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The Fitness Zone

#HowFitFeels, An Experiment By Fitness First To Understand The Mental Effects of Fitness
October 26, 2016

Could you give up exercise for twelve full weeks? Just the thought of this would have avid fitness goers squirming in their sets, but this is exactly what three WILLING fitness enthusiasts did, in a jaw dropping experiment run by our national Career Partner, Fitness First, to understand #HowFitFeels. The goal:  to inspire more people to take on the incredible and life-changing journey of fitness. Not only were three people giving up fitness, but three people introduce fitness into their lives to see what impact training can have on them mentally too. The results were astounding, so we caught up with Fitness First’ national Fitness Manager and fellow experimentee, Michael Cunico, to find out what effect this really had on his body and mind.

“We wanted to look at the change that happens through exercise via a different lens.”

 In the fitness industry we are bombarded regularly with the obvious changes, i.e. physical changes, but Fitness First thought it would be a good opportunity to focus on a different area, that being the mental and emotional changes that happen when people either start or stop exercising. “Initially I thought this experiment was a bit out there, and there would be no way I would commit to it, but the message of focusing on the mental benefits needs to be brought to people's attention, and ideally shift some of the focus away from the constant message of the visual changes people attain through exercise,” shares Michael.

As Personal Trainers, we experience clients who love fitness and hire us to motivate and challenge them beyond their means, but we also have clients who are taking their first steps into a gym, where our expertise is critical. Having a strong understanding of our clients mindset, emotions, and overall well being, throughout their fitness journey, beyond their DOMS, is what will help us as trainers aid our clients to achieve their goals.

Throughout the experiment, those who gave up exercise found themselves facing challenges they had never experienced before. “Irritability was a challenge I didn't expect, due to no physical outlet” shared Michael. Of course there were physical changes, but this experiment is focused around the mindset and how it can shift when adding, or in Michael's case, removing of exercise. 

“The mental impact of not training is rarely discussed and this is what kept me going throughout the twelve weeks.”

For those who added training to their life, they initially felt amazing, and determined to maintain their fitness, however, some did face motivational challenges as they approached week six of the experiment as results started to plateau. This is a challenge 68% of those new to fitness face as they are fixated on the physical changes. Again another vital lesson Personal Trainers need to remember when running their own twelve week challenges with their clients.

“That tingle you get in your muscles after a good workout, teamed with the associated soreness after a great session” isn’t what most would crave, however it was these symptoms gained from strength training that Michael missed the most over the experiment. Knowing that he wouldn't be exerting any where near as much energy as he usually would from training, nutrition was one factor that Michael could control. “I generally eat quite well anyway, but I was very conscious of my nutrition, based on the fact I wouldn’t be expending as much energy.” Throughout the twelve weeks, Michael lost weight, which was mostly muscle mass, which reinforced our ability to manage and control weight via nutrition.

Now, with the challenge over, Michael has a new appreciation for fitness, but also for those who do not exercise as he has had taste of how they feel on a day to day basis. “I have found that the momentum shift of doing nothing is almost contagious, and I can see how not moving can simply breed more and more of the same thing, no movement, as you get into a lazy and lethargic state.” As Personal Trainers, it can be challenging for us to understand why our clients don’t want to, or don’t enjoy training, but with this experiment, one thing we can take away is that mindset has a strong influence of achieving our health and fitness goals. 

Photo credit @michaelcunico 

This content is not intended to be used as individual health or fitness advice divorced from that imparted by medical, health or fitness professionals. Medical clearance should always be sought before commencing an exercise regime. The Institute and the authors do no take any responsibility for accident or injury caused as a result of this information.

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