There’s Finally a Shift in the Conversation Around Exercise

Mental Health and Exercise

It’s 9:03 am, Monday, January 3rd. I arrive at the iconic Gold’s Gym in Venice, California, where I’ve worked out nearly every day for the last five years. This is part of my usual routine; get up by six, walk my dog to a coffee shop where I write for an hour and a half, scarf some oatmeal, then work out. These days, my workouts are my treat, my break from the otherwise hectic nature of my day. It didn’t use to be this way. More on that later.

I walk through the various rooms and see that all the regulars are there. We smile at each other through our masks as I walk by. I give a few of them hugs, and we wish each other a good workout.

As usual for this time of year, there are a lot of new faces I’ve never seen before in the gym. I scan the various rooms, wondering who I will see again and who will only make it in a few times before life gets in the way, and they decide that 2022 is not their year to prioritize their fitness after all.

Yet this year, something feels different. Yes, there are still the usual types slogging away on the treadmill, watching the minutes tick away as they hope to burn off the remnants of as many holiday cookies as possible in one go. But aside from the typical weight loss and muscle building goals, many of the newbies I’ve talked to have resolved to exercise not just for physical health or appearance reasons, but because they feel better mentally and emotionally when they exercise.

In the past, this awareness that exercise leads to a better mood and improved headspace is something I’d only hear from people who had long embraced the identity of an athlete. Runners, for example, have long proclaimed that their runs are their primary source of sanity. In What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, celebrated Japanese writer Haruki Murakami writes that he runs to acquire a void. That void is peace; it’s flow; it’s a break from the otherwise endless chatter of the monkey mind. And it’s something that most runners and athletes come to crave.

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Want to Build True Strength? Ditch the Weights

“But don’t I need weights to get strong?” In my work as a fitness and performance coach, I get this question a lot. Even though I’ve been designing mostly bodyweight-based workouts for myself and my clients for over a decade, most people can’t seem to believe me at first when I tell them that you don’t need heavy weights …

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Try This Athlete-Approved Method for Overcoming Life’s Obstacles

Athlete-approved Method for Overcoming Life's Obstacles

How often have you started working toward a new goal, full of determination and drive, only to give up when you encounter an obstacle or challenging circumstance?

This happened to me over and over when I was first starting my personal fitness journey. I’d commit to working out three times a week and vow to swap out junk food for healthier options. As long as everything went exactly as expected, I’d be fairly successful sticking to my plan.

But, of course, life never goes as planned. Inevitably, something would happen to throw me off course. Sooner or later, I’d give up on my goal altogether, lose my progress, then have to start all over again at a later date.

The more I went through this demoralizing cycle, the more I became convinced that I could never become fit or healthy. But it’s not that I was doing anything wrong or that I wasn’t capable of change in the first place: I just didn’t have any alternative arrangements to fall back on when I encountered challenging circumstances.

Whenever we are striving for a goal, whether fitness or health-related or otherwise, we will inevitably encounter obstacles.

Rather than being surprised by the hurdles life throws at us, we can learn to plan for them.

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Why Goal Setting is Important and How to Do it Well

What separates those who accomplish a lot in life from those who idol away their time? Largely your ability to set and achieve goals.

Goals give our lives direction, something to organize our thoughts and action around. Well-thought-out goals can direct our time and attention, help motivate us toward action, and even help give our lives meaning and purpose.

Goals can significantly increase our performance and productivity, too: in dozens of studies by goal-setting experts Gary Latham and Edwin Locke, setting challenging goals has been shown to increase performance and productivity by up to twenty-five percent.

If you find yourself hesitant to set goals, it may be because you’re worried about failure and thinking ahead to all the things that could possibly go wrong en route to your goal. People who don’t set goals are often “saving themselves” from failure and defeat.

If this is you at times, remind yourself that in order to invest in a goal fully, you first have to believe that your goal is possible. This is why having a growth mindset — or believing that your efforts will make a difference — is so important to achieving high, hard goals.

It may also be helpful to remind yourself that the pursuit of goals is not all about the outcome. Learn to enjoy the process and all the learning and growth that happens along the way.

But while studies by the U.S. News & World Report show as many as 80% of people give up on their New Year’s resolutions by February, this doesn’t have to be you. Goal setting isn’t just about making a checklist once a year. It’s actually a skill that you can get better at with time and practice.

Below is a four-step process to setting goals you’ll stick to this year:

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Self-Efficacy and Why Believing in Yourself Matters

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” — Henry Ford I started training handstands in 2014. My dream was to be able to hold a five-second freestanding handstand without a wall. I got lucky and somehow stumbled upon the world of circus, and before long began training a few times …

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How Exercise Helps You Learn Faster and Think Better

I don’t know about you, but the idea that I might grow old and realize I’ve squandered my life haunts me in the middle of the night. It’s the reason I get up at 6 a.m. every day to write; the reason I keep working toward my fitness goals day after day; the reason I’m …

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How to Develop Self-Discipline

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” – Jim Rohn You wouldn’t know it if you met me today, but I didn’t use to be a very disciplined person. I’d say I wanted to do something, like work out, practice the guitar, or get up early… but when the alarm went off, I’d always …

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Start Where You Are, Not Where You Think You Should Be

I started boxing four years ago. Growing up with teenage angst and emotions that controlled me rather than the other way around, I punched walls (and sometimes people) whenever I could. But I didn’t formally give boxing a try until 2017. By then, I had years of calisthenics and HIIT workouts behind me. I was …

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How to Actually Enjoy Working Out

I started working out in my late teens. I’d just gotten my first real job as a Starbucks barista, and the free drinks and pastries coupled with the inactivity of college life began to catch up to me. Sick of having to buy larger and larger clothing sizes, I figured I should do the “adult” …

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