If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I recently started doing early morning circuit training sessions with a few friends. You probably also know that some time ago I had to take quite a long time off intensive exercise in order to recover from a burnout – twice, actually. The first time, I didn’t take it seriously enough and burnt myself out again! The second time I got the message, learnt the lesson and used the time wisely to change my mindset and relationship with exercise and food – this is what led me to develop the idea of a Feel Good Fitness and Mindset.
During my recovery, I made the decision to not force myself to do any exercise I don’t want to because
a) I really wanted to let go of diet mentality, and
b) I wanted to find out if my instinct was right and there would come a point where the body says ‘ok I want you to challenge me again’
I also made the commitment to always listen to my body first and respect its needs, no matter what.
I have to be honest and say this was a really scary experiment but I am glad I trusted my gut because some time ago I found myself wanting to move more and challenge myself again. I know that sounds pretty unbelievable and although I expected this to happen, because
a) our bodies are made to move, that’s what makes them feel good, not be sedentary on the couch; and
b) I knew that our bodies always know what they need and will tell us if we’re just willing to listen
I still found it hard to believe it myself when it actually did happen! At some point I noticed that I was feeling lethargic no matter how much I slept and I knew that it was no longer the burnout, it was because I was unfit and not moving enough. My body was telling me it’s time to get fit again! I started with my WalkFit programme until a bit over a month ago I felt that I wanted to do something more.
A key part of Feel Good Fitness philosophy is listening to your body and respecting its needs, so I did as my body told me and 4 weeks ago I asked a few friends to join me for early morning circuit training sessions twice a week.
Getting started with Feel Good Fitness
Although this was what my body needed and wanted, it still was not easy to get started! What is interesting is that at this point my body was clearly telling me it needs exercise but my mind was saying ‘Nah, you don’t need to do it, just enjoy life, you deserve to relax, there’s no need to push yourself, you won’t enjoy it…’ whereas when my body needed rest my head was saying things like ‘stop being lazy, you need to workout…’ this is why my burnout recovery took longer than necessary because I let this voice take over and didn’t fully respect my body’s needs. The lesson I learnt is that the body never lies; the mind does!
The first couple of weeks I really struggled to get out of bed. I wanted to cry. I absolutely hated having to wake up early! My mind was looking for excuses like I’m too tired, it’s not necessary, and so on. But every morning I checked in with my body and asked ‘is my body tired or is my head just making excuses?’ Had my body been really tired and in need of rest, I would’ve stayed in bed, but it was always my head!
Every time, as soon as I got to the park I was glad I got up. I plan our sessions so that they are not too hard. We’re all allowing ourselves to be beginners and sticking to a level that is comfortable so we train at moderate intensity, not HIIT, for 20-30 minutes at a time.
Our number one Feel Good Fitness goal is to enjoy it and feel good while exercising so that we’ll find it easy to keep it up long term and we’ve definitely achieved that in the first few weeks!
After two weeks waking up was no longer a problem for two reasons:
1) my fitness had improved enough so I had more energy, and
2) I enjoyed the sessions so much I didn’t want to miss them.
After three weeks we decided to start working out three times a week simply because we all enjoy it so much; it makes us feel so good and it seems to make the whole day go better, so why wouldn’t we want to do it as often as possible?
Although I know this is how Feel Good Fitness works, it still blows my mind to experience it. I find it easy to practice Feel Good Fitness with things I enjoy, like walking, but I have never been a huge fan of circuit training and I only ever did it because I felt I had to in order to get fitter, tone or lose weight. So I was not sure if it was possible for me to learn to let go of the focus on the results and do it just for the joy of doing it. Turns out it’s possible! Feel Good Fitness really works!
Week 4 Feel Good Fitness progress report
Diet culture mainly focuses on physical transformation goals – exercise is a means to an end and we’ll feel good once we reach our goals. Practicing Feel Good Fitness, I do the opposite – I take my eye off the prize and 100% focused on feeling good now – physically, mentally and emotionally – in the belief that as long as I feel good and enjoy moving it’ll be easy to be consistent and keep it up long term so the results will come far more easily than with diet mentality.
Here are my results after the first month.
Mental & emotional wellbeing benefits of Feel Good Fitness
For me, this is the best reason to exercise and this is what Feel Good Fitness is all about! Mental and emotional wellbeing is everything; this is where it starts. While exercise is always good for mental health (though too much exercise can be bad for mental health), the way we approach it with diet mentality often makes us feel bad about ourselves, like we’re failures and never good enough. With a Feel Good Mindset mental health is as important as physical health so it’s important to exercise in a way that feels good mentally and emotionally, as well as physically.
These are some of the positive changes in my mental and emotional wellbeing I’ve noticed in the last 4 weeks:
- I feel more positive and less anxious. I often notice how I might feel stressed or have anxious thoughts before a workout but after it I feel great and usually realise that my mind was making a mountain out of a molehill. This is why exercise is such a great way to start a day!
