Why What You Think Matters When It Comes to Your Fitness Success
What if you can change your fitness by changing how you think about your fitness? There is mounting evidence that you can, and it’s not just about fitness but so many more aspects of your life that begin in your mind.
I’ve recently asked in many of the Private Facebook groups I manage in correlation with Flipping 50 programs that members take a tech cleanse. The idea behind a private group being ease of asking a question, one that would be worthy of a phone call, without the need to pick up the phone, what I’ve found is members with browsers open during their waking hours letting potentially a “ping” run their time and life. Choose to use technology to your advantage but certainly not to live your life by it.
Like you would ideally schedule specific time to respond to email so that you can get the work of the day done with focus and not spend it responding immediately to emails populating your inbox, so too should you make technology work for you not against you.
Either you take control of your daily schedule or someone else will. That leads me to today’s topic. Either you take control of your self talk or interfering thoughts will.
You and I are busy all day with tasks, decision-making, and things that must be done. We do those things either with efficiency or with distraction. The concept of interfering thoughts is easy to liken to multitasking. You may not even be trying to do it. Your mind however, may give you these disruptive thoughts, when say, you’re in a fitness class and instead of focusing on the contraction and the very muscle you’re using, you’re thinking about whether you have time to stop at the store to pick up “x” without having dinner be too delayed.
Research says there is an inverse relationship between self talk strategies and reduction of thoughts unrelated to success.
That means, the more positive your self talk, the less you’ll be distracted by interfering thoughts.
That means, that if you can take control over your thoughts during fitness activities, there is a strong chance you will actually get better results.
- For an athlete trying to be as fast and efficient during a performance as possible, disruptive thoughts about where a certain place finish might put the team standings will negatively influence performance.
- A golfer who is projecting a final score based on the last few holes’ scores will be more likely to have a poor current shot if he’s lining up at the ball.
- A basketball player on the free-throw line about to make or miss the winning shot can’t be thinking about anything other than the three dribbles, the position of his hands, and the follow through in shooting.
Let me provide another example. You need to prepare a presentation for work. If you are distracted by what you’re going to wear, how you’ll be perceived, and whether your idea is really worth presenting, the time is takes for you to create that presentation is likely going to be far greater and the effectiveness of it far less. On the other hand if you begin telling yourself that this is a concept that everyone in the room will benefit from, and that based on your experience you are the one to deliver it, the final project will be both less time-consuming and much more powerful.
The goal then is to reduce your interfering thoughts. Focus on instructional and motivational self-talk either from a coach or personal trainer, or from your own affirmations.
“I have all the tools, experience, and the steps to be successful.”
“I know how my body responds to foods, exercise, stress, and sleep and give it what it needs.”
Consider the above statements compared to these disrupting thoughts below.
“I’m not sure what I’m doing will actually work this time.”
“This is so different than anything I’ve ever heard or read, it’s hard to believe.”
Disproportionate rumination about any irrelevant thoughts disturbs athletes (or you) because they are required to consume mental resources that would otherwise be devoted to executing the task. What did I just say?
You’re wasting precious brain space with those unconstructive, monkey-mind thoughts of yours!
If you entertain the idea that you taking action in a way that will reach a goal is similar to that of an athlete’s journey, then you too have no room for doubt. You’ve got to commit to a path and stick to it with 100% investment. Somewhere along the way you may decide feedback tells you that you need to adjust your GPS. If you use any evidence that you need to do that as data, it becomes to work in your favor, not a failure. You have to be ON a path, to adjust it.
We sometimes commit to a belief so strongly that even when compelling evidence tells us that it has not worked to give us the results we want we have a hard time letting go of it. I have called this “habit gravity” in You Still Got It, Girl.
Your problem is not your problem. Your problem is how you think about your problem.
~John Grey, author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus
Let’s look at interrupting thoughts relative to actual tasks you may be trying to perform – say weight training. If you’re new to it or you’re trying to change your routine this could be true now. If you’re experienced, try to remember when it was all brand new. Are you distracted by the new environment, by the fear you look silly, dealing with feelings of intimidation by others who seem right at home?
Trying to make lifestyle changes, like increasing the hours of sleep you get or redefining a healthier diet, you could also be distracted by interfering thoughts. What you tell yourself about your potential success is important. For example…
Is it True Stress Kills?
In a 2012 study published in Health Psychology, over 55% of a large pool of adults perceive themselves to be under moderate to high stress. There was a 43% higher mortality rate for those who ranked their stress level high, but only if they both believed they were under a lot of stress and believed stress negatively affects their health. If you have a “bring it on” attitude and expect stress to be a part of life, even with a self-ranked level of moderate to high stress, you are actually more resilient. This is what Kelly McGonical writes about in her book, The Upside of Stress.
