Mental health and physical fitness: 7 hacks from an Olympian
Sarah Lindsay is a personal trainer who stands out from the crowd.
She has a decorated career as a European gold medalist, two-time world silver medalist, and an astonishing ten-time British speed skating champion.
As a three-time Olympian and former speed skater, she has made a name for herself as one of the most recognised celebrity personal trainers in the United Kingdom. Her extensive clientele includes the likes of Ellie Goulding, Mel B, Pixie Lott, Christine Lampard, Professor Green, and Piers Morgan, among many others.
Here, the owner of ROAR Fitness gyms in London and Dubai writing for mentl, shares seven simple hacks that can help improve your health, both physically and mentally.
Mental Health and Your Physical Fitness
It’s ironic how much our mental health is inextricably linked to our physical wellness. When things are tough and we are struggling mentally, keeping fit and active is often at the bottom of the list. Taking extra time out to focus on classes, training or even that extra dose of outdoors can feel like a challenge in itself that you could surely do without. Your fitness journey should run seamlessly alongside your mental health, giving you peace of mind, instead of becoming a stressful burden. All evidence suggests that keeping on top of physical exercise helps strengthen our mental wellness alongside the obvious advantages. As a three-time Olympian athlete, and now founder of ROAR Fitness, I want to share my advice on managing both and why exercise is a critical tool for body and mind.
It may help to rethink your ‘why’ around keeping fit. It’s important to reframe thinking around your time spent on working out or activity and seeing this less as an extra chore or schedule drainer and linking in with more favorable pursuits. For example, spending time with my husband is a major part of my wellbeing. To that end, I make sure I exercise when he is busy elsewhere. I’m not swapping my time with my partner for fitness. It’s never a hindrance to my social life or work schedules.
2. Remember it’s the small things…
Big goals, and fast deadlines – why do we set these for ourselves? This often becomes overwhelming and inevitably leads to us failing to achieve them. Keep the stress levels of your training low by going in slow and steady. Find things that feel manageable and at a frequency you can maintain without it being a stressor. Half an hour a day four days a week is much better than trying to do one hour six days a week. You can build up slowly as your confidence grows.
3. Do it your way.
You don’t have to be a gym bunny to enjoy the benefits of exercise on your mental health. It’s not for everyone, and we all know that there are so many forms of fitness we can take part in. If for you a walk or a stand-up paddle, a hike or a climbing session, or even a dance around the kitchen is the way that you can connect to movement, this is the best way to nurture your mental wellbeing while getting active.
4. Keep it friendly.
Even in group classes, we can feel lonely. Your support network is a vital proponent to your mental health and wellbeing. Get a friend on board so you feel like you are not doing it alone, you get to spend time together too. Your exercise will feel more like a social activity and less of a stress.
5. Remember, it’s fun when it’s done
Happy hormones, or endorphins, are always boosted through physical exercise. Nobody ever feels worse once they’ve finished! Whether you’re out on a hike, taking a run or doing a group class, you’ll be boosting your natural resilience and emotions. Even when it’s hard to motivate yourself to get up and go, try to remember that the feelings we get after that ‘exercise high’ will always give us a mental boost. Having a clear ‘why’ for why we train is critical for our consistency.
6. Get outside.
As we hit the UAE’s winter, we have so many more things we can do outdoors. Nature is proven to be truly healing, so why not combine your movement with it, whether that’s hiking or water sports in some of the country’s beautiful beach and mountain destinations to escape the fast pace of city life. Even a barefoot walk in nature, on sand, or grass, can have powerful calming effects on our body’s nervous system.
7. Sleeping soundly.
Exercise, in addition to improving your mood and confidence, will help improve your sleep, which is vital for both mental and physical health. Better sleep means less stress and anxiety and a stronger ability to tackle our daily challenges.