on Facebook.
Einstein defined insanity, as doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. So this year, let’s heed his wisdom. Before even starting exercise, let’s do something different. Let’s get the real key that helps people make real, lasting changes. The MINDSET.
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Exercise isn’t the full picture when it comes to healthy living. But it is a big part of it, and psychologically a very strong symbol of commitment to start.
But in working with clients and patients for 20 years, whether it’s to lose weight, rehabilitate a heart condition, control diabetes or a bunch of other reasons, I’ve found that starting exercise is very easy to do! But to actually SUSTAIN it, despite the challenges of work, family, even the weather… what’s key is the MINDSET. So let me give you a few ideas to build that mindset.
Idea 1: Take Small Slow Steps
As you learn about exercise, you’re going to be bombarded by a SWARM of information! A hundred different people, youtube videos, blog articles, telling you a hundred different things. And it all sounds good, so you feel pressured to try them all.
Well, here’s the trick. Pick just ONE or TWO things, do them consistently until they become a part of your Lifestyle. Then, add something else. Rinse and repeat. If you try to do it all, it’s too big a shock, you’ll be overwhelmed, and you won’t sustain it.
Something I tell people when talking about relationships is “fall in love slowly”. That applies surprisingly well here! When you start a new Lifestyle, you’re in a sense creating a new relationship with yourself. So don’t create sudden shocks but work on a slow integration, into your Life.
Idea 2: Set Realistic Goals and Measure Success Against Your Baseline
If you’re over 35, and you haven’t exercised for over ten years, don’t go crazy and kill yourself trying to run a four minute mile or bench press 500lb! You need to break in slowly.
For a start, aim to make small improvements to each major area of fitness: your stamina, your muscle strength, your flexibility. As you improve, your goals will evolve. For example, when you lose 5 pounds, you set a goal for the next 5. You achieve a 3k run, you set a goal for 4k. And so on.
Always aim for a small, measureable improvement in some aspect. Don’t worry where other people are at. Just keep elevating your OWN baselines. If you keep at it, you won’t believe what you’ll accomplish in a year. Incidentally, this applies to all areas of Life.
Idea 3: Prepare for Obstacles
Here’s the truth. We’re all working, running a business, have families, and other commitments. Something WILL come up!
Recognize that, then identify common obstacles YOU’LL encounter. The easy part is, if you’ve tried to start exercise before, you know from history, what they are. Have a plan for each setback BEFORE it happens.
For example, if you often didn’t have time to go to the gym because something always came up, include short walks throughout the day as part of your exercise plan. If you know you’ll get bored in the gym eventually, choose something exciting, like games, or a Muay Thai class. If family obligations often arose, plan physical activity for the family.
Another thing is, if you miss a workout, DON’T get into defeatist mode and miss more workouts! Don’t say “I’ve messed up the programme now, what’s the point?” Just make your goal getting back on it as soon as possible! As the saying goes, fall down seven times, get up eight.
Idea 4: Understand Your Why
Now, this one is the biggie. WHY exercise in the first place?
There are of course health reasons to exercise. For example, your doctor might tell you your blood pressure or cholesterol levels are high, or that you’re in danger of getting diabetes or a heart attack.
BUT… Do these numbers or situations actually MEAN anything to you… RIGHT NOW? Are they YOUR reasons to exercise? Do they fire you up and make you enthusiastic or excited about it?
What if you had no joint pain, don’t care that you can’t run, and have never fallen or had a heart attack before?
See, to start anything challenging, you must have YOUR reasons. They need to be REAL for you to actually want to start AND continue. Otherwise, you’ll fizzle out. I’ve seen that happen with many people. They start exercise for OTHER people’s reasons. Or try to use extrinsic motivators like money, or other reward. Because they weren’t INNATELY motivated, they couldn’t sustain it.
So you’ve GOT TO find your POWERFUL reason to exercise, your COMPELLING vision for what you’re working towards.
Now, while you have to find your own, I’m going to suggest one along the AA35 lines, and you can see if that resonates with you.
Normal Changes: There will be inevitable changes as you age from your 30s and up. You start to lose muscle. Your balance, reflexes and coordination decline. It may be harder to react to a surprise loss of balance, your response time during a game of tennis will slow, complex movements become harder. Joints become stiffer, your posture changes, and these changes are also reflected in your outward appearance. Not to mention the aches, pains, and susceptibility to further injury.
Abnormal Conditions: By this I mean things like high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, joint or chronic pain. Around 35 is where I observe health problems start to make an impact. Either they first rear up their ugly heads or, if already present, they really start to take a toll.
Both NORMAL changes, and ABNORMAL CONDITIONS will collectively impact the quality of your very LIFE itself, and how fully you can live or enjoy it.
Everything that you still wish to accomplish in Life could be seriously compromised. Whether it’s mega goals, like build a business, contribute to society, or maximize your experiences with your loved ones, or specific goals like one day swimming with dolphins, walking the Great Wall of China … or even DAILY activities, like picking up your baby, your child, your girlfriend… there’s not a single aspect of Life that wouldn’t be severely limited by having poor health, injuries or poor mobility.
Now, what would you do to protect all these things?
You can’t magically undo the natural changes, but you can maintain a high level of health and function with exercise. You’ll lose muscle more slowly. You’ll have better balance. You can maintain flexibility, posture and appearance to a large extent.
Exercise also reduces risk of developing abnormal conditions. But if you already have them, exercise can slow down, control or reverse some of it. In many cases it can help reduce your reliance on medication.
THIS is what I would like you to have… a BIG PICTURE VISION of WHY you’re exercising – as an enabler of a full, happy, Life. Whatever you still wish to do with your Life… business, personal development, relationships. Dreams, goals, your Life Purpose. Exercising and being healthy, will help you maximize them. If you reaffirm these things at the start of each day, it will prime you for what you need to do for the day. Whether it’s go to the gym, or prepare your next two meals, you’ll always have this higher vision to focus on.
So, invest in thinking through these four ideas, and find your own answers to 2, 3 and 4.
Idea 1: Take small slow steps
Idea 2: Set realistic goals and measure success against your own baseline
Idea 3: Prepare for obstacles
Idea 4: Identify YOUR personal why for exercise
If you do that, you’ll hit the ground running when we look at how to quickstart your exercise program next!