Perception – Your Fitness Secret Weapon
Perception: “A way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.”
In every way we experience life, the balance of perception vs. reality is constantly at play. For the sake of today, "fitness" is going to be the main topic.
For example, you may look at a barbell loaded with plates and think it impossible to pick up off the ground or press it over your head. Yet we know and see every day at Training For Warriors that people are constantly surprising themselves by performing way beyond their perceived ability. With consistent work, you can lift that weight or pull your chin over the bar!
The importance of how human beings perceive the world is one reinforced in evolution. The way our ancestors recognized threats influenced how well they survived. The humans who could best accurately assess the challenges in their environments were those who lived, flourished and reproduced.
We are the progeny of creatures who used perception to create a successful existence.
So, no matter what the “reality” you face, your perception of a circumstance is the driving force behind your success, failure or stagnation. Dozens of studies have shown that when a person has success at a specific task, say, kicking a football through the uprights or hitting a baseball, their brains change the perception of the situation. The kicker sees a wider gap between the goal posts; the baseball player sees a ball the size of a grapefruit rather than an orange.
Consider this in your own life. As an article in Scientific American points out:
“How well you have performed over the past few minutes influences the way you see the world! Not just metaphorically, but on a physiological level—it changes your actual perceptions.”
Perceptions: Good vs. Bad
To label a perception good vs. bad is to place judgement on how you are interpreting an experience. This is a tricky place in which to operate.
Not only are you navigating based on the feelings you bring to a circumstance in the moment, you are layering the constantly fluctuating colored lenses of perception. This combination causes you to categorize the experience even before you’ve tried it.
For example. You may come to an interval training or a strength training session feeling less than 100%. Maybe you didn’t eat well that day or you didn’t get enough sleep the night before. At the outset you’ve brought a somewhat negative mindset.
Then you add this: sprinting is difficult because it challenges you. Because it’s difficult you may label it as bad – i.e., daunting, overwhelming, too hard, etc. You can see that these prisms of perception can cause us to back away from activities that are actually good for us.
Changing Your Perspective
Take heart! You can not only change your attitude, you can use your perceptions as a weapon to bring more success to your fitness journey. Try these 4 tips:
- Invite others to share your challenge. Finding friends in workout classes can be a powerful way to keep a positive perception. At TFW, the notion of Familia is one that has created a unique atmosphere where everyone looks for the positive and encourages others to do the same – in and outside the gym.
- Be present. Sometimes we can slip into negative self-talk without realizing it. If you find yourself sliding down the rabbit hole of destructive perceptions, stop what you are doing and ask yourself. “What is really going on here?”
- Focus on your success. It may take six months to get one pull-up but that one is the gateway to more! Track your training to remind yourself of how far you have come.
- Make positive perceptions a priority. Think of the new moms who can’t help but gush about their newborns or the runner who is constantly sharing his love of races. These people are operating on positive perceptions of the priorities in their lives. You can, too. Tell your friends about your latest bench press record (sounds crazy right?!). Share your excitement in completing your first real push-up or sit-up!
The good news about perceptions is that they are fluid, changeable mind-sets. Choose to use this hard wired survival tool to build your fitness momentum. You’ll love your new reality.
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