Buzz... Buzz... Sigh. Another notification, another reminder, another text message, another voicemail. How can a person hear their own thoughts in the midst of the chaos we endure daily?
Often times when we think of fitness, we think of the superficial aspects of fitness… six pack abs, sexy legs, lean waists, and chiseled physiques. What about fitness in the mind, though? What about mental health? Can you truly perform your best physically when you’re on the verge of a breakdown?
I spent the past week without a phone, and took the weekend to surf the Oregon coast with some great friends, and let me tell you... Not having my phone telling me where I needed to be/when I needed to be there or being distracted by social media gave me time to be present, time to reflect, time to hear my own thoughts, time to feel my emotions, and has rekindled a relationship with myself that I've been neglecting. My newfound mental clarity has not only positively impacted my daily attitude, but it has also positively impacted my performance in the gym/during my outdoor activities.
This article has been a long time coming, and the timing felt right after my experience this past weekend. That being said, here are 5 ways to improve your fitness on the mental/emotional level.
1. Spend Time In Nature- There is nothing like a breathtaking view to remind you just how small you really are in the grand scheme of the universe. Whether you’re hiking, fishing, hunting, mountain biking, skiing, surfing, or snowboarding, you’re bound to have a moment of awe of the shear magnitude of all that surrounds us. Getting away from the busy buzz of street noise, and viewing life through your perspective lense rather than the lense of a phone can do a lot to free up some headspace.
2. Do Something Spontaneous- Who said that weekends were the only time you could set aside work and have some fun? “I don’t have the time,” is a shitty excuse, by the way. The reason it’s a poor excuse is that you’re never going to “find the time.” There is going to be 24 hours today, just like there will be 24 hours tomorrow, just like there will be 24 hours the next day. As comfortable as routine is, it is easy to get stuck in a mental rut. Sometimes shaking things up mid-week is all you need to get your mental health back on track!
3. Meditate- Meditation doesn’t have to be seated, by the way. Meditation can be done in the form of movement practices like Yin Yoga, Thai Chai, or nature walks/jogs. The nice thing about a moving meditation is that it distracts the monkey mind revolving around what you need to get done, and allows you to dive into what’s on your heart rather than what’s on your mind. I personally prefer guided meditations. Two free apps I would highly suggest are Headspace and Stop, Breathe, and Think. Meditation is hands down the best habit I have picked up in the past 3 years, and has done wonders for my mindset, as well as my workouts.
4. Unplug- Like I said previously in this article, I spent the last week without a phone, and although it wasn’t by choice (my phone flat out stopped working mid-text message) it was incredible. You would be surprised how much arguments on the web, negativity in your news feed, and the constant buzz of notifications take a toll on your mental well-being. I challenge you to try taking a couple days every few weeks to unplug from your phone/laptop to see how much time you actually spend mindlessly surfing the web. You just might “find the time” to take part in those activities you’ve been neglecting ;)
5. 10 minutes of “Me Time"- If I were to ask you, “Do you give yourself 10 minutes of quiet time each day,” would you answer yes, or no? From my experience as a coach, most will answer with the latter. Quiet time can be spent doing a number of things…. Reading, knitting, drawing, staring at the wall (we have all had those days), painting, meditating, coloring in those awesome adult coloring books (those things are RAD), working on cars, and listening to relaxing music (ideally free of lyrics so you can hear your own thoughts rather than the words of the song… Explosions In The Sky, Antoine Dufour, and Andy Mckee are all worth checking out) are all examples of activities you could do for quiet time. Whatever you choose, though, it should fill you up, relax you, and SHOULD NOT feel like a task you need to scratch off your “to-do list.”
If you read this entire article in hopes of discovering a new method to improve your mental health only to find that you knew all of the above tips…. I am about to give you some tough love. KNOWLEDGE isn’t the issue. IMPLEMENTATION is the issue. Many of us know how to decompress and improve our mental well-being. Very few of us, however, actually do it. That being said, I challenge you to IMPLEMENT at least one of the above tips, and to be CONSISTENT with whatever method you choose.
