• Megan

The Connection Between your Mind and your Body

It is always assumed that strength training is a physical pursuit only. Many exercise for the purpose of improving their body's physique and performance, while forgetting how integral the mind can be throughout the progress. But, practicing mindfulness, emotional regulation, and positive affirmations can enhance both mental and physical development simultaneously.

First let's discuss how cognitive and emotional functioning interacts with training. The gym environment alone is challenging enough. Many newcomers experience anxiety in the gym- they assume that they are being watched and critiqued throughout their time there, contributing to a more negative and stressful experience. But, once one rationalises the environment and understands that the majority of people are only concerned with themselves, the environment becomes a lot more welcoming. This is a great example of 'thought catching', a process by which someone unlearns irrational assumptions, replacing them with more logical reasoning. Over time, people who adopt these patterns of thought become a lot more comfortable going to the gym, demonstrating how the mind can play such a large role in training.

Furthermore, pushing your body to places of discomfort and challenge can ultimately change your brain structure. When you learn something new, like how to perform a back squat, new neural connections are formed in your brain. These connections help your brain to perform that new skill the next time you try it. After repeatedly performing back squats with additional challenge, even more neural connections have formed, contributing to your brain's overall efficiency. Additionally, this applies to the point in an exercise where you consider giving up and dropping the weights; the first time you try an exercise, you are not familiar with being in the space where your body is challenged. After entering that space again and again, you teach yourself how to endure it and recognise your potential. This is a highly evident way of seeing how consistent challenges can change your physical and mental performance.

The gym can also be a place for you to practice confidence and assertion, especially in the free-weight area. This area can get competitive. In busy gyms, people compete for space, for weights, and for time. When I first began training in the free-weight area, I did it almost apologetically; I would walk with my head down, take up minimal space, and choose a machine alternative to be less of a burden to anyone. But after some self reflection, I gradually realised that I deserved to make use of that area just as much as the next person- I had every right to take as long as I wanted, use what equipment I needed, and not be sorry about it. This changed everything. This improved mindset gave me a newfound confidence to train how I wanted to train. And when you feel confident, you perform a whole lot better. This shows just how much of a difference it can make when your mindset and perspective work for you.

The mind and the body are never fully separate; to achieve potential in one, you must practice the other. Always remember that your fitness journey is highly personal to you- you must learn your own lessons and make your own mistakes to grow from.

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