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  • Ryan Underwood

Mental health and fitness. How to stay mentally healthy while embarking on a fitness journey.

Updated: Oct 6, 2022

This is a very interesting topic and I figure the best way to address it is to speak from experience. Not just with how I deal with things through my own fitness journey but from what I have experienced through training hundreds of individuals over the course of the last two decades in the industry.

In a career that has spanned almost 20 years, I have been coaching and mentoring all kinds of athletes, corporate C.E.O's, Mums, Dads, kids, overweight individuals, underweight individuals, other coaches.. the list goes on. Over the course of my time spent with all of these individuals I have come to understand that people with deal with mental health in a number of different ways whilst embarking on a fitness journey. Whether it's to just lose some body fat to be in shape at the beach, gain some muscle to genuinely feel more confident or whether it's taking things to the extreme and preparing for a bodybuilding show and trying to get the body fat down to a level most individuals will never be able to comprehend.

Mental health and fitness. Here is my take.

Knowing your true WHY. Why are you embarking on this journey?

Having other projects on the go. Staying busy.

Support crew. Who is in your corner?


Knowing your true WHY.

Do you know WHY you are embarking on a fitness journey in the first place?

It's crucial that you actually identify WHY you are embracing this new challenge in your life. Simply wanting to 'get in shape' is not a powerful enough reason to complete the journey. Anytime I have a consult with a new individual that's wants to work with me gets put through a fairly in depth questionnaire on WHY they are actually wanting to change their life. The reason I dive so deep into this is because if you truly know WHY you are wanting to change your life then when you encounter obstacles, and believe me, you WILL encounter plenty of obstacles along the way, you are more likely to push through them and push through them without any major issues. If an individuals 'reason' for embarking on a fitness journey is to 'get abs' then when they encounter problems along their journey, hunger, work issues, relationships issues, family issues, any reason under the sun that will test them into giving up, simply 'getting abs' is not a strong enough reason. WHY do you wants abs? So I keep digging until I find out the REAL reason as to why this individual wants abs.

The conversation might go like this -

Client - 'I want abs because it will make me feel good at the beach'

Me - 'Why do you want to feel good at the beach?'

Client - 'Well, I think it would be nice to get noticed by other people that I have a good set of abs'

Me - 'Why is it important that people notice that you have a good set of abs?'

Client - 'I have never really had abs before and I've always been the fat kid at high school and girls never looked at me'

Me - 'How will it make you feel if girls complimented you on your abs at the beach?'

Client - 'Oh that would make me feel super confident as I only ever feel confident in a white shirt because it hides my body'

Me - 'So the REAL reason you want to get abs is because you have NEVER felt comfortable taking your shirt off in public because you are afraid of what people will think of you and if you have a decent set of abs and you take your shirt off at the beach you'll feel incredibly confident that people wouldn't judge you? Instead they would be looking at you saying 'Wow what a rig!'

Now we are getting somewhere. Find your true WHY. The real reason you are embarking on a fitness journey and when things come up in your life, challenges, mental health issues etc. You are more likely going to be able to deal with them knowing WHY you are doing this in the first place.

Having other projects on the go.

It's good to be busy! I find that if you are embarking on a fitness journey and the ONLY thing in your life that matters is this particular journey, then you'll more than likely run into some difficult obstacles. I'm going to use myself as an example here. I have recently competed in the IFBB Victorian state titles, and soon to compete in the national state titles. I am dieting and training incredibly hard for these shows and at times it does take a HUGE mental toll on my body, mind and soul. I have found that if I have other projects on the go, it helps to almost distract me from what is actually going on. Let's face it, I'm hungry! like really hungry.. all the time! I haven't been full in months. If all I did was bodybuilding and all I did was train, eat, sleep, repeat, wait for my next meal, over and over and over again, I would go insane and possibly hate the process and could even quit. But I have so many other things in my life on the go right now that are so exciting! I am in the process of creating another side business that I would like to launch early next year. I have my Bare Bros Co hens party/candle business that is always busy and we have parties every single weekend where I am out grinding away building my business. I have two kids that need attention, a wife that is almost due our third child. The point is, bodybuilding is not my whole life. I don't put all my eggs in one basket. Yes I want to win gold at the nationals and I will do all I can in order to achieve that goal. But if I don't win, it's not the end of my world as I have so many other exciting ventures that are happening in my life or that are about to happen. If all I focused on was bodybuilding and in the end the result was not what I was after, then I'm most likely going to suffer some mental health issues coming out of these competitions. The fact that I have so many other responsibilities, interests and projects on the go keeps me level headed and mentally very stable.

