September feels like an honourary new year, doesn’t it? We go back to school, back to work, back to the start of the ‘hunker down’ season. And for a lot of us, we head back into routines that we may have paused for summer activity, which means that now, we might be trying to get back in the habit of working out or doing a regular fitness activity.
We know that a lot of folks are dealing with some lingering struggles from the pandemic, so we thought it’d be helpful to share some tips that could help you weather some of the dissonant feelings that we may encounter as you embark upon this journey into fall and winter.
- Identify negative thoughts and beliefs
We’re starting with a tough one, because that inner voice of yours can be really gnarly and insidious, and you can be so used to the chatter that it all becomes noise in the background. But, if you can start by just recognizing and ‘tagging’ the negative thought when it pops up, it can help you start to dialogue with these deep-set beliefs and exposing them can help to contextualize them a little better.
2. Challenge those negative thoughts and beliefs
You can turn to that devil on our shoulder and say “hey, is that thought based in fact?” Now joking aside, the idea of challenging the thought is meant to have the same effect as sharing the thought in your head with another person. Oftentimes that immediately changes the context and allows you to see the thought for what it is – one based in fear that your higher mind can dispel with logic.
3. Reframe those thoughts
This can be the toughest part – but we find that if you envision yourself saying these negative things and then talk to yourself like a friend, you can give them this reframed statement as positive advice. So if you had called yourself an epithet for ‘not fit’ or ‘not motivated’, you would respond to that like you would respond to a close friend and say something like “I hear that you’re having trouble with this, but what if we just tried doing the activity once?” or something similar that’s positive and nudges that friend lovingly.
4. Break down big goals into smaller bites
If you’ve set a huge, enormous goal for yourself, your workouts might feel more daunting than motivating. And it’s not a bad thing to have a big goal, but the advice here would be to try to break that down into smaller chunks that you can achieve at regular intervals. This helps to allay the issue of the ‘middle mark blues’ when in the middle of a big goal. If we compare this to a long walk, we’re excited at the start, excited at the end, and a lot of times it’s a huge grind through the middle. And that’s where, even in the hero’s journey, we encounter the most psychological dissonance.
5. Reward yourself
If you dislike the thing that you’re doing, it becomes a barrier to hurdle every time you do it, which will set you up for finding excuses not to do it. So a suggestion would be to have positive reinforcement of the action, like rewarding yourself in some small way. This can be as easy as congratulating yourself for completing a workout, having a friend or loved one primed to give you this positive reinforcement when you accomplish the action, or – if you’ve hit one of your bite-sized goals then maybe you can reward yourself with a nice meal or something you’ve wanted for a while.
This positive reinforcement can help strengthen the connection between exercise and positive emotions, which reinforces your desire to participate regularly.
6. Channel your inner problem-solver
We can hear you in the back of this TedTalk saying “but I don’t have the time…” and while that’s a real concern in today’s busy world, there is always the ability to use your problem solving skills that you apply in other facets of your life! Maybe you need to have shorter workouts, maybe you need to look at your schedule to see when you could fit in the work out. Maybe you need to ask family members to adjust their schedules to accommodate your training. Whichever option you figure out is going to be a great solution for you! And if you find that the new solution needs to be adjusted again, you can always do that. It may feel like effort at first to go into this adjusted schedule, but you will adapt – just like you did with any other problem you were met with.
7. Practice self compassion and mindfulness
Such buzz-words, I know, but these really are simple things that are additive to your sense of self as a whole and good being. The self-compassion aspect really comes from the earlier suggestion of reframing the negative thoughts. If you miss a workout or don’t quite hit a goal you set, then rather than berating yourself, you can use that technique to tell yourself it’s ok and set a new date for the goal or find another time to workout – or just be ok with waiting until your next scheduled workout. The mindfulness part is as easy as checking in with yourself through the day, and taking moments just to close your eyes and breathe. Try doing 3 deep breaths where you imagine all of the goodness that surrounds you being breathed in and then when you exhale all of the stress and anxiety leaves you. Boom. Mindfulness in 30sec. You may be surprised at how good this can feel.
Some additional things that you can try if you like to track these types of things would be keeping a journal of how you felt before your workout and after. You could also track the workouts themselves in the journal to track your progress. *If you would like these tools ready-made, 3Wave offers a monthly group fitness program called FitSchool™and an individual customized fitness program called FitU™.* Click here for more info!
To be clear, these suggestions are not about self-diagnosis, nor are we suggesting that you have an issue or need help in some way. These are just little tips taken from the playbook of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy that are being generally suggested as small interventions that you can try if you would like to. We are not advocating for any therapeutic method, and this advice is not meant to replace or be used as any form of therapy, and – most importantly – if you feel like you need more help in the mental space, we at 3Wave always encourage you to seek help from a professional. If that help that you need is with your fitness regimen, we’d love to be the professionals that help you, but if you need some help with the mental side of things you can check out this resource page: https://members.3wavefitness.com/pages/help-support