In a few days time, I’ll be taking part in Rat Race’s Coast to Coast event in Scotland. I’ll run, cycle and kayak 105 miles through the Scottish Highlands. It’s a fairly challenging endurance event in stunning scenery. Why do I do it, you may ask? Why put myself through this? It’s a good question.
As a fitness coach I have personally experienced the profound impact that exercise can have, and not just on a physiological level. We all know that exercise lowers the risk of diseases such as heart disease or type 2 diabetes. We also know that exercise improves sleep, energy levels and reduces the risk of developing depression.
In this blog, I’m talking specifically about the impact of physical activity on the mind. I have observed on countless occasions how exercise has profoundly changed our clients lives. Things people never thought they were able to do all of a sudden were possible. Their confidence grew, the difficult colleague at work was easier to handle, the deferred career change finally happened, new relationships and friendship formed…or bad ones ended….
Tough endurance events such as the Scottish Coast to Coast will test you, both physically and mentally. When the pain kicks in – which it will – you will have to push forward. Unlike the London Marathon there are hardly any spectators there to cheer you on when the going gets tough. It’s just you, your body and your thoughts. It then becomes a case of how you manage your thoughts when your muscles and bones ache, knowing that you have another 30 miles ahead of you… it’s an uncomfortable place to be. Endurance events will push you into places some other people are not able to cope with. Yes, exercise and not just endurance events should make you really uncomfortable from time to time. One reason is that, if you want to change your body composition you REALLY need to push yourself and as a result your body will adapt – i.e that body fat will shrink or the muscle will develop… However, more to the point, physical activity teaches us to endure discomfort. Exercise helps us to get used to being uncomfortable and this will ultimately change the way you approach difficult or uncomfortable situations in other parts of your life. It will make you mentally more resilient.
Not everyone needs to participate in challenging endurance events. Just starting a fitness regime is enough. (As a side note have any of you ever been “lucky” enough to do ‘Leanne’s 100 Burpees Before Breakfast’ challenge?! – just to give you an idea of what ‘uncomfortable’ feels like…) Even yoga practice can be very challenging. Making exercise a regular part of your lifestyle will have an impact on how you see yourself and what is possible.
As my favourite yoga teacher once said to me: ‘through the physical body we get to the mind’.
Antonia Bannasch is a Fitness Coach and Co-Founder of Bodyshot Performance Limited. Bodyshot is a health and fitness consultancy that uses innovative techniques such as DNA testing, wearable tech and bespoke coaching to transform the lives of our clients. Connect with the team @BodyshotPT or Facebook or visit our website at www.bodyshotperformance.com.