Updated: Apr 28, 2020
If you've read any of my previous articles, you would know that my writing voice is usually kind of crass, sarcastic, and goofy. And I can't necessarily guarantee that you still won't get glimpses of that here, this will likely be one of, if not the most serious article I'll ever write.
I would also like to preface this by saying that I am not a psychologist, nor mental health specialist, but I do know that these things do play a bigger role in the world of fitness than you may be privy too.
But the idea of mental health as it pertains to fitness is relatively unexplored.
And the idea of mental health is actually driven and heavily influenced by psychology (once again, not a psychologist).
But, it doesn't take a psychologist to know that regardless of your intentions, the way you say things to people, has a profound effect on their feelings and actions.
Want one of your family members to start living a healthier life?
Maybe you tell them they're getting fat.
Your intentions are pure. You're doing your best to motivate that person to start up their fitness journey, but by demoralizing them with that statement, you may make that person feel inadequate, and drive them deeper into a hole of unhealthy living.
On the flip side, if you have a friend that you're really close with and half the time you spend together is ball busting, you could potentially say the same thing to them, and with the nature of your relationship, they might not take it to heart, and it might actually get them to start working out.
It varies greatly from person to person.
Some people do great with positive reinforncement.
Others might actually prefer a hard ass that yells at them.
But regardless of these facts, you have to be sensitive to people's feelings and the psychological effect that you have on that person with your words.
It was our first time working together, so I had no idea what her personality type was, and how to communicate with her.
When in doubt, politeness and positive reinforcement go a long way.
While she was performing this Pallof Press, she was doing really well.
Her form wasn't EXACTLY perfect, but it was not off enough to the point of them hurting themselves and certainly something I could fix over time in the long run.
In that moment there was no reason to negatively critique their form.
So I said "you're killing it."
They said "Really?!"
"Yeah, absolutely", I replied.
At the end of that workout that client said, "If you didn't tell me I was doing a good job, I would've quit on you. I never liked working out, because I always feel like I'm doing something wrong. Having you here and telling me that really made my day."
What was just a general statement of positive reinforcement on my part, ended up making this client feel like they were in a safe space, and on the right track.
That, is the power of psychology.
The reason I decided to bring this topic up now, and to talk about the psychology of fitness, is that we're living in a time where more people than ever before are spending time at home.
At least I hope you are, with social distancing and whatnot. (I hope someone comes across this article in like 2023 and think "What the hell is this guy talking about?")
If you don't come out of this quarantine period with a six pack, you lack discipline.
This is your free time to do what you want with it. And if you want to do absolutely nothing with that time, that's OKAY.
Regardless of which side of the fence you land on, you as an adult (if you're reading this and you're like 14 years old, scram) have the power to make your own choices.
So, don't let anybody tell you how to spend your free time.
If you really want to spend all your free time doing nothing, then that is your prerogative to do so.
Although, from a fitness aspect, it would be irresponsible of me to suggest doing that.
Back at the beginning of this Social Distancing period, when I thought that it was only going to last a week or two at most, I was totally on board with telling people to just chill out, max, relax and all cool.
But now that this has lasted a month with no end in sight, I do encourage some semblance of fitness in your life, but that is exclusively your decision to make.
Anywho, both of these statements have been going semi viral on social media, and what the originators of these two school of thoughts might not have thought about, is the psychological repercussions that comes with these statements.
Depending on your personality type, you probably perceive the statement in different ways.
Telling someone that they potentially lack discipline could either drive them to strive towards a goal they've been putting off, or can make them potentially feel terrible about themselves for not "having discipline".
You never really know how these statements will effect those who see it.
Hell, I don't know the psychological effect this article will have on those who peruse these words.
Hopefully it's a positive one, but you never really know.
Regardless, as a fitness professional you have to be mindful of the effects your words have, and as a consumer you have to be mindful of a person's intentions and when something doesn't sit right with you the first time, try and find the true intent in the statement and make your decision from there.
Hopefully both sides working together can bridge the gap to great, and open communication in the fitness world.
Now that you know how much psychology can actually effect your thoughts, feelings, actions, etc. now we can get to the point of this article
How Fitness effects Happiness
How Happiness effects Fitness
If you've got a fitness goal (which if you've made it this far I assume you do), being too unhealthy/unfit and not doing enough to achieve your goals can leave you unhappy.
Maybe you see the post insinuating that you lack discipline, and because of it and you take action.
You've got all this extra time, so you might as well go all in.
Buy all new equipment.
Eat as healthy as humanly possible.
Spend 1-2 hours per day working out.
You see results immediately.
Within a few weeks, you've made tons of progress.
Maybe you're as healthy as you've ever been, or at least well on your way.
But, in spite of all this, you're miserable.
You're living your absolute healthiest life possible but you're just as unhappy.
In a fury to prove the doubters wrong about your amount of "discipline", you spent money you didn't have, you're eating nothing but foods you can't stand, your mouth waters at the thought of having a donut, and you don't spend time with your family anymore because you're too busy working out.
This, of course is a very extreme example, but odds are you've found yourself at some point going "all in" and sacrificing a lot of the things you love and enjoy doing.
The things that bring you happiness.
So while being too unfit and far away from your goals can inhibit your happiness, so can leaning too far into it.
This is why consistency is so important in a fitness program.
Consistency is when you can find that perfect balance of your life where making strides towards your fitness goals and happiness meet.
Still losing weight while eating cookies? Fuck yes.
Still building muscle and having quality family time? Absolutely. I'll take it.
Have you ever heard Zac Efron talk about his Baywatch experience?
"That was actually a really important time to do Baywatch. Because I realized when I was done with that movie I don’t ever want to be in that good of shape again. Really. It was so hard. You’re working with almost no wiggle room. You’ve got things like water under your skin you’re worrying about. Making your six-pack into a four-pack. Shit like that that’s just not… it’s just stupid, it’s just not real."
Yeah, he looked unreally good, but he was damn miserable doing it, and he realized that doing TOO much, despite what he looked like on the outside, was downright stupid in any other situation or facet of his life.
Same thing with Kumail Nanjiani. When he revealed his absolutely yolked new physique to the world, he talked about how unrealistic it was without the circumstances of Marvel paying for him to be that in shape.
Mac from It's Always Sunny? Same.
Now, that's not to say that there aren't people in the world that hold their fitness and physique in the highest regard.
And that the sacrifices they make bring them happiness in the form of the final result.
If that's what brings them happiness, then by all means, do what you got to do dudes and dudettes.
But the overlying message of this article is that there is no amount of fitness you can achieve, that is worth sacrificing your happiness.
Find what that balance is for you, and it'll lead you to a more consistent and enjoyable fitness experience.