Is the hardest part of committing to your health getting started? Or is it really the act of staying with it? I would argue the latter. In another Blog I will discuss what some of the barriers are in getting started with a fitness program, but today I want to share with you an article written for us by Simon Marshall. He is a good friend of Rehab United and Fit Societe not to mention a PhD in sports and exercise psychology. He likes to study the brain and how we let it take over our bodies and our decisions relative to our athletics.
The strongest and weakest muscle in the body is that pesky brain. Learning to deal with its neurology that gets in the way of us being our authentic self, our best self, and/or allows or prevents us from meeting our goals is something worth investigating.
I encourage you to read the article (be aware - adult language present in article) and reflect on the pieces that have prevented YOU from being successful in YOUR health in the past. As well, try to make a daily and weekly effort of actively participating in creating the best mindset for moving forward in this challenge, your own fitness and wellness path, and or that of others in your life that are struggling with this.
Here's to another day of committing to yourself and for kicking butt in the name of fitness.
Bryan Hill PT, FAFS, CEO - Rehab United - Fit Societe
How to Quit Quitting the RU 8-week Fitness Challenge
(the science of exercise quit-o-nomics)
Simon Marshall, PhD Professional LEGIT QUITTER
We’ve all quit stuff. Sometimes quitting is the best option you can take. Quitting a bad relationship, quitting a job that makes you miserable, quitting midway through a training run because of injury pain. Quitting is the brain’s way of saying, “I care about you. You deserve better.” We call these LEGIT QUITS. We love legit quits, but legit quits are rare. They make up about 10% of all quitstances (yeah, I made that word up).
Now let’s look at a different kind of quit, the FAKE‐ASS‐QUIT (FAQ).
You know you’ve experienced a FAQ because it comes with REGRET after the quitisode (yup, another one). Only YOU know if you’ve used a LEGIT QUIT or a FAKE‐ASS‐QUIT. The trouble is, your brain desperately tries to rationalize both kinds of quitting because your brain’s #1 priority is to restore equilibrium: the comfort and contentment that comes from knowing that your thoughts match your actions. The trouble is, there’s nothing comforting about knowing you gave up when you secretly know you shouldn’t have. Psychologists call this mental turmoil cognitive dissonance. It’s bad for calmness and contentment. By mentally throwing in the towel, you’ve just punched your brain in the face.
Are you in danger of using a FAKE‐ASS‐QUIT in the Fit Societe (Rehab United) 8‐week fitness challenge?
In a FAKE‐ASS‐QUIT, your ever faithful brain tries even harder to restore calm and reduce dissonance. Your brain spins more wild tales about why your actions were justified. Heck, YOU even start believing it! If you get into a habit of fake‐ ass‐quittery, your brain becomes weaker and weaker. Meanwhile, your frontal cortex has to dig deeper and deeper to rationalize why the quit was justified. After all, that’s your brain’s job: to reduce cognitive dissonance. The “reasons” (excuses) become more and more elaborate. “I’m tired.” “The traffic was bad.” “Work got so busy.” “I just didn’t have the time today.” I’m a psychologist and even I’m calling BS.
Newsflash: your secret habit of fake‐ass‐quitting is obvious to everyone around you. Except you. Before long, you’ve turned into that guy or that girl. The one who has a million excuses of why it didn’t happen. The one who somehow never manages to get the session done, or complete the challenge. If I asked you to come collect $1,000 in cash from Rehab United, 6 days a week for 8 weeks, you bet your ass you’d be there. Exactly.
The FIT SOCIETE - 8‐week fitness challenge is really a perfect test to confront our tendencies to be a FAKE‐ASS‐QUITTER. FYI, we all have these tendencies! Yes, even Bryan Hill. No shame in it, we’re all human. We’re wonderfully flawed, irrational, dissonance‐reducing people. We’re trying our best. We’re good people. Sometimes, quitting is an easy way out. However, quitting is a gateway drug. You just need some help recognizing how to cattle‐wrangle the part of your brain that wants to head straight home from work instead of doing exercise. Learning to avoid fake‐ass‐quittery is a SKILL.
