What are the common threads that define a fitness mindset, and how will these you weave these threads into your mentality?
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about the mental side of fitness. In light of a few articles that I’ve read and the scientific research that they explore, it should come as no surprise that all across the board, one broad theme remains true: regular exercise and the pursuit of fitness is a good thing.
But why is this the case? What defines a fitness mindset anyway, and how does it help you? Although the answers to these questions weren’t entirely surprising, they were extremely interesting.
Take running, for example. Everyone has heard about the mind-clearing magic of running. As powerlifters and weightlifters, we usually exercise with great intensity for bouts of 20 seconds or less with tons of rest in between. Running lies on the opposite end of spectrum here, and many of those in the pursuit of strength would scoff at the idea of long-duration aerobic exercise.
They might want to reconsider; as explained in “How Neuroscientists Explain the Mind-Clearing Magic of Running” this is a real phenomenon.
It was once thought that we are born with a certain number of neurons in our brains. That perspective has changed, and the linked article above explains how there is only one activity that has been shown to result in neurogenesis, or the birth of new neurons. That activity is vigorous aerobic exercise that’s enough to get a sweat going—which is just like the running that your distance-running friend raves about.
These neurons are generated in the hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with learning and memory. Furthermore, increased activity in the frontal lobe has also been seen after aerobic exercise. This area of the brain is associated with higher-level executive functions that essentially define us as intelligent beings: behavior, learning, personality, and voluntary movements. In the article’s words, the frontal lobe is also “associated with clear thinking”: planning ahead, focus and concentration, goal-setting, time management.”
It’s no wonder that running has mind-clearing effects, both figuratively, and literally. When it comes to the literal part, many runners can attest to the mindlessness and the mental void that characterizes the time they spend while the trail moves under their feet. It’s like a dream, and there is nothing wrong with that, even if science hasn’t been able to completely pin down what exactly is going on.
In fact, a few surveys and studies that I’ve read have shown that humorously enough, the majority of runners and endurance athletes all share one universal thought about the activity that they are partaking in: “wow, this kind of sucks!”
So why do it? These days, I’m reconsidering the reasons for why I believe runners run. Runners run, because of the benefits they have on the brain, whether they are aware of them or not. And I believe that this is exactly why it can be so hard to convince someone to stop running or run less often, even if we believe that they are in dire need of strength and power training.
As coaches, our goals are still the same. We still need to provide fitness training that works for the lives of our customers, and enhances what they do outside of the gym.
Speaking of which, exercise and fitness has indeed been shown to do just that. And I would highly recommend reading “How Exercise Shapes You, Far Beyond the Gym.”
Why should you push your limits in the weightroom or on that last mile of 26.2? Why should you be comfortable being uncomfortable? Because doing so in your fitness pursuits makes you better able to tolerate discomfort, stress, and whatever life throws at you outside of the gym.
The article mentions a few studies that demonstrate this. One study showed that in the midst of finals week, college students who had gone through a 20-week exercise intervention immediately before it had higher heart-rate variability (or HRV) during finals week, than their peers who didn’t. The higher HRV of the exercise group indicates that they felt much less stressed out during their peers, even in the midst of a difficult time.
When it comes to exercise and fitness, it should be obvious now that discomfort does not mean discontinue. It is not at all a bad thing. Especially in light of all the benefits mentioned above.
A fitness mindset means stepping out of the comfort zone regularly. Let’s not forget about the mind-clearing effects of vigorous aerobic exercise, either.
If you have been out of touch, or struggle with consistency in your fitness routine, just keep in mind the fact that regular exercise and fitness have far-reaching effects beyond the confines of the gym. When you push your limits in your lifts or on the trail, the rest of life doesn’t seem all that hard anymore.
- What Separates Champions From ‘Almost Champions’?: http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/09/what-separates-champions-from-almost-champions.html
- Your Body State Is Your Mental State: http://www.agmovementproject.com/news/2017/4/16/your-body-state-is-your-mental-state
by Jeremy Lau
Jeremy Lau is a Senior Staff Coach at Halevy Life.
Jeremy graduated cum laude from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a BSc. in Biomedical Engineering and received his Master’s in Exercise Physiology at Columbia University. In addition to his academic accolades, Jeremy is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).
Prior to joining the team at Halevy Life, Jeremy completed a coaching internship at Cressey Sports Performance, where he coached both amateur and professional athletes, among whom were many professional MLB baseball players.
As an athlete, Jeremy has played baseball competitively for most of his life.