Training Mindset (10/19/2019)

In last week’s email newsletter we wrote about a scenario that is common for many people. Jane is a woman looking for a way to shed body fat so she feels better, looks better and regains her self-confidence.

Jane tried a number of different things and although she experienced some progress in each, eventually she hit a plateau, became frustrated and quit.

As mentioned last week, we are going to outline why the methods Jane attempted don’t work for long-term, sustainable results and what does work for most people most of the time.
Today we are going to discuss mindset.

Have you ever started something knowing you were going to crush it, and you did? It’s an awesome feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment!

Have you ever put something off over and over and over again because the start alone was daunting enough? Maybe you were waiting for everything to be perfect and there was never the right time or opportunity to start. You just never felt ready. If you’re always unsure and feeling defeated before you begin, most likely you’ll never get going.

Dr. Carol Dweck wrote Mindset, and in it she covers two mindset principles – fixed mindset and growth mindset.

A fixed mindset is one in which we believe who we are and what we are capable of is fixed, meaning we can not change whatever it is. A fixed mindset might sound like “I’m too busy, I don’t have time, I’m tired and I will stay at home and not exercise because that’s not in my cards right now.” A fixed mindset avoids challenges and often people with this mindset have lower self-esteem.

A growth mindset is one in which we believe we can change who we are and our abilities. A growth mindset learns from past experiences and acts. “Failure is okay as long as I keep trying to get a little bit better each time. This is not going to be perfect, but I can learn from it and improve each time.”

A person can have a fixed mindset about one thing – “The gym is intimidating to me so I’ll never go,” and a growth mindset about another – “I’m going to create more healthy recipes, prepare more foods at home to eat and feel better.”

Think about all of the factors that come in to play that develop a person’s mindset toward exercise and nutrition. There are so many it’s overwhelming to grasp them all, but these factors culminate to lead someone down one journey or another. These factors include but are not limited to:
– genetics
– family history and the way their parents modeled their life
– personal interests
– friends from childhood through adulthood
– demographics and available activities within a community or region
– cultural norms and influences
– personal habits
– self-confidence
– body image
– beliefs and expectations about exercise and nutrition

Now consider all of the self-imposed barriers to exercise or the challenges people have with exercise:
– too expensive
– too time consuming
– too boring
– too difficult
– too confusing
– too uncomfortable

These “obstacles” seems like a fixed mindset approach to exercise, don’t they?

Here is a list of things people might feel positively about exercise:
– fun
– rewarding
– best part of the day
– stress relieving
– socially rewarding
– physically challenging / rewarding (daily tasks become easier)
– mentally challenging / rewarding (more positive thoughts and self-talk)

These “opportunities” fulfill more of a growth mindset toward exercise.

How can we apply this to our own practice?

If you are of a fixed mindset toward exercise, you can rewire to a growth mindset. You can create positive healthy habits around exercise if you want to. The most important thing to be aware of regarding exercise is that exercise is about progress, not perfection. Progress builds on small steps taken consistently every day. Perfection is not realistic and will never happen, especially with exercise.

Being active is what we – human beings – are all about. We are made to move.

There are many ways to start moving more.

If you’re sedentary, begin becoming more active by walking daily and try to add on a little bit more each day. Walking daily can lead to an interest in hiking to increase the intensity of the activity.

Simple and small daily practices could be to use the stairs instead of the elevator or consider walking or biking when a car isn’t required.

If you sit a majority of your day because of a long daily commute or due to a cubicle/desk job, set a reminder in your calendar to get up, stretch, go for a walk or take a trip up and down the stairs.

Join a gym, a YMCA, or a group that meets once a week to run stadium stairs or do workouts in a park. Start doing something active with no judgement on time, intensity or immediate results. Just keep working toward your goal with a growth mindset.

You can hire a personal trainer or work with a fitness coach. Use wearable technology like an Apple or Fitbit watch or a Polar H7 heart rate monitor if you are the type of person who likes to have data to analyze. We all know those people who are at 9,500 daily steps and walk more to hit 10,000 steps in their day.

Set realistic expectations from wherever you start. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Figure out what you want out of exercise, write it down and begin to work toward your SMART goal.

The main point is if you have not started, start today with what you have available and stop putting it off until tomorrow or the upcoming Monday. A small amount of work today, tomorrow and the next day will build momentum and sooner than later you will recognize you have created a habit that’s helping you get closer to your goals.

Don’t miss opportunities. Make choices repeatedly that you believe will guide you closer to your goal. If you have a lapse in the choice you make, like skipping a training session to catch up on sleep or eating another slice of pumpkin pie when you were already full, your next choice is an opportunity to get back in line to where you want to go. Each decision you make and action you take can move you in the direction you want to go.

Your exercise journey will not be perfect, there will be ups and downs just like there are in all aspects of life. Keeping a level head, a growth mindset, and being non-judgmental will help you stick with it and eliminate any self-talk.

Most importantly, have fun! Find a partner who shares a similar desire to exercise or make nutrition changes with you. Sharing your exercise experience with a friend, partner or co-worker of improving overall health and fitness creates motivation and accountability.

Part of having fun means not burying yourself. Don’t train into or through pain. Exercise is not about beating you down. It should be about building you up to help you feel, move and perform better in life.

Think about which mindset, fixed or growth, you can apply to different areas of your life. For those fixed obstacles, what small change can you make today that will have a positive impact and turn them into a growth mindset?

Exercise has been proven to help us live longer, lower blood pressure, reduce risks of various diseases, strengthen the heart and muscular system, improve mental stability and overall mood, increase energy and improve sleep quality.