We know exercise is good for us, physically and mentally, with a range of benefits. From reducing stress and anxiety to boosting our mood, from feeling physically stronger and better to preventing risks of health conditions, or simply having an excuse to take a break from our screens and get some fresh air. It’s a good thing for us to do!
When it comes to creating habits, or mixing up our routines or even trying to improve our lifestyle by adding healthy choices, it can seem like hard work. Why is the healthy stuff always such an effort?! Let’s be real, the thought of a 5K jog or legs, bums and tums sesh at the end of the day can definitely be outweighed by the enticing comfort of the couch calling us to pop our feet up and have a cuppa instead - thanks to our mindset.
Our mindset is our way of thinking towards something, shaped by our beliefs and attitudes towards whatever it is we’re approaching. Basically, whatever we believe, think and feel about something will determine how we approach it. If we’ve never enjoyed sports, PE at school was nightmarish, hitting the gym since has been anything but fun, and it all seems a little too hard, we’re going to find it tricky to start doing daily exercise.
When it comes to incorporating anything into our lifestyles, easy or not, having an open mindset will make it much more manageable. When we believe our abilities can change, grow and improve, or when we’re open to new experiences and see challenges as opportunities we tend to find getting involved much easier. But how can we do this?
Cultivating an open mindset
We have five top tips for you:
1. Enroll some supporters
Research by Sport England has shown that the main reason stopping people from exercising is not having someone to do it with. Let’s be honest, we’re much more likely to start an exercise programme – and stick with it – if we have someone doing it alongside us.
American academic and Professor at the Department of Exercise and Sport Studies (awesome job title!) Barbara A Brehm explains:
“Exercise partners can provide a kind of gentle coercion and limit your negative self-talk.”
Exercising with friends, family, or colleagues, or even getting some encouragement can help our mindset and give us a nudge to keep going. Buddyboost, our buddy marvellous activity app, allows you to buddy-up (virtually) with up to five people to support each other to get moving more.
If you’re scheduled to go and exercise, and someone else is counting on you, “you’ll avoid that debate in your head about whether you should go and work out,” says Brehm.
2. Embrace imperfections - they're not failures
We don’t have to be brilliant at everything we do. In fact, we don’t even have to be that ‘good’ at it if we’re enjoying it and it’s getting us moving more, that’s the real goal. Any yoga newbies will confirm, everyone falls over at first (even the experts) - but who cares?
Our running technique might not be that of Mo Farah, perhaps we’re more like Phoebe in Friends, dashing through the park with windmilling arms but we’re moving (possibly more). Allow the imperfections and have a laugh at them. We’ll slowly improve with practice and having fun makes the experience more enjoyable!
3. See obstacles as opportunities - not barriers
Many of us get put off by obstacles or challenges, especially when it comes to exercise. Maybe we’ve thought boxercise is too intense or we’ve got two left feet so that street dance class is a no-go.
If we think of these obstacles as opportunities, we might find we’re the forgotten member of Diversity, or actually in the making of a heavy-weight champion all along. Or we might make a total fool out of ourselves and never return, but the more we open up to try, the more we’ll learn about what works for us.
4. Value the process - not just the end result
When we’re focused on the end result, like weight loss goals or being the fittest, it can actually make exercise harder. We tend to feel more defeated when we’ve not immediately got abs after that core blast workout, or if the inches haven’t just melted away.
By valuing the process, focusing on how each workout or stretch session feels, physically and mentally, we’re more likely to feel motivated, committed and possibly even excited to go again tomorrow. We don’t have to be reaching for milestone goals, tiny goals all add up.
5. Reflect often - rather than rushing to the next thing to do
It might sound wishy-washy to look back and reflect, but it gives us an opportunity to see where we can grow even further and recognise how far we’ve come. Even if it’s only been a week, there’ll be subtle changes we wouldn’t necessarily notice without a little reflective time. Are we finding it easier to drift off to sleep? Can we run up a flight of stairs without feeling out of breath? Managed to do our first ever pull-up in the gym (this is huge!)? Or, are we beginning to enjoy moving more?
Lazy logic: We don’t have to be athletes, gymnasts or bodybuilders to move more. Simply walking to the shop for a pint of milk, or doing the housework, or even putting on our fave playlist and dancing around the living room counts towards moving more.
Find joy in moving, notice how it feels after (even if it’s not that runner’s high, we might just feel satisfied that we’ve done something healthy), and flopping onto the couch afterwards will feel so much more rewarding.
And if you’ve not unlocked buddyboost yet, head on over to your wellometer.