Believe me when I say that your mental well-being, AND physical well-being, will soar upon the implementation of any of the 5 tips above that speak to you.
If you know of anyone who would benefit from this article, please share this with them so they too can thrive. Rooting for your success, my friend.
Until next time, Stay humble. Stay Hungry. Stay Happy.
Story time! Yesterday I went to stand up after sitting in a deep squat position (no weight, just squatting down to cue a client while stretching) and I heard/felt a massive pop in my knee.
It sounded like somebody broke a rock on concrete. No pain at the time of the sound, but later that evening, the swelling came, and the pain came along with it.
Some people would consider this to be a “freak injury,” or something that you couldn’t possibly predict. Although freak injuries/accidents do happen, I would like to explain why a lot of “freak injuries,” aren’t so freakish after all by using my currently swollen knee as an example. To understand why my injury wasn’t so freakish, though, we will have to rewind.
When I was 19 years old I was rolling ju-jitsu at a local gym in Aberdeen, WA. I had a figure 4 locked up with my legs. While trying to tighten up the submission, I accidentally rotated my knee a little too far. I didn’t know this until I stood up after the round ended, and felt that exact same pop/shift in my knee that I did yesterday. THIS, is what I would consider to be a freak injury or accident.
Rather than getting my knee looked at, though, I just waited until the pain and swelling went away. I chose to ignore the instability/occasional pop in my knee and figured I could get by.
FAST FORWARD 2 YEARS LATER, AND THE ISSUE HAD RESOLVED... SORT OF.
I was pain-free but my knee was still a little unstable at times.
One day when I was attempting a max height box jump, the bottom of my foot didn’t fully make it on top of the box, and got caught on the edge. I was able to push myself far enough away from the box to get one foot off, however, the grippy bottoms of my other shoe adhered to the box and rotated my knee to an extreme angle. Just like that, I tore my meniscus, lodging half of it between my femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone). The ball of cartilage left my knee stuck at one angle. I could not flex or extend it. This too, was a freak accident. Although a high risk activity, it was pretty unlucky that my shoe gripped the box after I aggressively pushed myself away from it in attempt to bail.
SIX MONTHS OF RECOVERY AND A FEW MONTHS OF PHYSICAL THERAPY LATER...
I was back to a normal exercise routine. I had a visible knot of scar tissue on the inner portion of my knee, though. Since I was in a hurry to get back to competing, I unwisely chose to ignore the the scar tissue and returned to training full speed. What I didn’t know at the time was that the scar tissue knot would eventually grow in the space between my femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone) and cause a subtle shift of my knee joint in deep knee flexion.
This brings us up to yesterday’s freakish accident. Do you see how neglecting address apparently “small issues” in the past snowballed into injury? Sometimes those “freak injuries” aren’t so freakish after all.
MY TRAINING REGIMEN IS AS SAFE AND AS WELL-STRUCTERED AS IT HAS EVER BEEN.
I stay on top of my corrective exercises, I have resolved many of my old aches/pains from irresponsible training habits in the past, and have helped many others reduce their own aches/pains via individualized training programs. This is a large part of what I do at The Fitness Pyramid here in Spokane, WA.
Yesterday, I was reminded about that knot on my knee that I neglected to address (I forgot about it over the past couple years for it became “normal”). The beautiful thing about the current pain I am experiencing, though, is that I have the ability/knowledge base to address it, thus I will prevent another “freak injury” from happening.
That being said, if you have been neglecting “old injuries” or “aches and pains that come with age,” I would strongly encourage you to contact me so we can address those issues before they spiral into an injury like mine did. Luckily, mine will only put me out of squatting for a week or two at the most before I am able to address the issue fully. Others won’t be so lucky.
TO CATCH THESE ISSUES BEFORE THEY MANIFEST INTO SOMETHING MORE SERIOUS...
Please go to the link below and read up on how we unveil them at The Fitness Pyramid.
The Fitness Pyramid Movement Screen
Thanks for reading. I hope the experiences I have shared with you here allow you to avoid the mistakes that I made in the past! Until next time, Stay Humble. Stay Hungry. Stay Happy.