Exercise: The mental battle explained in layman’s terms.
In reality there is not one, but many mental battles we have to fight before we can 1) start to exercise, and 2) continue to exercise.
First let us look at getting started with exercise. This is the first step for someone that does not exercise, but equally it can be applied to anyone procrastinating about getting started on the day. We all do it, some days excuses for not exercising are far too easy to find but unless we are tied firmly to the sofa we are talking about the first mental battle we face. That’s right, all that stops us is our mind! Others may call it willpower, or lack of motivation, but essentially we are letting our mind dictate terms that we find easy to live with. The challenge is to step outside that comfort zone by over-riding those initial thoughts and excuses. This step is definitely easier said than done but the benefits from winning this battle are worth it.
We won’t stretch this article out with all the benefits of exercise, there are plenty of places to read about that. Suffice to say that you need to recognise that exercise is good for you and convince your mind that exercise is beneficial. How do you do that? Motivation is the key. You need to find a reason for exercising that excites you. Something that you really desire, and that can be as basic as weight loss, or keeping up with your kids. If the motivation is good then the battle is mostly won. Yes there will be small losses along the way, but by revelling in the gains and following your desires you will win outright if that desire is strong enough and you believe that the goal is achievable. So, don’t let that grey matter mess up your dreams and desires, ignore the excuses it throws up and move yourself.
Second we look at the battle, or perhaps war, that hits us when the going gets tough. At some time we all get to that place where we think, ‘that is enough, I can’t do any more’. Mentally we start with the excuses amid dark thoughts about how hard it is and you need to stop! Trust me, you won’t thank your mind if you let it win these battles. Look at it this way. You plan to run for a set distance, get started on the run, but it starts to get ‘too’ hard to complete. You stop and return home by the shortest route because your mind won the battle. How do you feel now you are home and recovered? Disappointed, let down? Probably, because you lost a battle and did not achieved the target you set for the day. Is feeling disappointed good? Absolutely not because our negative thoughts have defeated our positivity and weakened our motivation. There is nothing wrong with shortening an exercise session if there is a valid reason to stop. Injury would be a very good reason to stop and we all have bad days when we really struggle. What we are suggesting is that we really need to remain strong and think about the differences between quitting and completing successfully in terms of our goals. Are we just surrendering to our mind when we really could continue? Staying in control of our thoughts and remaining positive under pressure is the key to winning those battles.
Everybody loses some mental battles along the way but high achievers have been able to learn from their losses and use those defeats to build motivation and mental strength. By remembering the disappointment of previous losses you can drive yourself forward; the been there, done that, don’t want to go back again, mentality. Winning battles with that form of motivation leads to a stronger mindset and more victories. More victories means greater achievement and who doesn’t like the exhilaration of achieving a goal. Ultimately, it is the desire to achieve your goal that determines how successful you will be, so the real lesson here is that you need to find something that you really have a strong desire to achieve to provide the motivation for success and improved mental strength. Goals do not need to be lofty, they do need to be achievable, and yes, you can keep adding more new goals as your fitness improves. In fact achieving small goals along the way will build mental strength and add to your motivation to try harder. So revel in the small achievements and thrive.