I can also relate this point back to knowing your WHY. I am training so hard for these shows to show my kids just how strong and discipline their old man is. I am leading by example and I involve them in the process as much as I can. They watch me cook healthy food, they come to the supermarket with me and pick my meats and vegetables and I educate them on everything I can about living a healthy lifestyle through training and optimal nutrition. 'Whats this Hudson?' 'ASPARAGUS' He would say. One of the things I really miss right now is the fact that I can't even go down to the local cafe and share a breakfast meal with my kids. It actually breaks my heart. But I know in just a few more weeks I get to do these things again with my kids and share these experiences like any dad should. These little thoughts are actually what are helping me get through the final stages of this prep. The fact that my life will return to normal very soon and THAT is also keeping me level headed and keeping my mental state in check.

Always have other projects on the go.

Support crew. Who is in your corner?

So far we have established that is it very important that you truly understand WHY you are embarking on a fitness journey. We have also highlighted the importance of having a number of other projects, interests and activities on the go whilst embarking on a fitness journey. Lastly, I think its crucial that you have a strong support crew by your side, people that align with your goals and want you to truly succeed. Quite often when an individual embraces a new challenge in their life that will most likely improve and help them succeed in ALL areas of their life, they are confronted with negative people that want to bring them down. I will never truly understand why someone would NOT want someone else to succeed. It's most likely due to the fact that certain people feel that THEY can't achieve a certain level of success or achieve a challenging goal so they try bring the people close to them down so that they remain on their level. That way the individual too afraid of taking risks, too afraid of embracing challenges will feel comfortable and safe knowing that they are surrounded by like minded people, even if those like minded people are negative, unsuccessful people. An individual may say to their friend, spouse, colleague 'Im thinking of starting this business or I'm thinking of doing a fitness challenge' They are then met with 'Oh really? Why would you want to do that? There is already heaps of businesses that offer that service' or 'You don't need to lose weight, you're fine the way you are' or 'you want to gain muscle? Thats stupid, do you know how hard it is to train and diet that hard?' All of a sudden confidence is down, the once driven, positive minded individual striving for success all of a sudden starts to question themselves 'Maybe I shouldn't start that business' 'Yeh it would be really hard to start going to the gym and start meal prepping etc hey?'

Imagine if they were met with a different response. 'Oh really! You want to start a business? Tell me about it, share your ideas, maybe I can help' 'You want to get in shape? OMG that's amazing, can I help you? Maybe I can do it with you and we can go together' See the two different responses? The negative response will put you in a shell and smack your self esteem right across the face whilst the positive response will set you straight on the path to success. Surround yourself with positive people and only share your business ideas and fitness goals with the people you know who are going to support you and push you along the way, be honest with you and pull you up on your bullshit if you start to slack off. Now you don't necessarily have to get rid of them in your life though you don't have to share every detail to them. Only share your ideas and goals with the people you KNOW are going to be there for you when things get tough and they can help pull you through those dark times if needed.

Im going to leave you with a three of my favourite quotes to help get you motivated to embark on a fitness journey but remember this.. motivation will only get you so far.. discipline will lead you to success.

# The single best trait you can develop for long term success is having a love for monotonous consistency. Daily repetition of the boring fundamentals compounded everyday for long periods of time.

# If you keep doing what you're about to do today for the next five years, will you end up with more of what you want or less of what you want?

# What stands between you and your goal is your behaviour. Your life comes down to this formula - You, your choices, plus your behaviour, plus your habits, compounded, equal your goal. Thats why it's important to identify the behaviours that are blocking you towards your goals and the behaviours that help you towards your goal.

Signing off.


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