Here are a few science‐based strategies to help you stop getting the Quits.
1. Cognitive Priming. Cognitive priming is the brain’s equivalent of foreplay. Your brain likes it best when you warm it up and arouse it prior to a difficult challenge. In short, give your brain a boner if you want it do something hard. (Bad
metaphor, sorry). Before every challenge, HELP your brain squirt dopamine. Dopamine is motivation’s Sriracha Sauce. A great way to open the dopamine flood gate is to watch and listen to inspirational stuff. Here are a few to get you through next week. Take one per day, after meals but before exercising. No peeking.
Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6
Segment the shit out of it. Your brain likes things in manageable chunks. Whether it’s solving problems, running a marathon, or dealing with life’s shit balls – it’s evolution’s way of helping us persist through hard times. When the shit hits the fan, our brain pleads with us to not think too far in the future. So do that! “I can’t get through 8 weeks of solid exercise, but I can get through today.” “I can’t endure 60 minutes of this, but I can do 10 minutes.” The neurological beauty of segmentation is that once the segment is completed, you get a mini squirt of dopamine (happy juice) that sort of resets the ability clock. Running 5km twice is easier than running 10km. Use this to principle to your advantage by cutting a deal with your brain. Always agree to do 25% and see what happens.
When it comes to self‐control, early mornings are almost always better for fitness. We’re all busy people and we sometimes don’t have much choice about WHEN we can fit exercise in. Jobs, kids, traffic, daylight – you name it – we live in a world of external restrictions. Throw in factors related to our own circadian rhythm (biological clock) and creating a sustainable exercise habit can be a battle. That said, neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists have discovered that we find it harder to take on a challenge the later in the day it becomes. This is because the part of your brain responsible for self‐control (the anterior cingulate cortex) tires just like a muscle. Your emotional reserves to tackle a challenge and tolerate discomfort get eroded throughout the day because you are constantly resisting temptation, stifling emotion, and otherwise exerting self‐restraint. You don’t often realize you are doing it. When evening arrives, most of us have simply become too tired to put up a fight. We default to the easiest option. This is why thinking about the large glass of wine at home becomes much more appealing than being shouted at by staff at Rehab United. So if you’re lucky enough to have a choice, hit the gym when your anterior cingulate cortex is at its best: early in the morning.
Become Rain Man. Well not exactly. You don’t need to pretend to be Dustin Hoffman from the movie to survive a challenge, but you can help avoid getting bitten by the Quittle snake if you develop a profound and prodigious capacity for rhythmic repetition (one reason why music works for exercise). One of the best pain‐busting strategies is to count to 6 and back, over and over again while in the hurt locker. If you’re already doing a rhythmic activity (running, swimming, cycling), you can count in time with arm or leg turnover. Counting helps improve pain tolerance by filling your pre‐frontal cortex with a task that is usually left to procedural (automatic) memory. This takes up valuable bandwidth that would otherwise be used for wishing it was over and thinking about why you won’t be coming back.
Request a Nudge. Our brains hate being judged for not being good enough. Fear of embarrassment and failure kill motivation and happiness. What our brains’ love, however, is social support. Being encouraged, praised, and recognized is like dirty talking your amygdala – ground zero in the brain for drives, instincts, and rewards. Why do you think Facebook is so popular? It’s amygdala porn. When it comes to fitness, friends don’t let friends exercise alone. Group exercise is motivating because it reduces our perception of effort, it creates accountability, and offers loads of opportunity to give and receive praise. Plus, we can silently judge people (chill out, it’s perfectly natural). That said, the problem is getting our ass there in the first place. A great strategy is to extend the power of influence of a group to help us. Next time you’re at your group session ask someone if they want to be your Thunder Buddy (sorry, a TED movie reference). Ok, don’t actually ask them that but do find 1‐2 people willing to swap numbers with you (or ask RU staff to assign you a group) and text each other the day of the session with a nudge to attend “Don’t you dare bail on the class tonight! See you @5.45pm.” Alternate turns for being the nudger and the nudged. This strategy is gold. Try it. I dare you. For more help on how NOT to quit good things that are good for you, email Simon