How do you cultivate a fitness-oriented mind set?

How do you cultivate a fitness-oriented mind set?

Fitness and health are as much a matter of your mind set as the number of hours you put in at the gym. So how do you cultivate a state of mind that will enable you to get the most out of your fitness routine?

Have a plan

If you're going to be successful at engaging in a fitness regime, you need a plan. It's just not enough to have a vague idea that you'd like to get fit and good intentions about working out. Without a plan, it's very difficult to get started in the first place, let alone maintain your commitment and make progress. There are several components to planning your approach to exercise:

  • Get ready for change. Take it gently and spend time considering exactly how you want to approach your fitness regime. Don't rush things; make sure you're ready to make some changes and consider your options carefully.
  • Have goals in mind. It helps you have a big overall goal and to break that down into smaller goals. The big goal should be what really motivates and inspires you; the smaller goals are the steps towards achieving that. Think of it as a big vision underpinned by practical minutiae. The smaller goals need to be SMART – small, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-limited.
  • Monitor your progress: Having a plan entails keeping track of how well you're doing at achieving those small goals and making progress towards your big goal. That sort of monitoring can be motivational in itself. It will also ensure that you're not wasting your time. In addition to monitoring your progress, take time to review your big and small goals every so often to make sure that they are still relevant and motivating.
  • Have a back-up plan: You will slip up at some point. You are human. You need to get your head around that and plan for it, so that it doesn't come as a huge shock. It's all too easy to give up entirely if you feel you've fallen off the waggon and deviated too far from your goals. If you plan for this possibility, you'll be prepared to pick yourself up and continue where you left off.

Focus on achievements

Committing to a fitness regime means committing to looking after yourself. Guilt and fear have no place in this. Do not beat yourself up about any perceived failure to achieve or all the things you are not doing. Instead, focus on what is going right and build on that. It's the difference between being preoccupied with having been to the gym only once this week when your goal was three times, and congratulating yourself on going at all when this time last year the thought couldn't have been further from your mind.

This is a tried-and-tested technique from the field of solution-focused therapy. It's not the same thing as being complacent or resting on your laurels; it's about using your existing successes as a sort of springboard to give you momentum for further progress.

Try this simple exercise: Imagine your fitness as a continuum from 0 to 10, with 0 being as unfit as you can possibly imagine and 10 being the pinnacle of fitness. Where are you on that continuum? What has helped you to get to this point rather than being further towards 0? What have you learned that you can build on to move even half a step closer to a perfect 10?

Motivation, motivation, motivation

It borders on a truism, but if you're motivated then pretty much anything is possible. So how do you stay motivated in the context of following a fitness regime? There are two main routes to this, intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is all about enjoying something for its own sake whereas extrinsic motivation is doing something as a means to an end. Ideally, you need to build both into your workout plans. You need to find forms of exercise that you enjoy in and of themselves and you need exercise that you're doing in order to achieve wider goals such as weight loss or increased strength and stamina. It may be that a particular form of exercise is both intrinsically and extrinsically motivating – you might enjoy running purely for the pleasure of being outdoors and getting that endorphin rush, for example, as well as being motivated by what it's doing for your cardiovascular health. Or you might need to mix and match your workouts a bit to get both forms of motivation in.

Positive mind set = exercise success

So make sure that you're engaging your mind in your exercise regime as well as your body. If you have an overall plan in mind, focus on your successes rather than beating yourself up about perceived failures, and place a special emphasis on considering your motivation to exercise, that's a pretty good mental underpinning for looking after your physical health.



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