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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Software Update: Why Mindset Is Crucial to Fitness Success

ThinkstockPhotos-524261293.jpgI recently attended the Perform Better 3-Day Functional Training Summit in Chicago, where the leaders of the fitness world converged to drop a whole bunch of knowledge and inspiration on fitness pros. I have been attending this, what Alex refers to as a “Fitness Concert,”every year since I started at NIFS. It is something I really look forward to yearly, and this year was even better because I had seven other NIFS pros with me. Just as in recent years, it was a great experience of learning, refocus, and reenergizing.

Attitude: A Missing Puzzle Piece

But this year I left with a different feeling than in the past. I felt that I had been missing a very important piece of the success puzzle for so long, and it had nothing to do with movement. It was probably the most powerful of everything I took away from the “concert.” Most years I cultivate new ways to challenge the body through movement and methods of training, as well as grab a few great ideas about how to help people see what their true self is truly capable of. But not this year. Now don’t get me wrong, those topics were presented, and I enjoyed hearing those concepts, but they did not create the biggest impact for me this time around. The biggest idea that created the most impact for me was that MINDSET matters the most in fitness (and really anything you want to accomplish).

Brian Grasso was the presenter who really changed the way I think about creating change, and really blew my mind (pun intended) by revealing that life’s problems are mainly due to a “software” (the mind) problem, not a “hardware” (you) problem. I am a huge believer that things happen for a reason, and me choosing to see Brian’s presentation that day in Chicago was on purpose. In a previous post I wrote about an experience attending Wanderlust and the impact the concept of mindfulness had on me, and no more than a month later I was sitting listening to Brian talk about why mindset matters the most in anything we wish to be successful in, or to create change.

“Life’s problems are mainly due to a “software” (the mind) problem, not a “hardware” (you) problem.”

My Top 5 Takeaways from the Perform Better Presentation

Brian presented so much in a short amount of time—far more than I could do justice to in a single post. But here are my top 5 takeaways from his life-changing presentation.

Mindset is not motivation. Mindset is understanding YOU and how you see and interpret the world, and how you fit into it. Motivation, or motivational speeches and activities, tends to be short-lived with a crash at the end. This cycle is similar to illicit drug use; it provides an intense high followed by an equal low. This will result in two things: the want for more of that feeling, and the feeling of failure. Brian gave the perfect example by presenting the question, “Why are Tony Robbins motivational speaking engagements always sold out?” He provides that emotional response, making people feel great, but eventually that high goes away and people are left to their original problems, and feel the need to go back and get more motivation without focusing on the main issue: a negative mindset. 

The unconscious mind drives your life: Our unconscious mind drives our lives and shapes our world. It serves as our software for our behaviors. Our software can be shaped by the sequence of the unconscious which is:

Influence            Perceptions      Belief System      Expectation
(we incur)           (we carry)           (we accept)            (we hold)

These are some pretty powerful drivers for our behavior; knowing what is driving the behavior allows us to really change a lifestyle that needs help. Our software (unconscious) can be classified as either fixed or dynamic. Fixed is thinking what you see is the absolute truth; this mindset is usually negative. A dynamic mindset is “rewriting” the unconscious and seeing yourself in other ways. Another great example Brian provided to drive home this point was this: when you purchased your new iPod, you didn’t find your favorite music on it when you pulled it from the box. You had to download the songs you wanted. Your unconscious, so to speak, works the same way; if you don’t like the song that is replaying in your head, CHANGE THE SONG!

Perceptions that we carry don’t have to be our story. Brian said something that really spoke to me: “We talk to ourselves like we would not let anyone in the world talk to us.” Simply, our negative self-talk is so, well, negative, and that it can be so hurtful that we couldn’t imagine anyone talking to someone like that. But we do it to ourselves every day. This negative self-talk stems from the perceptions we carry about ourselves, others, and life in general. These perceptions can hold us back from making real change. Brian described the story of circus elephants and how they are tethered to a post by a rope tied around one of their four legs. At a very young age, a much smaller rope is used to tie them, which is strong enough to keep them there. As the elephant ages, trainers would use the same size rope, even though the elephant could easily break through it. But they don’t…why? Because the elephant is conditioned to believe that the tiny little rope is strong enough to hold him back. Do you see how strong perceptions of ourselves can be, and how mindset is the key to unlocking potential? 

Conscious vs. unconscious. So the unconscious mind is considered the driver and where behavior is created through impulse. It is believed that the unconscious mind already knows the right answer, and the only job of the conscious mind is to make the unconscious story true. Conscious choices create behavior through action, and this is where most of today’s self-help strategies engage, at the conscious level. But if most decisions are already made, and the story of YOU happens in the unconscious mind, these strategies will be unsuccessful. “We concentrate on amending physical behaviors without recognition of the drivers behind them,” Brian said. I equate this idea with something I feel I know a great deal about, movement. If you have a bad movement pattern (negative mindset), and you load that movement pattern (self-help at the conscious level), you will simply reinforce that bad movement pattern (negative mindset). On this point, Brian shared a quote from Clinical Psychologist Dr. Sophie Henschaw; she states, “The reason positive affirmations don’t work is that they target the conscious level of your mind, but not the unconscious. If what you are trying to affirm is incongruent with a deeply held negative belief, then all that results is an inner struggle.” Pretty powerful statement considering we as a society have become so reliant on the development of goals and daily affirmations as strategies for success. But if we take time to consider that the deeper portion of our mind is what is really driving our behavior, it only makes sense that, for sustainable change, the focus is on the unconscious and strategies that deal directly with that level of the mind.

