The fitness industry has failed you! We put out information about every aspect of health and nutrition. Our experts are hired. The internet is crammed with websites dedicated to weight loss and building muscle.
Billions of dollars are spent, but the indisputable fact is, we’re fatter and unhealthier than ever! Lifestyle related diseases such as heart attack, stroke and type 2 diabetes are skyrocketing. We’re on the fast track toward a diminished quality of life.
For a personal trainer like myself, this is a brutal truth to come to terms with. Obviously, the solution is not to provide more information. Everyone has the knowledge they need to succeed. So what’s it going to take to make us healthier?
More and more research suggests our internal world holds the key. Mind training – such as the practice of mindfulness – is essential for fundamental change. I’ve studied and taught mindfulness as a means for reducing stress for the past few years. Now I’ve begun teaching it to my clients to enable them to reach their fitness goals.
It is human nature to be bombarded by negative thoughts when we try to change our lifestyles: “I don’t have what it takes, I don’t have the willpower, I’m too old, I’ll get injured, I’m not athletic enough, I can’t . . . I can’t . . . l can’t!” Before we begin our quest for change, we are already defeated because we are undermined by negativity. Until we understand and deal with what’s going on in our heads, there can be no lasting progress towards realizing our goals.
This is where the practice of mindfulness becomes invaluable. Over the past few years, the study of mindfulness has become extremely popular as a means of reducing stress and engaging more fully with our lives. Fitness enthusiasts and athletes such as Sydney Crosby, Michael Jordan and the Seattle Seahawks football team have all embraced it.
Mindfulness simply means “paying attention, in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgement,” according to author and mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn. It is practiced mainly through meditation and has been scientifically validated to change our brains down to a cellular level within a few weeks. We are taught to have a new relationship with our thoughts as they occur. We welcome them, observe them and we have the choice to let them pass through and out of our minds.
The implications for fitness training are profound. Rather than allow limiting, negative thoughts to hijack and deter us, we can learn to manage those thoughts and choose instead to focus on the task at hand.
As a personal trainer, this has represented a fundamental shift in priorities for me. Rather than inundate my clients with more knowledge about exercise and nutrition, or lecture them about willpower, I have been incorporating mindfulness training into their workouts to give them more control over their lives. The results have been swift and impressive: my clients have demonstrated improved focus, far more positive attitudes, and an increased willingness to attempt new exercises. I have clients in their 60s and 70s challenging their assumptions about their limits by squatting over 200 lbs. and doing over 40 push-ups in a row. My high-level athletes say they are enjoying their sport more than ever and are moving up in their rankings as a result.
The mind is the key and mindfulness is a simple, proven method for unlocking our potential – not only in health and fitness, but in all areas of our lives..