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Mind Games

By Sandra McNicol (In2 The Wild Member)

Fitness is a battle between the body and the mind sometimes. Some say that’s why an early morning class is good – your mind hasn’t woken up, so doesn’t fully realise what you are about to do to your body! (In my case, by body hasn’t woken up either, so I rarely make an early morning class…)

I find the tension between the mind and the body fascinating – the conversations that go around and around in my head as I decide whether or not to go to class; when I am waiting by the van ready for the off; when I am warming up; when I am first, last, working out or cooling down.

The main thing to keep in mind: I will be glad I came.

But, to be convinced of that, a person needs to attend class enough so the evidence exists to present to the more reluctant part of a person’s mind. After years of training, I have countless examples of being glad I came and zero examples of regrettable sessions. (If I scour my mind, the only arguably regrettable sessions are when I was going to go for groceries on the way home but I got too muddy to let myself into the shop.)

Being in a group session certainly helps with the psychology of exercise. If the trainer says to run round a particular tree, I look at it and think ‘That’s totally far away – who could be bothered running there? But okay,’ then I head off and return. Then we are told… ‘ run round the tree again’, and then ‘ run round the tree for a third time’… If I had been by myself, I would have completed the shuttle precisely zero times, but in a group, we all learn to live by threes and realise that all things are possible. Thrice.

The same goes for hill sprints and other challenging things. I am a very slow runner. But, even within my own slowness, I can improve. To improve at running, I have to vary my training. If I were just to go running on my own in real life, it would be a slow 5k. If I go running at class, it might occasionally also be a slow 5k – but it might be a 7k involving hill sprints or long repeats or fartleks or some other unpalatable activity after which I feel great about completing. But I am hardly likely to put myself through that on my own.

If I go to class, I will be glad I came to class. This is the motivational carrot which I suspend before myself. The gladness comes, I am sure, with some technical explanation involving endorphins and dopamine, but for the middle-aged woman in the street, it is more to do with the fact that I got out to play, enjoyed the fresh air, talked to other people, laughed, took a break from scrolling and eating, saw the sky and achieved “something” during the class.

The tricky bit is when people want to start their “fitness journey” and their mind gets in the way – what with their idiopathic inability to attend class and all that, on the grounds that they can’t. We have all been there. To get the motivation to come to class, you have to come to class and realise you are glad you went to class.

It is all in the mind.

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