If your problem is how you think about stress, or fitness, your answer is also how you think about stress, fitness, or anything, including aging.
In a study conducted at Columbia University, researcher Alia Crum took 44 out of 84 housekeepers and told them what they were doing counted as exercise. The rest of the 40 maids were told how important physical exercise was but were given not told what they were doing qualified as exercise. All of the maids had been told of the benefits of exercise.
Does it all count?
Although actual behavior did not change for any of the hotel maids, 4 weeks after the intervention, the informed group perceived themselves to be getting significantly more exercise than before. As a result, compared with the control group, they showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index.
For years obesity researchers have found that it is not formal exercise, the 30 or 60 minutes a few times a week at the gym, that influences weight, but the presence or lack of non-exercise activity time (N.E.A.T). The physical evidence is there that N.E.A.T. matters more for optimal weight management. Yet, even that science may not matter if you’re telling yourself that you haven’t worked out in months and you’re not getting any exercise.
It’s like this: if you put your mind in the right frame, your body comes along for the ride.
It counts if you believe that it counts.
I encounter women on a weekly basis who believe that if they don’t exercise daily they’ll blow up like a balloon. Others think that they have to spend an hour or work high intensity every time they exercise. Comments like, I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t exercise every day, are like an expectation. You’ll start feeling bad if you don’t exercise daily because you believe you will feel bad. On the positive side of expectations, believing that you’re healthy and strong because you exercise daily makes that true. Whether it actually is required (it’s not) or it’s your believe about it, it works.
Where we get in trouble is “trying” something without conviction. When you’re leaving room for doubt, it will creep in. When you make up your mind this will work, any set back is a part of the process and simply information that you can use to take the next step, you can apply what Ellen Langer, researcher at Harvard, calls a psychological prime. It’s a trigger that causes the body to take curative measures all by itself.
Getting more fit without lifting a finger may just have become a reality.
In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing the new book by a friend and well-respected colleague of mine, JJ Virgin. Her son was left for dead in a hit-and-run accident a few years ago. The result of steps she took to surround him with only doctors, family, and supporters who believed he would get well will astound you. It was not only the literal steps she took to override Western medicine alone with functional medicine for Grant, but the words, thoughts, and beliefs that she painstakingly and carefully guarded that saved his life. You too can create your own miracle mindset.
One of the best ways to change your mindset is to surround yourself with others who can help catch you when you default to old patterns. Join me a dozens of other women in a special live group coaching event in February:
Flipping 50’s 28 Day Kickstart
“I feel like I’m 20 again! Ok well maybe 30! LOL!” Sharon, 55
“I started this to lose weight and get my body back. I got my life back!” Susan, 55
“The meal plan is so easy to follow!”
“The program was really a godsend to get me focused on the right things for this time of life.”
INCHES change: “12.5 inches! So pleased!”
Weight change: “I don’t have a scale, but biometric screening at work showed a 10 lb weight loss since last year. I attribute to your program, entirely.”
“I want to thank you again for an eye-opening experience.” – Terry W, 57 (lost 9 pounds and 4.5 inches)
“I don’t have any cravings. I have to remind myself to eat! I have this crazy amount of energy now…”
“I do not have food cravings and am not really tempted to eat things containing sugar such as cookies, cake, or ice cream. I feel better about this area of my life because I have a plan and have better control. “ – Jen, 57
“I though this would be very hard but I thought, you know best [and]… I feel so great!” – 52-year old participant
“The meal plan is easy and I had no cravings so no more binges!” – Sherry, 59
“I haven’t even followed everything according to the law but I’ve learned so much, am so much more aware and feel so much better!”
“During the first week, I already lost 4 pounds! And an inch at my waist and two under my bra line!”
Hurry! Early, early bird registration is open until Jan 22, early bird thru Jan 29.
Abiola Keller, Kristin Litzelman, Lauren E. Wisk, Torsheika Maddox, Erika Rose Cheng, Paul D. Creswell, and Whitney P. Witt. 2012. Does the Perception that Stress Affects Health Matter? The Association with Health and Mortality. Health Psychology Sep; 31(5): 677–684.
Crum, Alia J., and Ellen J. Langer. 2007. Mind-set matters: Exercise and the placebo effect. Psychological Science 18, no. 2: 165-171.
Pérez-Encinas, Cristina; Fernández-Campos, Francisco J.; Rodas, Gil; Barrios, Carlos. Influence of Cognitive Interferences and Self-Talk Functions on Performance During Competition in Elite Female Field Hockey Players. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (30) 12: 3339-3349, 2016.