Outside the Gym, pt. 5

The main difference….

We are to the 5th and final post in this series on what you can do outside the gym to maximize your progress and overall health. 

I originally began writing this series in 2015 and the first 3 parts were posted at the Blue Ox/Crossfit Portland website around that time. For some reason that I don’t recall, I never finished the series. I’ve updated and re-posted the first 3 posts here, and then completed & posted part 4. Part 5 was originally going to be on breathing – and I still believe it’s a huge area where most folks can improve a lot. However, I’ve written separately on it quite a bit lately so I wanted to go in a different direction..  

I realized there was one huge area outside the gym that nearly everyone neglects, including myself at times. This wasn’t even on my radar in 2015 when I outlined the original series, not even as an honorable mention.

This one factor can negate a lot of the hard work you put in at the gym, but it can also magnify your gains. It is easily the difference between making progress or falling off the wagon. It will be the main factor that separates the 40-50-whatever something that feels old and weak and the rare person of the same age that’s still physically empowered. This X-factor is your mindset.

We know from medical research that the placebo effect is very real. If you believe something is good for you, or that it’s making you healthier, you’ll actually be healthier – whether or not that thing has any real benefit. On the other hand, the nocebo effect is very real as well. This is when you believe something to be unhealthy or bad for you and it due to your thoughts about it, actually does have a negative effect. This happens even if it’s actually benign. This most certainly happens outside of medical treatments. How you feel about a certain exercise, a food you eat, your perception of your body, your workplace stress – your body follows what your mind thinks. 

As the graphic in this post shows, a growth mindset is key if you want to always be improving. This applies to all areas of your life, but maybe none more important that your heath & fitness. 

Some different things to consider on mindset:

1) Quite simply, what your mind tell you IS your reality. If you think yourself slow, weak, and old – that’s exactly what you are. On the other hand, if you believe you can achieve something, or you can heal quickly, you will. If you believe you are strong, you’ll be strong. 

2) Negative mindsets such as self-blame, self loathing, and perfectionism are stress-predisposing personality traits. Various research shows that this mindset increases the chance of injury, reduces the benefits one gets from exercise, and slows healing and recovery time. 

3) Having goals for your fitness or health can be a positive thing. However, your mindset has to be on enjoying the process of working toward that goal, NOT on how you’ll feel after achieving the goal. I can tell you that it does feel great to achieve a goal – for a day or two. Then, we naturally look to something else and life feels just as it did before you got the goal. If you aren’t happy before you deadlift x weight or reach a certain body fat %, I guarantee you won’t be happy afterward. Many people lose interest after reaching a goal, as they never realized the path to the goal was the actual prize, not it’s achievement. If you realize fitness and health are just one lifelong journey, it’s easier to stay on the path and just adjust course to a new goal.

4) For those who are a little older – if you want to succeed at becoming healthier or fitter, you must not succumb to the defeating adage of “I used to be able to…” While we all eventually will loose some abilities as we age, a much better plan is to focus on new abilities you can still achieve. There are so many different sports, activities, and types of exercise that you can continue to grow and explore new forms for a lifetime. Let some old things go and move on. 

Another related tip is to not see your aches and pains as coming from age. Instead, recognize that you’ve asked a lot from those joints, and likely not always with great technique. That’s why there’s an issue now, and it just means you need to do the rehab and fix the issue. It’s NOT simply because you are old!!

5) Nothing is stronger or healthier than a healthy mindset. The physical actions needed to achieve better health come from a strong mindset. If you believe the excuses or negative thoughts you tell yourself, you’ll always find a reason not to be better.

Yes, there will always be challenges. Life will throw up roadblocks or you may suffer an injury. It happens to all of us, even pro athletes and celebrities. But, they must simply be seen as challenges to be overcome on the life-long pursuit of health and fitness.

Give your mindset some honest reflection. If you find it may pose some obstacles to your progress, I would advise focusing your efforts on working to cultivate a mindset of growth and positivity.

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