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Changing Your Mindset to Overcome Exercise Guilt

Have you ever let your mindset get the better of you? Or found yourself in a motivation slump with no positive outlook on how to climb your way out? Our mindset can have a huge effect on the way we perform everyday tasks and routines. If we can notice when our mindset starts to slump […]

Have you ever let your mindset get the better of you? Or found yourself in a motivation slump with no positive outlook on how to climb your way out? Our mindset can have a huge effect on the way we perform everyday tasks and routines. If we can notice when our mindset starts to slump into a negative place, we have the ability to change our thought-process and actively create a different mindset. I wanted to share my experience with you so you can see the steps I took to reframe my thoughts, and therefore my mindset. Doing this helped me to break free from a motivation slump that I recently found myself in, in relation to exercise.

My relationship with exercise

Before I go into how I changed my mindset, let me tell you a little bit about my relationship with exercise. Outside of iso, I’d say I’m pretty active. I go to F45 anywhere between 3 & 6 times a week. For me, it’s less about looking good, and more about managing anxiety. Anxious energy easily starts to build up in my body. If left to its own devices, it can result in some pretty unpleasant physical symptoms such as brain fog, racing heart, nausea and knots in my stomach. 

Over the course of a few years, I figured out coping mechanisms that worked to calm down the very physical side of my anxiety. When I first found F45 I was in a pretty bad place mentally. I had piled on the pounds over the previous 2 years and I was feeling pretty damn low about myself. I’d always been a relatively lean and athletic body type with pretty much zero fat on my body. So it definitely felt wrong to look in the mirror and see no jawline, and no definition.

When the F45 challenge was bought to my attention, the undoubted results that were advertised inspired me to give it a try. Very quickly, I realised that I really enjoyed the sessions – they gave me a massive release of energy and calmed my mind. I became addicted to the F45 way of life, I loved the endorphin boost, and for a while, it was the only thing that was making me happy. At my peak, I think I was probably going between 6 & 10 times per week.

Looking back at this, it’s probably not the most healthy way of exercising. I became obsessed and pushed my body to its limit. Because of the negative place I’d come from, I became incredibly conscious of the shape that I was in, and it led me to become overly conscious about everything I was putting in my body. After a while, I was losing weight and seeing results. But I started slipping into a place where I was feeling guilt for missing classes or eating anything that didn’t come into my strict diet. It wasn’t sustainable.

Eventually, I managed to ease off and my relationship with exercise and food became a lot healthier. Fast forward to where I am now, a year and a half later, and I have a much healthier relationship with exercise. Typically now, only exercise because I want to, not because I feel I need to, and on the days I feel my body needs a break because of aching muscles, I’ll listen. That said, before lockdown, I was still attending at least 4 classes per week, with treadmill running in-between. 

Lockdown related exercise guilt

So when lock-down was announced and in-person F45 classes were stopped, I struggled to adjust. I started working out far less and feeling pretty guilty about it. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision… my energy levels just started to gradually deplete. I was confused as to why I couldn’t just maintain the same level of exertion by myself. I let negative thoughts come into my mind ‘Why aren’t I exercising?’, ‘I’m being so lazy’. 

I just assumed that I would continue to do these high-intensity workouts by myself, and when I didn’t I felt I was letting myself down. But the problem was, I hadn’t given my brain, or body a time to adjust and catch up to our new way of living. I was putting so much pressure on myself to maintain pre-existing routines, that it led to me not want to work out at all.

I guess you could say, I burnt myself out by trying to maintain an exercise routine that wasn’t working in the new environment I was living in. My mindset was having a massive effect on my motivation levels. 

Here’s a 3 step way to change your thoughts

So in order to make the change to my mindset and rediscover my motivation to move my body in isolation, I used the same 3 step process I use whenever I want to start changing my mindset. Here’s what that looks like:

  1. Notice the negative thoughts as they are coming in. Catching when my inner monologue started saying ‘you’re so lazy’.
  2. Notice what’s triggered you to feel like that. For me, it was my partner doing exercise. Or seeing someone working out on Instagram. (This creates a further level of awareness – now you know what may cause your mind to start creating self-defeating dialogue)
  3. Make an active decision to change your thoughts.

By using this 3 step technique, I was able to bring awareness to the problem. Here are the areas that I changed my perspective on:

Congratulating myself for working out in a different way.

I switched my mindset from: “I only exercised 3 times this week, I’m so lazy” to “I exercised in 3 ways I normally never would! I’m happy with that!”

Instead of feeling guilty if I ‘only’ work out 3 times a week, I’ll applaud myself for working out 3 times in a different way than I was used to. I’ve given my body time to adjust to a different way of working out – incorporating more running means working on a totally different type of fitness. 

Working out for 20 minutes is perfectly acceptable.

I switched m my mindset from: “What’s the point in working out for less than 30 minutes” to “20 minutes is better than nothing!”

Previously I wouldn’t have seen the point in working out for any less than 30 minutes. But now, if my body feels lethargic and tired, I’ll just do what I can do. If I need to stop, what’s the point in just pushing through. I have nothing to prove to anyone. 

Walking is exercise too!

I switched my mindset from “Walking isn’t exercising” to “Walking is exercise because I’m moving my body”.

I used to just see walking as a way to get from A-B. But actually just going for a walk can have a huge impact on my mental health as well. Reframing walking as exercising made me feel a lot more active. 

If I don’t feel like exercising, that’s OK.

I switched my mindset from “I don’t want to exercise, but that means I’m a failure” to “I don’t want to exercise, so I should listen to my body”.

If my body is telling me I’m tired and I need to rest, then I will listen. I’d much prefer to rest now, to avoid burnout further down the line.

Basically, I took the pressure off. The days that I don’t exercise are no longer guilt traps. I feel good for giving my body a break, and doing what feels right for me right now. I’m making a real effort to be kind to myself. 

The difference my mindset made

Since making these changes, my motivation to move my body has come back. It’s funny how just a small change in perspective can help you out of a rut. I think it also made me realise, I may still have been slightly addicted to exercise. Taking a step back made me realise how bad I felt when I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough. And that’s definitely not healthy. 

All in all, I’m glad I’ve had to shift my perspective. Exercise definitely does amazing things for my mental health, but becoming obsessed with it never leads to anything good. It’s a lesson I will definitely take forward with me into life after iso. 

Want to learn more about how life coaching can help you change your limiting beliefs and mindset? Read this article!

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