- I’m calmer, more relaxed and things that usually irritate, such as my daughter’s teen drama or dog hair on my bed, just don’t seem to get to me as much.
- I feel better about myself. I’m more confident and my self-belief has improved.
- I’m more focused and productive. It feels like my brain works better, my creativity flows and I just get stuff done. This, obviously, feels good!
- I am more motivated. That voice in my head that’s looking for an excuse not to work out is much quieter now. It’s still there every morning but it’s easy to ignore it. This is because I really enjoy the workouts so I feel motivated and wouldn’t miss a day no matter what
Physical Results after 4 weeks of Feel Good Fitness
Feel Good Fitness is about how we feel, not about how we look so although I obviously want to get physically fit, I don’t track my physical progress – no measurements, weigh-ins or even fitness tests. I also vary our routines a lot so it’s not always obvious how my performance has improved.
As long as you’re working out and enjoying it, the physical results will come so there is absolutely no need to focus on them and you will notice them without any measurements or fitness tests. It’s about how you feel, not about performance: e.g. instead of focusing on how long I can hold a plank for, I focus on how I feel while I’m holding a plank for 30 seconds and every week I feel stronger and enjoy every plank!
These are just some of the physical changes I’ve noticed after 4 weeks of training with a Feel Good Mindset:
- My body feels amazing! Working out feels amazing! I love how my body feels when I challenge myself just enough to get outside my comfort zone but not too much for it to be unpleasant.
- I feel stronger, my core feels stable and my posture feels better which feels so good, and makes me feel more confident!
- My back is no longer sore and my hip feels better too.
- I sleep so much better and because the quality of my sleep has improved, I also wake up refreshed.
- I was feeling really lethargic when I started and now I am full of energy. I don’t get tired in the afternoons and because I have more energy I’m much more active than before.
Weight loss results after 4 weeks of Feel Good Fitness
Although it’s not my main focus, I do want to lose a little weight simply for the reason that I feel better when I’m slimmer. People often think that to let go of diet mentality means that you have to let go of your desire to lose weight but this is not true at all. Wanting to lose weight is not a problem, it’s diet mentality that is the problem.
If you want to understand what diet mentality is and what the problem is, please read my blog posts ‘do you have a diet mindset?‘ and You can reject diet culture and still want to lose weight
Once your relationship with your body, food and exercise is healthy and you apply Feel Good Mindset principles to weight loss, it becomes easy and enjoyable. It is pretty amazing how something that used to be so hard and so negative becomes fun and easy simply by just changing the way you think about it!
I know I make it sounds simple but it does take some work; it took me years to get to this place. If you’re interested, please read more about Feel Good Weight Loss.
Here are my weight loss results after 4 weeks of Feel Good Fitness training & eating
- I find it super easy to eat in a way that feels good physically, mentally and emotionally. This means eating mostly healthy but I did have some pizza last night and when my daughter bakes something yummy once a week, I always have some because it feels good! Mostly, though, I tend to crave healthy foods like fresh fruit and veg and lean proteins and it takes no effort because my relationship with food, and my body, is healthy!
- I have definitely lost some weight but I don’t know (nor do I care) how much. My clothes fit better and I can even see it on my face. I do not, and will not, weigh myself or take any measurements, because I know if I did that I would start focusing on the numbers too much and it would take the joy out of the process. My main reason for working out and eating healthy is to feel good, weight loss is a bonus so there’s no point in weighing myself. I do, however, use an app to track my food because weight loss starts with what you eat – you cannot out-exercise a bad diet. For example, there’s a snack I often enjoy which I thought was ok but turns out, it has 550 calories in it. I could easily have two in a day! So keeping track of what I eat makes weight loss easier, I find it interesting and it doesn’t feel like dieting.
NOTE: I am really careful talking about weight loss because this can be triggering and I’m aware that many people reading this are still caught up in diet mentality which means that it is impossible to, for example, track your food without feeling like your dieting. I am sharing this to show you that it is possible to get to a place where you can enjoy this process and find it easy. I have had a very strong diet mindset all my life (I was 9 when I first wondered if I needed to lose some weight – I was slim) until I decided to do the work that is required to let go of diet mentality and to never diet again.
This meant that I went through a phase where I treated ‘all foods as equals’ but that did not make me feel good either, in fact, it made me realise that all foods are definitely not equal! It was an important part of my journey, though, as it helped me to heal my relationship with food and learn to listen to my body better. Even a year ago I would have been unable to track my food/calories without feeling like I’m on a diet and no doubt becoming obsessed with it so that’s why I did not do it and instead of physical results (weight loss) I focused on inner healing and my mindset. So it’s always important to consider how what you do is making you feel – the main goal is to feel good – if tracking doesn’t make you feel good, then don’t do it.
I hope that this update inspires you to consider a new approach to fitness and wellness! I can 100% promise you, it’s a journey you won’t regret! I’ll update you again in a month! If you’re interested in getting started, WalkFit is a great way to get started or you might consider coaching.