While writing yesterday’s blog, Self Talk, I started to make a list of ways to combat that negative self-talk cycle, but we know them all: journal, exercise, meditate, go outside, and for you extroverts, visit with people (shudder). Here’s the one I have been doing this past year that has been new and excitingly rewarding:
Do something hard.
Physically hard. A quick walk around the block can be enough to get your head out of that bad space, but that’s not what I’m talking about. This is more than exercise or stepping out of your comfort zone. Pardon the lawyer in me coming out, but I’m going to break it down to two elements.
- Hard. This should be something you can’t do very many of comfortably. This should be something that when you go for rep 6, you make embarrassing animalistic noises or body parts start shaking. The hard element is to get you out of your head, right now. It may be jumping jacks or a three-mile run or push-ups (it was push-ups for me, now jump squats are on my radar). If you find something really f’ing physically hard and do it over and over and over, your mind will stop talking trash to you. Guaranteed. Your mind will now focus on how bad the body feels, but that’s OK. This is not the downward spiraling bad. This is growth pain. This is childbirth-type pain, because there’s a reward, and it’s more than the momentary endorphins and temporary distraction from your current problems.
- Measurable. This hard thing should be tangible, that’s why I’ve suggested the things I did. You need to be able to count, time, or otherwise quantify them, because you’re going to do this hard thing again tomorrow. I won’t lie; the muscle pain will probably be worse. Great, do it again. Do it again the next day and the next. Eventually, you’re going to do that hard thing with no pain. You’re going to do that hard thing faster. You’re going to do that hard thing more. You’re going to do more hard things.
The exciting part is you’ve not only distracted the Negative Nancy in your head from talking mean to you, you’ve accomplished something of which you can be proud. You’re no longer on the defense. You’re on the offense. Boom!
There’s another reason it needs to be measurable. If you are a pro at negative self-talk, like me, you need to be able to hold this accomplishment in your hand and not let your head talk you out of it. Go on and do intangible hard things too, by all means. However, some of us need an inescapable fact, that on X day, I could only do 3 jumping jacks, and now I do 20 a day. It’s a fact that you have grown. You did that. It’s yours. Your head can’t take that growth away from you.
My offense began one year ago. Today is the anniversary of me walking into a new fancy “fat loss program” place that wasn’t a regular gym, but certainly had a lot of sweaty folks doing hard exercises. This is the anniversary of me falling on my face twice trying to do a push-up.
I already felt like I was back in middle school when I walked in heavier than I had been when I gave birth to either of my children. 41 years old, former bulimic, smoker, heavy wine drinker, mom of two neurodiverse kids, struggling with depression. Good gracious, I could write a whole pity-party blog on my problems a year ago. (Cool side note, a lot of those things are still in my life, but I’m living a better life despite those circumstances).
I walked in, holding my gym shoes and water bottle tight to my chest. I looked around and saw cute leggings and new shoes and smaller bodies. There were plenty of other things, but I didn’t let myself see those, of course. I saw the reasons this was a bad idea and looked back at the door. I did not want to stay, but was too embarrassed to walk out. I was sure I would not be back again. I’ll just get through this and be done with this silly idea, I thought. I’ll crawl back in bed and continue to be paralyzed by life. In that moment, though, social paralysis kept me from running out the door. I soon got a hug from a trainer and was on what the other trainer called the “dance floor.” I was failing at all the hard things in front of me. After my second face plant from an attempt to do a push-up, the scary tatted up trainer put a medicine ball under my chest. This meant I only had to lower myself a few inches, probably not that much. I felt stupid. No one else needed the booby-ball modification, but it was me starting to do hard things.
Today, I love telling people how I fell on my face, dramatic pause, “twice!” Because, I’ve come so far from that point. I did that. I can do push-ups. That’s mine. I tell new members of my fitness family to keep coming until they can do something that they couldn’t do on day one. That’s when motivation kicks in.
Living a full life is not about “feeling” motivated. It’s about doing the hard things. That’s where you snowball the positive. It feels good. It’s rewarding. Doing hard things gives birth to new abilities and with it the confidence to shut down your self-sabotaging talk.
See now, I can do other hard things, things less tangible, like write a blog. …still avoiding that laundry, though.
Today’s quote is from one of my trainers. “Lift heavy shit until it isn’t heavy.” – Michael DeLeo, aka “scary tatted up trainer.”