Exercise for mental fitness. What you REALLY need to know.

How’s your mental fitness?

How are you? 

No, I actually mean: ‘How are you?’

As in, how’s the head?

What the current situation with your mental health?

There, I said it.

Why am I even asking?

Because it’s so completely connected to your physical health; to what we do (or try to do); to your potential success, failure or inaction when it comes to your wellbeing; and because whilst we have the tools to help with your mental health – there are times when suggesting you ‘get some exercise’ would be like spitting on a burning building.

It’s good to talk

Media loves to tell us: ‘It’s good to talk.’

The NHS wants to tell us how important exercise is for our mental health.

We know yoga and Pilates are really good for our mental health.

But sometimes we just can’t bring ourselves to do the things we know are good for us.

Is it self sabotage or something deeper?

Mental Fitness

I’m raising the topic now because I’m on to my final module of a Mental Health First Aid course. The course is really designed for those in a workplace. Now I don’t really have a traditional workplace but I wanted to get a more formal insight/qualification into how I can help as a class leader or private trainer.

Since I started teaching exercise and private training back in 2004 (yikes) I’ve had several occasions that warranted referrals to specialists or medical help and hundreds of interactions where individuals have been struggling on some level. I’ve even ghost written a book on behalf of someone who experienced heart breaking abuse and neglect as a child.

I’ve had to learn that sometimes, with bigger issues, I’m not the right help. Like the time I turned up to a client and there was no answer – I raised the alarm and soon found out that she was unconscious following a mental health crisis that triggered physical self harm.

Too much right now

Sometimes clients who I REALLY want to help disappear or make excuses and whilst I know they’ve taken the hardest step getting to classes, they’re not ready. Yes, I find it difficult not to take it personally. Even though I know how much it could help, someone might not be ready to commit to regular classes.

Chris has also undergone training in behaviour change, and is having some real successes in short-term private coaching (3-6 months). We can tie ourselves in mental knots. Frequently we see potential clients stalling on getting started because they imagine they’re supposed to be in a certain place or ‘have sorted stuff out’ before they do.

The truth is, you don’t know until you get begin. One of Chris’ clients who started training in order to lose weight has shared how – whilst he has lost weight – it’s the mental transformation that’s been the biggest win. He feels better. He feels happier. He’s got more energy for his young family and can be a better dad.

How my brain works

I’ve made no secret of the fact that my headspace is prone to wobbling. I am 46 and I am still learning about how my brain works and what it needs.

I’m pretty sure I ended up in the world of fitness because I have always struggled to sit at a desk for long periods unless I was doing something creative or solving puzzles (AKA maths). Whilst I was very studious and academically capable at school, my earliest school memory is of being told off for leading the class in a song and dance whilst the teacher was out of the room (I was 4). Perhaps it’s no surprise therefore that guiding groups through movement is a very happy place for my soul.

I know I have to fill my happy cup because I’m very sensitive to negative stuff. So I’ve put strategies in place to consciously do this. For me this is where exercise, music, cooking and sharing experiences, meals and games with my family are so vital.

Brain chemistry

Brain chemistry is physiological. It’s connected to what you eat and drink; how you sleep and rest; your relationships; your neurological processing systems; how fit and active you are and the ways you move; your health; and your world experiences. I can’t outdo trauma with a Pilates class but I might be able to give you enough mental space to want to seek help.

The messy mental fitness continuum

If you’re still reading, I want you to know that I’m sharing all this a) because we care deeply (technically one of my biggest weaknesses in running a business is that I’m more heart based than logic); and b) because we can all say, ‘let’s talk about mental health’ but what does this actually mean? I didn’t want to just share another ‘5 things you can do today to help your mental health’ (if you want to know I’ll do that another day) but I wanted to have a proper rummage into what it actually means.

It’s messy. If you’re in it, you may have to sit with it for a bit until you see that chink of light that lets you out.

If the end game of the business of fitness was just aesthetics, I would have cleared off a long time ago. It’s not. It’s about mental fitness, happiness and improving lives.

If you want to give it a go, we’re here. I’d love it especially if you opened up your email with: ‘I want to do Pilates because my brain gets into dark places – can you help?’

So, how are you?

EMAIL US at info@fit-school.co.uk

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