Changing your perspective on sports and fitness can help you thrive. Exercising because you want to and not have to is life-changing.
As a woman, how often can you say you’ve worked out or participated in sports without weight loss in mind? When did you last exercise for your mental health solely?
Why is weight loss at the forefront of so many of our minds when it comes to fitness? There are numerous other benefits that, when embraced, can help us and our mental health thrive through exercise. Yet our weight and body confidence surrounding our weight can hold so many of us back. It’s time to stop focusing on wanting to see the numbers go down, or feeling the number is too great to be able to start.
When we were younger, we used to run around without a care in the world, playing sports for the joy of being with our friends and the thrill of pushing ourselves to run and jump higher and faster than ever before.
Since those carefree days, at some point a lot of us have fallen out of love with fitness and sports; whether the pressure of social media or the rush of daily life has de-prioritised movement.
But now is the time to fall back in love with sports and fitness so we can thrive again! Let’s exercise for mental health and not just for the aesthetic.
Don’t let the scales rule your life!
For the longest time, my motivation for working out was to lose weight. I would try various fitness challenges, which promised quick results and dramatic weight loss. However, after a couple of weeks of aching muscles and miraculous Instagram results not appearing, I would give up. Drowning my sorrows in my favourite snacks and Netflix, vowing to try again soon, only to end up in the same situation time and time again.
This vicious cycle which may be familiar to many of you went on for years. The longer I focused on my weight, the harder it was to lose it and break the cycle. My confidence plummeted and my physical and mental fitness suffered as a result. I would weigh myself daily and even a small increase would ruin my day.
No surprise here I guess, there are many studies that discuss the adverse effects of self-weighing frequently…
A 2018 study suggests that engaging in self-weighing and calorie counting daily was negatively associated with eating disorders.
At the beginning of the first lockdown, home workouts were unappealing as I lacked motivation and as restrictions eased the thought of braving the weights room at my local gym had me disappearing in a cloud of dust.
My relationship with sports and fitness had become extremely negative. By focusing on weight loss and my appearance alone, I had forgotten about the many other benefits sports and working out can have.
It was a video I saw online that helped me get my head around focusing on the journey rather than the end goal. In the video, the person said something along the lines that many people make the mistake of thinking weight loss is linear, it is not. Your weight will go up and down for several different reasons, but as long as you keep showing up, you will start to see results.
With that in mind, I had conquered the scales. I now only weigh and measure myself occasionally, the scales have lost their power over me and the number on them is no longer the driving force in my fitness journey.
Healthy body, healthy mind.
Exercise can have benefits for your mental health as well as your physical health. My mind is definitely clearer when I am exercising and that feeling of clarity is definitely worth a few squats.
According to HelpGuide…
Exercise relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood.
Personally while physical benefits were the initial catalyst in my journey, these mental health benefits are what keep me showing up each day.
Regular exercise helps improve my self-esteem, stress levels and improves my mood. Every time I beat my previous distance or time, the endorphins kick in and I find I am more productive throughout the rest of the day.
Participating in sports makes establishing friendships as an adult easier too.
When I finished University I found that without the structure of classes and shared living space, establishing friendships can seem daunting to say the least. When I joined a local rowing club however, I suddenly found a group of people I had something in common with again.
Team sports are fantastic ways to meet new people and make exercise sociable. By combining making new friends with trying a new sport, you will find yourself looking forward to exercise for a number of new reasons, and your personal life will benefit too.
Customise your exercise.
By adjusting my perspective on fitness and sports from a one-size-fits-all to an activity programme that works for me, I have fallen back in love with movement again and I am achieving more of my fitness goals than ever before, and seeing other areas of my life, such as my mental health, improve also.