Exercise is a powerful tool for shifting your mindset and improving your mood. But without putting in the initial effort to listen to your body and give it the strength it needs, it’s always going to be a struggle.
It definitely takes an extra bit of motivation and willpower at the beginning, but once you’re moving and engaged, exercise becomes much more than a way to keep off weight. It can increase your focus, strengthen your mental health and bring you more into the present in all aspects of your life. It becomes something you crave — and it really doesn’t take that long once you’re moving. I like to think of your workout as a “re-boot” for your mental and physical strength.
Think about these five things next time you’re working out as a way to get the most out of being active and feel good from the inside out!
1. Energize Your Whole Body With a Smile
How you hold your body can either give you energy or drain it completely. Most people walk around half asleep, unaware how the body and posture impacts one’s overall health and emotional state.
For example, if you walk around with a scowl, it’s often accompanied by a compressed posture. But if you smile (not like a maniac, just a simple smile), your body and spirits will rise with it.
Science has proven that smiling changes your biochemistry and affects your nervous system positively. The negative thoughts that have become habit will start to diminish as well. Smiling and happy thoughts become the norm, and your mood gets better. So smile when you’re training — even when it’s tough.
2. Act Like You've Already Achieved Success
This is an important concept. Often people think that once they get something they’ll feel a certain way, but they don’t allow themselves to feel successful until they achieve whatever goal they’ve set. They think, “Once I get a six-pack, then I’ll be happy.”
Constantly living in the future prevents you from feeling present and happy in the moment. You suffer your way toward your goal, and then once you get there you realize that there are just more goals to reach.
Instead, move through things as though you’ve already found success. Learn the feeling. Accept that you’re on the right path and that you’re more successful today than you were when you first set out. Owning your success translates to confidence, which will ultimately help you feel more engaged and present. Speak to many of the well-known athletes and time and again you’ll hear the phrase “I picture myself making the goal before the game”.
3. Inspire Yourself With Positive Self-Talk
Any one that trains with me knows, I am a big believer in your muscles “hearing what your thinking”. You’re speaking to yourself all the time, but are you paying close attention to what you’re saying — and to the tone you’re using to say it? Are you speaking to yourself with kindness, just as you would to a friend? Or are you picking yourself apart and being hurtful?
A workout is a great time to check in with that voice. When you’re pushed physically, you bump up against your limiting beliefs about yourself. During those moments you have the chance to either inspire yourself or be negative.
Embrace those challenging moments and use them as opportunities to bring more positivity into your inner dialogue. This will, of course, help you feel better in your workout and will follow you outside the gym as well!
4. Amp Up Confidence With a Power Pose
Building in rituals and routines that allow your confidence to be a regular part of your day (and your workout) is extremely important. One way to "fake it 'till you make it" is by power posing — assuming a stance with proper posture that conveys to the world "I believe in me, and you should, too!"
Try power posing as a way to remember that all you need you already have. Celebrate the small victories and embrace a power pose. Breathe deeply and tap into that confidence that’s hiding within you. You could try standing with both arms over your head, with hands on your hips like Peter Pan or any other stance where your shoulders are back and you're standing tall with sternum lifted.
It could be at your desk or on the subway or in the bathroom — it doesn’t matter where! But taking a moment and doing a power pose will give you an honest boost of energy and confidence.
5. Let Your Breath Power Your Workout
Breath is a life force — literally. But most people don’t breathe deeply (or often) enough, especially during their workouts. But active breaths that you follow from inhale to exhale — the kind that open your ribcage and expand your belly — have a lasting impact on your performance.
Start with bringing your awareness to your breath. Even in the middle of a hard workout, take a moment to observe your breathing. Is it rapid? Can you contain it? Are you breathing deeply into your abdomen? Even the simple act of focusing on your breathing can force you to breathe better during your workout.
Next, optimize your breathing for your workout. It may not always be the case that you can breathe deeply, but focusing on your breath leads to more impactful breathing.
Try power breathing (take a half inhalation, and then make a hissing sound on the exhale) during heavy lifting or Ujjayi breath (where you feel each inhale and exhale in the back of your throat) during yoga.
Workouts provide us with so much more than a “bikini body”. It is a chance to strengthen ourselves physically, so that we are the healthiest we can be, so that we can enjoy the activities we love for years to come. But also mental, strengthening our minds, for clearer thinking and improved confidence. So the next time your contemplating work outing? Do it for all benefits you will get, and enjoy the process of feeling your body & mind getting stronger!