“Our negative self-talk is so, well, negative, and it can be so hurtful that we couldn’t imagine anyone talking to someone like that.”

It’s a story, plain and simple: Mindset, as stated above, is understanding YOU and your story. Your story is developed through that sequence of the unconscious (influences-perceptions-belief system-expectation), and awareness of that sequence is a powerful first step. Because here is the thing: you can change your story. It doesn’t have to be fixed! You don’t have to respond to influences with negative actions or thoughts. You do not have to carry those influences that do not lead you down a positive path. And if your belief system is based on principles and not personality and environment, it will be more apt to deal with the changing world around you.

Bottom line is, if you want to change your life, update your software and change your story. I leave you with another impactful quote that Brian shared with the group:

“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
—Carl Jung

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS fitness fitness center motivation attitude functional movement mindfulness mindset

5 Lessons I Learned at the Wanderlust Yoga Retreat

YogaSlackers-_-Day-1-_-Tony-sitting-on-slackline-Photo-2.jpgI recently attended an event that was pretty far outside my usual activity base. I consider myself a lifetime mover and a lifetime learner, but I have to admit this event had me a bit concerned about my success rate, comfort level, and quite honestly my enjoyment. After all, I was supposed to be on vacation. The event I am referring to is a rather large one called Wanderlust, a three-day celebration of the practice of yoga and its branches.

Now you can see a guy like me was pretty concerned about my abilities stepping into this weekend of yoga, meditation, slacklining, and the like. I have little to no experience in many of the mindfulness practices on what I refer to as “that side of fitness,” nor was I confident in my abilities to slow down long enough to find some kind of connections while performing in the sessions. I’ve been known to be a bit on the intense side, especially when it comes to training, so I was worried about my presence at this kind of event. A bull in a china shop came to mind.

After the first few sessions of meditation, yoga, and some slackline training, I was quickly finding out the great benefits that come from mindful movement. I was able to slow down and connect with myself and my surroundings. I began to feel every part of the movement and how it affected the entire body. Even the very difficult poses of yoga were providing positive feedback that I am sure so many seek during their personal practice. Don’t get me wrong, there were some frustrations and many failures, but it became very enjoyable to experience those hurdles and challenges. Here are few more lessons I grabbed from my time at Wanderlust.   

1. Yoga Is Hard, and You Are Going to Fall

Tony-in-Crow-Photo-1.jpgPrior to this trip to Snowshoe Mountain, I participated in two group fitness yoga classes here at NIFS, and I struggled. After a few more sessions at Wanderlust, I was still pretty bad, but I was better. I learned from my previous failures and falls (usually on my head from a handstand or crow) and got a little better each time. Small improvements made consistently will always lead to success in anything that you do.

2. Wandering Does Not Mean You’re Lost

Attempting new things and stepping out of the norm does not mean you are lost or unhappy with your current training methods and ideas; it is a positive thing to try new activities that provide a different kind of stimulus. Challenging your current limits once in a while is a good thing; you tend to find out some things about yourself you never knew, opening up new interests and opportunities for growth. It’s exciting to find strength in activities you never knew you had and jump out of that self-made comfort zone. Try new things and witness the benefits both positive and negative that will always lead to growth.

3. Balance Is Key

I think finding balance in your fitness world is as important as having one in the first place. Remove the blinders once in a while and work on aspects of your fitness that create balance in your body, like mobility, strength, endurance, and power. Repeating the same thing over and over again, constantly performing high-intensity workouts or only performing heavy strength workouts, is a good way to paint yourself into a corner. Find balance during your week of workouts to continue to get the best of all disciplines that will ultimately create the best version of you.

4. Just Let Go

Probably one of the major lessons for me during this retreat was finding ways to just let go and be where you are at that moment and absorb what that experience has to offer. Being in that moment and not stressing about what has happened and what is yet to come allowed me to get the most out of not only the activity I was participating in, but everything that surrounded it—like the beautiful day and scenery, for example. And by the way, here are a few things you should learn to let go:

  • Toxic people in your life
  • Being a victim
  • Trying to please and/or impress everybody
  • Worries about the future or past mistakes 

5. There Is Always a Way

Tree-on-top-of-Rock-Photo3.jpgI am a huge believer that if there is a will, there is a way, and to always find ways to get things done. Just like the tree in the picture growing on top of a rock, it found a way to get tall and strong even though it is out of its usual environment of growing from the ground. IT FOUND A WAY. You can always find a way to eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, decrease stress; you just have to reach and work for it. There is a way; find it. This tree did, and so can you.

Bonus Takeaways:

  • Find your “True North,” that reason you are here and what makes you happiest.
  • Have faith in yourself and be brave; don’t be afraid to make a mistake.
  • Find getaways that are out of the norm for you and redefine your boundaries.
  • Surround yourself with like-minded people who want the same things you want.

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.
Topics: NIFS fitness center yoga group fitness balance mindfulness