In order to build muscle, increase flexibility, or over all stamina the same process must take place. Micro tears form in the muscle, tendons are stretch past comfort, and your lungs are deprived of oxygen; your muscles, tendons, and lungs, given proper rest and nutrients, will not only recover, but become stronger. This happens only if you push yourself beyond your physical limits. In other words, your mind must pick up the slack. It is a hard process to grasp at first, but it applies to almost anything in life.
By only trying do you have any chance of succeeding, and just like a new experience your muscles and organs ‘learn’ and adapt. You must push yourself beyond your comfort zone if you want to grow. If you want to become more fit, improve your diet, or do anything successfully you must have the mental strength to push past any discomfort. This article explains the science of mental toughness in great detail, far better than I can.
Muscle building is a great metaphor for life
Your brain should be treated like a muscle. You can strengthen your ability to focus, to resist temptation, and you do through exercises. In other words, it takes practice. The best weight lifting exercises one can do, male or female, involve compound movements. These exercises are difficult for the unfit/novice weight lifters because they involve several joints and muscles. This requires some to do isolation movements/exercises in order to strengthen supporting muscles, in other words, break the problem down into smaller steps until you solve the bigger problem.
Sometimes you have to trick yourself into doing something
I have hip bursitis on my left side. When I was overweight, it was nearly impossible for me to sit or stand properly. Squats, one of the greatest compound movements a human could do for themselves was physically impossible at first, but over time the fear became more of an issue than my physical ability. I had to trick my mind into thinking It was physically okay for me to do an activity. There are several ways to do this for different activities, but in this case I did the activity by placing a chair that would allow me to go “parallel” (having your hamstrings and calves form a 90 degree angle). Eventually, I went past parallel, but whether you should go past parallel on a squat depends on your pelvic structure, but I digress…
This war you’re fighting is won and lost in the mind. The psychological war waged in your quest for self improvement cannot be won in one decisive battle. You must strategize, pick your fights carefully, know your limits and whether you are prepared to take on your next goal. You will become overly optimistic when you strategize, forethought can be a drug: check yourself before you wreck yourself! This is why almost all my post will involve topics involving the mind.
I will be posting a video blog tomorrow, take care!
I have mentioned several times that a support group is vital for your weight loss, but when you are overweight simple interactions can cause intense anxiety, the very idea of going to the gym can derail your fitness journey. I have had thoughts such as “people will think I am pathetic panting at the gym” or “I will look so ridiculous people will stare.”
Not all of these thoughts start in our head. Social stigmas are not created by one person, but a society. As I have said before, my opinion is that being overweight is the only social stigma on par with mental illness. When the two intersect you have entered a very lonely niche. A vicious cycle that will derail or stop you from ever starting your own self improvement journey. So this post is dedicated to ways I have, had, and do overcome social anxiety. Hopefully it helps you…
Some of these suggestions may seem anti-social, so you should not do these long term if at all! You should not only going to the gym to use equipment. You should be going to meet people who will help you in your journey. Extra suggestions I found useful can be found here.
Do not go to the gym yet, exercise in public while practicing positive reinforcement
The beginning of my self improvement journey started with a lot of walking around in public settings. Going over my negative, irrational thoughts, which are also known as Cognitive Distortions. I started to create rebuttals for each cognitive distortion, a technique known as positive reinforcement. I would discuss these with my therapists and friends and over time the positive thoughts would balance, if not override, the negatives. This was my cognitive-behavioral therapy in a nutshell.
I was still afraid of going to the gym, but I had to take the next step, so I did something very familiar to my anxiety riddled self…
Run and Hide
When I first started going to the gym I would wear sweat pants and a hoodie to hide, well, everything. I had my favorite cardio machine, and I would even take weights into the racquetball rooms that were less visible so I could be by myself. This is pretty extreme, but it got me into the gym. Overtime I stopped wearing the sweater and sweat pants as a shield and moved onto my next suggestion…
Headsets and a Playlist
Find a pair of headsets that will stay in your ears and enter your own world. Eventually you will need to interact with your fellow gym residents, but for now breathing the same air is enough. I still do this from time to time. Sometimes I just want to with myself and the bar and think of nothing else. It has been almost effective as meditation for me. Once you are able to move around the gym to your own theme song, you should probably move on and experiment with new classes, new workout routines, etc. I understand people are afraid of making asses of themselves learning something new, so it might help to use my next suggestions…
Go with someone of equal or worse shape than you
This sounds like a shitty thing to say, but sometimes you need someone worse off than you to put things into perspective. It serves a dose of reality that things are not as bad as your anxious little head is making them. This person obviously has to be just as committed and reliable so if you find that person do not let them go! You both will go places. You might be saying “well, I am not the reliable one,” which is fine, you just need to make yourself reliable and the next step might help you…
This never fails when i’m struggling to get myself into the gym. The night before I pack my gym bag full of all my equipment, powder, supplements, shoes, towel, and I put them where I can easily grab them on my way out to the gym.Planning ahead allows you to stop thinking and start doing, everything has already been set aside. You just need to grab your gear and go, which plays into my next suggestion…
Just do it.
