Think like an Athlete: Healthy Body needs a Healthy Mind

This is an article originally published by Sheila Monaghan in SELF magazine. It takes the wide range of healthy, motivational tips and categorizes them into 8 concise and helpful tips.

Before diving into the article, notice the choice of title. “Think like an Athlete” rather than something like “How to Lose Weight Fast” or “Get Bikini Ready Now!”

Monaghan’s article is written for the purpose of motivating an active lifestyle, not fitting into a smaller dress size. While the latter may be a wanted side effect of the fitness suggestions, it is not the main goal. Instead, Monaghan is targeting healthy living. In this way, she does not encourage negative body image amongst her readers, nor a desire to skip a meal. Because of this healthy intent, the tips in this article are beneficial to not only a healthy body, but also a healthy mind. This isn’t an article on how to be a runway model; it’s about how to be an athlete.

That being said, there are a few very important aspects here to consider.

In her first couple of tips, Monaghan sets up a paradox between dreaming huge and practicing small, of not holding yourself back in the long run and yet restraining yourself to focus on every tiny step it takes to get there. So often we burn out when our focus gets our confidence down. In this way, if we take our time on each individual step, we can expand our overarching goals.

She goes on to encourage “Be an athlete 24/7.”

We all know that paying attention to the kind of food we eat is important, but Monaghan brings up another important element that often goes unnoticed—sleep. The amount of sleep we get each night affects our entire day: how tired we are in the morning, our mood and how motivated we are to be active, and how much energy we have.

Throughout her next few tips, Monaghan really highlights an important and often overlooked aspect of pushing yourself physically: our mental state during a workout has a significant influence on our performance. Because of that, her last few tips address a healthy mentality. Our mind is a powerful tool, one that has the ability to control our emotions, our thoughts, and even the extent of what we think we’re physically capable of. How often do we let ourselves talk us out of a workout, rather than cheerleading ourselves on? When the mind ruminates on counting down the seconds until a workout is over, it prohibits the body from carrying through. Make it easier on yourself. Be a cheerleader.

Monaghan also encourages you to “View the playback video” and evaluate yourself. This is where it’s important to remember to be critical of yourself in a healthy way. It’s not standing in front of the mirror saying, “Oh I’m so fat” or squeezing your love handles with a pouty face and getting down on yourself. It’s standing in front of the mirror saying, “My back is too bent over when I squat,” and then fixing your form. This once again detours Monaghan’s fitness tips from having a negative impact on body image or self esteem. It’s about the form, not the fat.

Finally, and most importantly. Monaghan expresses “you do you.”

It’s the inevitable fault of our minds: comparison. While this can be arguably the most difficult thing to train your mind NOT to do, it is also potentially the most valuable. When you are focused solely on your progress and ignorant of anyone else’s, you can promote that healthy mindset to propel you onwards. Perhaps in the world of fitness, we should all learn to be a little narcissistic.

Forward Counseling is fortunate enough to have Trevin Daniel Woods on staff as a nutritionist and personal trainer. See more about his services and background here: