Shifting your movement mindset

Shifting your movement mindset

A movement mindset is the perspective and approach you have mentally or psychologically towards your movement. Emma (our exercise psychologist ) explains that it considers how you engage, think and feel about yourself and movement.

Your movement mindset can be seen as fluid or on a spectrum. In this blogpost, we want to help you identify whether your movement mindset could do with some shifting when it comes to this spectrum. We’ll be offering tips to help with the shift, but sometimes it’s necessary to seek professional support so don’t be afraid to reach out to someone if you need to. (We’ll share some resources at the end of this.)

The aim when it comes to our movement mindset is to steer towards the side of the spectrum that is flexible when it comes to choosing when and how we exercise. This approach can be caring towards self, compassionate, appropriately challenging, and accepting.

If we practice a supportive movement mindset we’ll tend to: 

  • Choose forms of exercise that we really enjoy and that looks after our bodies. 
  • Have encouraging self-talk and compassion when we make mistakes or miss a workout. 
  • Give ourselves realistic challenges that consider our current fitness level and progress.
  • Give ourselves permission to take a rest day if our body is asking for it.

Emma states that on the other side of the spectrum, there is more of a punishing tone and it tends to block out what the body is saying, telling us to persevere anyway. When we lean into this mindset, movement tends to feel like a chore and we’ll feel guilt or worry when we don’t work out the way we think we should. For some, poor body image and self-esteem is connected to the mindset they have with movement.

An unsupportive mindset can manifest in the form of ‘over-exercising’ or forming an exercise addiction. Emma explains that over-exercising is the concept of working out for too long or at too high of an intensity level without adequate rest for our body to recover. We don’t take breaks when tired, injured, or unwell, and exercise may affect our job or relationships because it becomes our sole focus. 

Exercise addiction occurs when we feel we are unable to stop exercising or are not in control of how much we exercise. When our lives revolve around exercise we might exercise instead of connecting with others, exercise in secret, or make excuses to be active.

The relationship we form with exercise is personal so signs of an unsupportive mindset and relationship with exercise can differ from person to person but we asked Emma her general tips for shifting our movement mindset should we ever need to.

She explains that some individuals may be able to transition themselves, but others may find support in a friend, family member, a trusted instructor/ trainer, or a professional. Either way, the following steps could help with the transition:

  • Start paying attention to your self-talk or internal thoughts regarding yourself and movement. Are they encouraging or positive? Or are they nasty, demoralising, or negative? Once you have noticed these thoughts, ask yourself if you’d speak to someone close to you in the same way. For example, if they took a rest day, would you say to them what you say to yourself? Most of the time when we speak negatively, we say things to ourselves that we would never say to someone else. 
  • Notice how you engage in exercise. Across a week how many exercise sessions do you do and at what intensity? Do you push through physical pain or injury? It can be helpful to keep a diary of your sessions and note how you physically felt and what you thought. You can then use this record to reflect and see where your mindset is at. If you notice you don’t have any planned rest days,try scheduling one in and again note in your diary how you feel on the day and in the days following. It could also be worthwhile changing your routine, maybe by trying a different class type or changing your workout location to see how you respond to change.
  • Figure out why you engage in exercise. If your goals are set solely and primarily on changing your weight or your physical appearance it can be worthwhile considering how that makes you feel about your movement. Identifying other reasons that aren’t necessarily physical like feeling better, connecting with others, improving productivity levels etc. can help with transitioning to a more supportive mindset. 

While these steps could help, sometimes it’s necessary to seek professional support. Below are some organisations that you can reach out to:

In the meantime, we’re working with Emma to provide you with other resources to encourage a supportive movement mindset.

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