The Psychology of Exercise

'The Body Achieves What The Mind Believes'

I am a true believer that the mind plays a huge role in absolutely everything we do and in particular in sport and fitness.

Ever heard of the phrase 'Hitting the wall'? The wall to me is when your mind takes over and creates negative thoughts which prevent you from reaching that next level.

So how can you block out these thoughts?

We all have these thoughts whether it's whilst playing competitive sports, weight training, running or just going to an exercise class or the gym. It's just that some people learn how to manage them; have the determination to beat them or can focus on the end goal by simply distracting the mind.

Take running for example: say we have someone who is training for a half marathon (13 miles), they lay out their training regime months in advance, slowly building up to the race itself. They have trained and ran up to 11 miles (as this seems to be done thing with running, which I have never understood).

It comes to race day- they know their body well- they know what time they are after. They have learnt how to pace themselves to achieve this goal, however; for some reason they get to around 8 miles or so and this huge 'Wall' appears. The mind is telling them STOP, have a rest, let's just walk for a little bit.

Why does this happen as it has never happened in training?

The answer: PRESSURE. There are people there watching, you don't want to be last, oh my god my legs feel tired, my heart is pounding, can I really do this? What if I don't do as well as I wanted and don't get the time I aimed for?

These tricks are all played by the mind. Yes, your body may be hurting but if you can learn a way to eliminate these thoughts you wont 'Hit the wall'.

The most simple way in my opinion is... here we go... 'MUSIC' as this distracts the mind which is KEY. Play around with what type of music works best for you- some people may need loud, aggressive music whilst others may prefer something that in their head they can sing along to. If you don't already, try works for me!

Another example would be weight training or just going to the gym. Say you go every other day for arguments sake, you do the same exercises every week with the same reps and weight.

You feel you have a good workout but you don't seem to be getting any stronger or fitter.

Why is this ?

Most people have learnt how to have a good workout but most haven't learnt how to really push themselves and get more from each and every workout.

The body adapts to what you're doing so at first, yes, you will get some results but after around 4-6 weeks it learns what you're asking it to do and so this is were you need to find that mental strength to challenge yourself and to raise your strength and fitness threshold.

How to do this:

Every time you step into the gym, put your headphones on (this focuses the mind and as mentioned above can distract the mind from negative thoughts and in this case the muscle burn or feeling a bit sick). Try to either do just one more rep or the next weight up on whatever you are doing-it can be as little as 5kg because it's a new stimulus to the body. Or try shortening your rest periods a little, do an extra 5 seconds on the battleropes or chuck a 10 second sprint into the end of your run. This is all you need to improve and increase that mental and physical threshold level which in turn leads to a better mindset, improved exercise threshold level and most importantly PROGRESS!!

Get those headphones on, be positive and you will achieve your goals!

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