PRESTON — One day I decided to do an exercise with one of my clients to show the power of the mind, and how it directly affects the body. I typically have her warm up with a ten-minute jog on the treadmill, or calisthenics. So, she was surprised when she arrived and I told her to head straight to the weight rack, and grab two ten-pound dumbbells.
Then I had her follow me to the backroom of the gym where the group classes are held. The next class didn’t start for another hour, so the room was empty and quiet. I told her, while holding the weights, to close her eyes and think of the happiest moment of her life.
Then I told her to smile, engulf herself in that thought, and hold it for about twenty-seconds. After twenty-seconds, I instructed her to begin doing curls with the dumbbells. I told her not to count, just curl. I wasn’t looking for a particular number.
After thirty-seven curls, her arms became fatigued, but she managed to squeeze out three more reps. She then put the weights down while still smiling, and asked me the purpose of the exercise. I told her that I would let her know during our next training session.
Two days later she arrived at the gym ready to train. Just like the previous session, I told her to grab two ten-pound dumbbells and head to the backroom. I could tell that she was anticipating another exercise while thinking of a happy moment.
But that wasn’t my plan. I told her, while holding the weights, to close her eyes and think of the worst time of her life. Her face displayed a mixture of confusion and apprehension. I could tell that she wanted to say no, but after a year of training and losing seventy pounds, she trusted me.
I repeated the instructions from the previous session, but substituted the happiest moment of her life with the worst. After twenty-seconds, she began curling the weights. As soon as she reached thirteen reps, her arms became limp, she dropped the weights, and began crying.
I quickly began explaining the purpose of the exercise to pull her away from her dark memory. This exercise was designed to show her how the body reacts to the mind. I have had clients well over 300 pounds with all of the motivation in the world.
I have also had clients that weighed around 150 pounds that couldn’t seem to find the motivation to remain consistent. The biggest difference between these clients wasn’t the weight they carried on their bodies. It was the weight they carried in their minds.
I explained to my client that a negative mindset causes the body to become weak. Fatigue sets in, and it is not due to a lack of energy. Energy is never ending. What happens is positive energy is replaced with negative energy. It drains the body.
Which is why my client was only able to do thirteen curls before her body completely gave out on her. Both days her mind and body were on the same page. The first day, her mind was strong and positive, and her body reacted accordingly. The second day, her mind was weakened and negative, and again, her body reacted.
We often hear that the hardest part about working out is showing up. More work has to be put into convincing our minds that our bodies actually want to exercise. There are different motivating factors that vary from person to person. It is my job as a personal trainer to figure out what motivates my client the most.
Whenever I ask a client what their goals are, they usually give me a number. Either a number that they want to see on the scale, or the number of pounds that they want to lose. I always encourage them to give me a goal that isn’t number related.
For instance, a bathing suit that they want to fit, or running a 5k. I want them to have goals that they can envision themselves physically doing. This is another mental exercise that can have a strong effect on the body. Not only is it a positive thought, it is a motivating thought. Envisioning your goals can help push you to get through those last few reps.
Regardless of your fitness level, weight, or physique, you can always flex your mental muscle. As a matter of fact, your mind is the strongest muscle you possess. The most powerful thing you will ever do is make a decision. Whether that decision is good or bad is entirely up to you.
But it is important to keep in mind that the body will be directly affected by that decision. The body wants to feel strong and healthy. So it is the duty of the mind to take care of the body.
If you struggle with finding the motivation to exercise and eat properly, then I encourage you to set goals for yourself that have nothing to do with numbers on the scale. Find some sort of activity that you have wanted to try, but never gave a chance because of your lack of fitness and/or confidence.
Maybe you’ve always wanted to box for a round or two. You don’t necessarily have to step in the ring, but imagine being in shape to do it. Maybe you’ve had the desire to pose for nude paintings, or to do a boudoir photo shoot.
Again, you don’t have to go through with it, but imagine having enough confidence in the way look to do it if you choose. Set goals that are realistic and fun. It is important that the mind receives these goals in a positive way. You will be surprised at what the body can accomplish when the mind gives it the green light.
Tyrell James, co-owner of Born Champions Boxing, is also the owner of Rellic Fitness where he is a boxing coach, master herbalist, and health coach. He is also a personal trainer and nutritionist at Preston Gym.