Have you ever thought about your narrative around exercise?
If your answer is no, you’re not alone. Many people don’t ever stop think about what narrative, or story, they’ve created about their potential to exercise consistently.
Some people believe that humans are who we are and we can’t change.
However, this is not true. It’s possible to change the way we think and behave, but we have to be willing to put in the work.
Here’s how to identify your narrative around exercise and get on the path to increasing your ability to exercise consistently.
Bring awareness to your thoughts.
In order to understand the story you’ve created around exercise, start by paying attention to your thoughts.
When your friend asks you to go on a hike, what thoughts come to mind?
When you consider lacing up your tennis shoes and going for a run, what language do use as you either talk yourself into it or out of it?
Do you have self-defeating thoughts about your ability to run even a short distance?
When you see athletes on TV or at a sporting event, what does it make you think about yourself?
Do you believe that it’s not worth it to exercise if you will never be as fast or agile as a professional athlete?
Do you label yourself generally as unathletic and view exercise through that lens?
As you start to pay more attention to your thoughts, jot down some key points and try to identify a theme.
And then consider, how might these thoughts be holding you back from exercising regularly?
Rewire the brain.
In neuroscience, there’s a phrase: Neurons that fire together wire together.
This means that neural pathways are formed through repetition of thought and behavior. So the more we buy into our thoughts and reinforce them, and the more we practice certain behaviors, the more we strengthen them.
The incredible thing about the brain, though, is that it’s possible to rewire it through repetition of new thoughts and behaviors. This is known as neuroplasticity.
We are not destined to stay the same if we don’t want to. We have the choice to pay attention to our thoughts and decide not to believe them.
You may want to start telling yourself, “Thoughts are just thoughts. They are not facts.”
So, how does this relate to exercise?
Every time you think, “I can’t run a mile,” and then you don’t run at all, you strength that narrative.
And then the next time you think about going on a run, your brain remembers the last time and says, “Oh, that’s right, I can’t do that.”
But, what if, instead, you said to yourself, “I don’t need to be able to run a mile, I can run three blocks. Let’s give it a try!”
The more you pay attention to the thoughts you have and choose not to buy into the ones that are holding you back, the more you will take steps to rewire the brain to reach your goal of more consistent exercise.
Write a new story.
As you work to change your beliefs about exercise, you will start to rewrite your story.
Be patient with yourself throughout this process, as it takes time to start paying attention to your thoughts and rewiring the brain. It doesn’t happen overnight.
You will also likely experience setbacks. This is normal.
Keep this motto in mind: I have control over my thoughts. I don’t have to believe them if I don’t want to, and I have the power to change them.
Because, remember, thoughts are just thoughts. They are not facts.
You have the power to change your relationship with exercise. You don’t have to let old narratives old you back from moving body in the way that you choose, whenever you choose.