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Small Simple Steps: Movement for Mental Health

Picture this. It’s been a long day, in fact it feels like it’s been a long year. You’re feeling tired and overwhelmed. This year you made a commitment to regular exercise and already feel like a failure because you can’t seem to get off the couch. You can’t believe you’re here again, this year was supposed to be different. You tell yourself you’re lazy, everyone is motivated except you. What do you do next?

Perhaps you’re still on the couch, feeling isolated and sad. You think for a moment that you might as well give up, maybe you’ll eat ice cream today and start tomorrow. You ask yourself why you’re not like all the other people you saw running on your drive to and from work. Anger starts to build – ‘Stuff it. I work hard, I deserve a break, it’s easy for some…..’. You reach for the ice-cream.

Is this a familiar script? Have you been here before or some version of this scenario? Guess what, we speak to people every day who have had similar experiences. Let’s be real, people who are motivated all the time are either unusual or mythical exercise unicorns. The secret truth of motivation is that it actually comes after you take action – not before.

Once we understand this we can prepare for stressful times rather than being caught by surprise. That way we aren’t on a continual ‘all or nothing’ cycle – either working out or crying into a bucket of ice-cream. Once we accept that there will always be hard times and making sensible decisions when you’re stressed is like asking a tired toddler to eat their vegetables, we can start building strategies that helps us pre-plan. This way, what were seemingly insurmountable obstacle can be easily broken down into bite size pieces.

The 10 Minute Rule

When you’re tired but need to move, commit to doing 10 minutes and then reassess. If it helps, pick two or three of your favourite songs or an audiobook, pop on your headphones and go for a walk or jog. You may even find that after 10 minutes your lower stress levels help you see things more clearly and you’re committing to another 10 minutes.

The Bare Minimum

Rather than dropping the ball, do your bare minimum and stick to it.

What is a bare minimum? Consider....

  • What keeps your head above water?
  • What builds your resilience and helps you bounce back?
  • What lowers your stress when you need it most?
  • What helps you return to your usual routine ASAP?

Is it one workout per week and stretching each day? Is it more? Perhaps it is exercising with friends or a Coach for accountability.

There are many ways that exercise positively influences your mental health. Most significantly, it reduces stress hormones and increases feel good hormones such as serotonin and dopamine. Including it in our recovery plan is essential to staying on track.

Remember that any exercise is better than no exercise. By starting small and experiencing some benefits, you give motivation a chance to turn up and it loves riding on the momentum you’re building.

Coach Nicky McKimmie

  • B.A (Anthropology)
  • Fitness Australia - Level 2 Exercise Professional
  • Nutrition Coach: Precision Nutrition Level One & Two Certified
  • Australian Weightlifting Federation – Level 1 Coach
  • Pre & Post Natal (Exercise in the Child Bearing Year)