I can’t live without running now but I wasn’t always a runner. Exercise would fill me with a sort of dread, a sense of having to battle through an unpleasant experience. One day I was coming home on the tram and thinking “Oh god I have to go for a run today… I don’t want to…” and it suddenly dawned on me that this was insane. Why was I doing this to myself? I realised that I couldn’t keep going on like this. I decided at that moment to change the way I thought about exercise. “I love running,” I said to myself. “I enjoy it. I’m looking forward to it”.
While running was still hard, I didn’t have the additional mental burden of dragging myself along reluctantly. I started to rethink the way I looked at exercise and fitness. Very soon it did become a truly enjoyable experience and one that I found sustained me, invigorated and refreshed me. It became an essential part of my life, like breathing or eating. I went on to run 8-10km three times a week, for fun, and I kept running during pregnancy, and then ran a 15K race when Star was 10 months old. I now run three times a week and do HIIT at least twice a week.
There are so many reasons to be exercising. There isn’t much that exercise won’t fix – it prevents cancer, heart disease, impotence, depression and anxiety, and obesity. It makes you feel and look good. It is rare for me not to prescribe exercise to my patients. Yet I know first-hand how difficult it can be to get going and keep going. Here I suggest ways of developing a Mindset for exercise and fitness. Start with the mind and the rest will follow.
How to develop an Exercise and Fitness Mindset
1. Be clear on the reason why you are exercising. Is it to lose weight, set a good example to your children, feel fitter, run a race, improve your cholesterol and blood pressure, reduce stress? Write these reasons down, and display them somewhere prominent. Keep these reasons in mind whenever you want to veg on the couch instead.
2. Use the power of affirmations to change the way you think. You could repeat things to yourself like “I enjoy exercise”; “I feel great after exercise”; “I really want to go for a swim”; “I’m really looking forward to my Spin class”.
3. Close your eyes and visualise yourself exercising. See yourself smiling, the tension melting from your face and neck, the confidence you are radiating. See yourself completing the workout you set out to do and then relaxing afterwards with a sense of achievement and pride. Feel how great this would feel.
4. Gravitate towards fit people. Talk to them about exercise, get tips from them, and also reduce your time with those who will drag you down. (You know, the friends who will try to derail you because of their own agendas). Subscribe to some fitness websites and magazines. Read a book on running, on swimming. Do whatever it takes to surround yourself with the images and reality of fit people.
5. Get the gear! Dress like a fit person. Ditch the old tracksuit pants, get some new exercise gear. It doesn’t have to cost a bomb – all the discount department stores will sell decent exercise gear. You’ll feel great about yourself and more motivated to get going!
Good luck! Physical exercise is now an essential part of my life. If I don’t do something vigorous every 2 days, I turn into cranky mummy and wife. I also get really tired and sluggish. It’s counter-intuitive, but exercise does actually increase your energy levels.
Everyone should aim for at least 2 1/2 hours a week but start slow and build up if you’re doing nothing at all. It takes a long time, months and months, to develop a strong mindset, but be persistent and enjoy the ride