Still the best marketing slogan I have ever come across. When Positive reinforcement and friends cannot motivate you simply cease all thought and start walking towards the gym. Anxiety is essentially fearing the future, something that does not exist. You are projecting the worse case scenario fo what might happen. Aside from practicing being ever present, ceasing all thought and taking action is the best thing you can do to get your butt in the gym.
After these steps, start treating the gym as a home, not a vehicle.
This is the step I am currently on. Most of us go to the gym because it will put us on the fat burning train, but what happens once that journey is done? You have now lost your purpose to go “gyming” and it may begin a vicious cycle of yo-yoing, also known as the yo-yo effect. It is time to set new goals and join the fitfam community. Take classes, find groups on meetup.com that train together, become more invested and more involved. I will probably joining this group on meetup.com.
I suck at conclusions. See you guys tomorrow!
Oh, one more thing…
Even though this is a Canadian campaign, if you want to talk to me on twitter (@hckia) about your social anxiety please do so with the hashtag #BellletsTalk , since its goal is to end the stigma surrounding mental illness.
My interests vary. I love fitness, cognitive-behavioral therapy, the social phenomena, philanthropy, dogs, traveling, and my first love – gaming.
I love all sorts of games; outdoors, video, tabletop, etc. When it comes to video games my passion began on the consoles Turbo Grafx-16 and Turbo Duo, which were very unpopular in the United States. There was no region lock on the Turbo Duo, so towards the end of this consoles life both Japanese and English video games became dirt cheap on it. I hoarded TONS of Japanese video games. I did not know a single word in Japanese.
It is because of this I wish I heard of Justin Carmical, aka “Jew Wario” before his recent death. His expertise was in helping English speaking players enjoy Japanese games before they came to the West. Like him, I “suffered” through an era where console video game manufacturers had a bias towards Japan. Some of us passionate enough did not want to wait for the game to be translated, if it was to be at all. I would have loved to follow this man. I wish I had a dialogue with him, but he’s gone now.
I will not presume to know whether or not he suffered from some serious mental illness, but the circumstances around his death make one wonder. Instead of jumping to conclusions, I thought it would be appropriate to share my mental illness, and that of my mothers.
Without going too into detail, my mother suffered from Schizoaffective disorder and I from Depression and Anxiety. My mother is now dead, and while my illness is under control I have to remain vigilant, because I too could… fall off, if I don’t continue to take care of myself. I go to the gym, I eat properly, take my meds, but most importantly I try to mind what I think.
Medical experts continue to struggle with the correlation between mental illness and obesity, but it’s no secret that they often do go hand in hand. It might be easier to draw a correlation between a persons socio-economic status and obesity, but it’s no stretch of the imagination that someone sixty-plus pounds overweight will have behavioral problems, if not a mental disorder.
How did I lose one hundred forty pounds and keep it off? I corrected habits through cognitive-behavioral therapy; my fitness and diet were incorporated either simultaneously or after the fact.
There is no question that proper nutrition and your mental well-being are connected, but if you constantly barrage yourself with cognitive distortions, or you suffer from poor self-esteem, you will not be able to sustain a healthy diet. It is also true that a poor diet can hamper your ability to break the cycle, but equipped with one or the other as your first tool? I’d be willing to bet cognitive behavioral therapy mixed with a gradual diet change is more sustainable than simply a diet change. I cannot tell you how many times i’ve heard dieters say “i’ll reward myself with that cheeseburger later down the road” as if it’s acceptable to return to that lifestyle! Sure, once in a while is fine, but do they really mean once in a while?
I know how painful it is to be overweight. Being obese is probably one of the few things that match the social stigma associated with being mentally ill. You are caught in a vicious cycle and must surround yourself with people who will hold you accountable, keep you honest, and make sure you escape this purgatory.
I believe everyone should have a person who will say beautiful, cathartic, and uplifting words to them, as Justin Carmicals did in this video.
Rest In Peace, Jew Wario. You seemed like a kind soul. I am sorry you are gone.