The Psychology of Fitness
I’ve written before about how important motivation is when it comes to getting fit (or, in woman speak – losing weight). I had first hand experience, after all. The problem is, the motivation came from something destructive – it came from me hating myself. Wanting to exercise to get fit is considered to be a healthier goal than exercising to lose weight. Fitness is far more easily tracked than weight-loss and, I think it happens faster. Take the Race for Life, for example. Four years ago, I was engaged and wanting to feel my best for my wedding which was set for the following year. I decided to sign up for the Race for Life. This gave me a goal but also a commitment – I HAD to do it because I was raising money for charity and, if all those brave souls can battle our biggest killer then it would be poor indeed for me to not manage to run 5k (yes I went for 5 rather than 10 – baby steps people!).
So that’s a “cause” for motivation, here’s where “survival” motivation kicks in. When I was “running”, I was at first very poor. Have you ever seen the Lee Evans joke about shopping bags? “I can make it to the lamppost, I can maake it tooooo the lamppost!” Well that was me. My first day, I was out for 10 minutes. The 10 minute mile? I hear you ask. Give me a second to pick myself up off the floor and work out the stitch I gained while laughing. As if! I was a 10st 7lb running phobe: a legacy from my days as a tubby teen huffing and puffing to catch up to the stragglers on the cross-country circuit around our school playing fields. But you know what? 10 minutes was more than I expected to manage. I had my first win.
Okay, so surviving your first attempt is an okay motivator to get you to try a second time, but going for one 10 minute run isn’t going to shift the pounds so the much needed encouragement from the scales won’t be forthcoming – how did I manage to keep going? I aimed for a little further in my 10 minutes. The next lamp-post to be exact. And I made it, and I wasn’t quite as close to dying as I felt I had been the day before. Result! I had already, visibly (and audibly) improved my fitness.
Self-hate isn’t the answer
The main problem with self-hate is that exercise then becomes a punishment – a form of self-harm almost. You’re forced to do it because you hate yourself. Exercise isn’t fun – it’s a torture. It’s your consequence for not looking after yourself. The thing is, if you’ve got that kind of self-loathing enveloping you, you won’t get very far. Since 2011 when I completed the race-for-life, I’ve tried and failed at more exercise routines than I’m comfortable admitting to – if you’re reading this then perhaps you can relate? It’s okay though, you just need to adjust your vocabulary. Banish words like “fail” and “fat” and “ugly” and “not good enough” from your vocabulary and as for those contrasting connectives, kick them to the proverbial kerb! You shouldn’t compare yourself to others around you – you should compare yourself to YOU. The only person you need to beat is yourself. Stop trying to compete with other people – you won’t, psychologically, win. Take getting married for example. I was lucky enough to find a wedding dress that I didn’t need to lose weight to feel good in – I felt fantastic. Then, just after my own wedding, I saw a post on facebook by a girl I went to school with, who was also getting married. It was a photo of Macdonald’s taken at about 11pm with the caption “Trying to fit into my wedding dress.” Yes, dear readers, she was actually trying to put ON weight to fit into her dress! Bitch! The thing is though, my husband and family thought I was beautiful on my wedding day and so did I until I compared myself to this girl. Writing this today, a new strange thought has just popped into my head – I wonder if she looked at me and wished she had my curves and could fill out an hour-glass shaped frock the way I could? You need to start loving yourself – hence the motivational statement in the main image of this post:
I found this image very motivational because it removes the negative thinking from the way you look at things. There’s nothing wrong with the me I am now. I might not be the best version of myself but it’s myself I’ve got to focus on and not everyone else. A good friend of mine once said that “you only see the front-of-house of everyone else’s life but the only back-stage you see is yours – you’ve got no idea what sort of mess their lives are behind the performance so you can’t judge yourself by others’ successes.” How motivational is that?
Adjust your vocabulary
I’m going to finish with one last picture before I set off on my first training session (I’ve spent an hour crafting this post when I could have been doing something active – oops!).
Once you’ve got rid of negative vocabulary and stopped considering your endeavours as failures but can see them as the steps to progress they are, once you’ve stopped saying “I’m on a diet” and feeling miserable because of it, once you’ve stopped punishing yourself with “exercise” you will start to enjoy the process – how do I know? Because on day three I made it to the statue of Queen Victoria – I’d jogged half a mile and I felt BRILLIANT. On day four, I did it again but was a little less out of puff. On day five, I tried jogging back as well and made it three lamp-posts. Two months later, I jogged from the town centre where I lived, the three miles to my parents’ home in Shoeburyness and was rewarded with my Aunt nearly falling off her steering wheel as she drove past me on the seafront and realised a) who I was and b) what I was doing. Take it from me – you’ll start to have fun!
So ladies and gents:
1) Aim to “get fit” rather than “lose weight” – you’ll see results faster
2) Love yourself and celebrate your little successes
3) Adjust your vocabulary – eat and train!