Thought Bridges and the Struggle Bus.

Exercise.  Bodily exertion for the sake of developing and maintaining fitness.  We should all do it.

I am trying to correct a deeply ingrained, inadvertently self-induced thought error about exercise.  A thought error – in the life coaching sense – is a belief that creates an unwanted desire and causes unwanted actions.  Or in my case, no desire and complete inaction. 

I used to exercise as part of my Eat Less, Move More weight loss journey.  For five years, I very consistently met with a personal trainer.  And quite predictably, I corrected some muscle imbalances, substantially increased my flexibility, got considerably stronger.  I even got to the point where I could cycle 50 miles around the countryside in one afternoon!  But most frustratingly, I lost precious few pounds.

But when I retired, I stopped exercising (mainly for the financial considerations associated with retirement – personal training is expensive.  And it seems, I only train with a trainer.)  And…. I regained 23 of the 15 pounds lost with working out/exercise.  Sadly, yet another rendition of my yo-yo dieting history!

My exercise ban was intentional.  I wanted to be able to attribute my weight loss success to the changes I made in my way of eating, not exercise.  I have.  It worked.  I am now 25 pounds less than my Eat Less, Move More weight loss final goal (which I never achieved) and still dropping.  No exercise. 

BOOM.  Proof – exercise is a waste of time and effort.  That is my thought error – exercise is a waste of time and effort.

That belief – exercise is a waste of time and effort – is simply not true!  Exercise is not a waste of time and effort.  It is a very effective health promoting tool!  It is just not effective for weight loss.  To change this deeply ingrained thought error, I must hop on the struggle bus. 

I love the idea of the struggle bus, a concept I was first introduced to by Kara Lowentheil of UnF*ckYour brain fame.  The struggle bus is her metaphor representing the experience of knowing you need to change a thought but are unable to… yet.  The struggle bus shuttles us from disbelief to belief across the river of misery – er… change.  The struggle bus allows us to struggle with our thought(s) while still getting closer to our destination.  It allows us to learn and explore and grow.  After all, struggling is just learning something new as we dare to step outside our comfort zone.

What does ‘on the struggle bus’ look like?  Probably exercising despite my brain’s belief exercise is a waste of time.  Hmmmm…. Okay brain, I know you think exercise is a waste of time. That is okay, but I am going to break a sweat anyway, three times a week. Or, sit my butt on the stationary bike and pedal for 15 minutes daily… Or stretch my legs and back for 10 minutes daily… Or all of the above.

And yet, several weeks later, no progress.  What gives?  I have identified my thought error and developed a replacement thought with a plan.  <<HARRUMPH>>.

I was complaining – er… discussing – this with a friend, and she quite brilliantly pointed out that I am changing the wrong thought.  My new thought ‘exercise is not a waste of time’ is not easily actionable, it’s philosophical.  If I wish to effect change, my new thought must prompt action.  And since our feelings prompt our actions, and our feelings are created by our thoughts, I need a thought that creates a feeling that prompts action to exercise. 

From my complaining… er discussion, my brilliant friend grabbed my thought “I only train with a trainer” and suggested that thought is the problem. 

Back on the struggle bus to shuttle me across the river of misery from disbelief to belief.  I need to build an actionable thought bridge. 

Bridge thoughts, like the struggle bus, are a very powerful concept that bridge the gap between never to always, via sometimes and often (or hate to love via meh and like, or black and white via several shades of grey – you get the gist of it I hope.) 

To change my thought ‘I only train with a trainer’ to some version of ‘I love training independently at home’ is actionable.  And the thought “I love to train independently at home” is much more motivating than “exercise is not a waste of time.” For me at least – time will tell no doubt!   

I only train with a trainer…It is possible I can train independently… I occasionally train independently… I often train independently… I consistently train independently… I love to train independently.  Thought bridge….

So, if you are struggling to change something – build an actionable thought bridge and jump on the struggle bus.  BOOM – progress.

Buff it up my friends,
Dr Karen

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