One of the defining young adult movies of the late 90’s, Cruel Intentions starred Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillipe. Why is my fitness coach writing about a dark, emotional 90’s teen movie? We will get to that, first this is not a recommendation to see the movie.
If you haven’t, just don’t. For our interaction all you really need to know is that Ryan Phillipe’s character is a brooding, negative, emotional sociopath that sets his sights on a navie but generally joyful, happy, and young lady going somewhere in Reese Witherspoon.
Spoiler Alert! Reese ultimately prevails, but she goes through unnecessary heartache and difficulty beforehand.
Now, what does this have to do with fitness and wellness? Well, it comes down to intentions. We talk about “What is you Why”, which is a powerful tool to keep you progressing and focused long term towards ultimate desires and goals and useful for getting back on track. Intentions can be used in the moment, for short term efforts. The short term becomes the long term. When you come to the gym for a workout what are your intentions? Most of us would say, “we want to put forth effort, strain our bodies, sweat and work hard”, before we arrive for our workout. What happens to those intentions once the struggle is real? Do you stay positive and focus? I don’t mean fake smiles and pretend it’s easy. I mean, accept that it’s difficult, find conviction to push through and celebrate your effort! It is all too easy to become Ryan Phillipe and look for shortcuts, blame circumstances, sabotaging your mindset and positive intentions. Be like Reese. Accept what is. Face the difficulty and rise above. Below are some helpful suggestions to frame positive intentions and keep them when the work is difficult.
Have a positive mindset: Get your mind right. The warmup is the perfect time for this. The warmup is generally easy and allows you to prepare both mentally and physically for the work to come. Commit to working hard!
Look for mini goals: It is awesome to have big goals and keep chasing them, but it can be easy to become negative and defeated when that goal seems far off in the distance. When I run, which lets just say isn’t my favorite but I’m working on that, I focus on short term distances. Run to the next light pole, hold my pace, run a slightly faster mile. Anything to keep my mind on achieving instead of quitting. You might look to lift slightly more weight on a specific exercise, finish a calorie goal a little quicker, jump a little higher, etc.
Avoid negative talk: This can be both verbal and mental. It is perfectly ok to admit something is challenging or difficult and obviously if something causes pain you should speak up. BUT, words like “this sucks”, “I hate this”, “This is stupid” do nothing positive and make the work even more difficult. Better to put that effort into pushing through than complaining and falling short. Quick jokes and self deprecation are tools I use to reset mid workout.
Celebrate: This goes hand in hand with number 3. Once you find conviction and push through something difficult. Celebrate your effort. Let out a scream, high five a friend or coach, positive energy is infectious! Unfortunately, so is negative :(.
Reflect: After a difficult workout, take some time while you recover and stretch to think about your effort. Did you give great effort? Awesome enjoy the satisfaction and endorphins. If you feel like you could have given more to a workout or exercise commit to giving more next time and move on.
“Intention is one with cause and effect. Intention determines outcome. And if you’re stuck and not moving forward, you have to check the thought and the action that created the circumstance.”- Oprah
“Awakened doing is when you don’t create suffering anymore for others—–or for yourself—-by your own actions. It also implies that your primary intention, the focus of your attention, is on the “doing” in the present moment, rather than the result that you want to achieve through it.” – Eckhart Tolle
The mind is key to success on this journey, and any in journey in life. We will never be perfect but we can chase it with positive intention and effort. Cruel intentions will never succeed in the long term!