Strength, muscle, & cardio (heart health & endurance) are all non-negotiables for mental health & personal growth
(Please note that this is acting as a script for my podcast Thrive Education. It’s largely still written like a blog, but just so you know why some elements will read as if I was speaking to someone…)
Hello again Thriving friends. If this is your first time listening, my name is Thomas Flynn, unsurprisingly. Thank you for being here and investing your most precious resources, namely your time and attention. I will always endeavour to give you the best possible return on your investment with high-value education, inspiration, and conversations, as we go on a journey together connecting the dots on thriving in all areas of health and personal development.
If you are a repeat listener, I love you and am sending you a big auditory imaginary hug, thank you as well. I’d better reiterate, that if you haven’t already, it would be deeply appreciated and so helpful if you could go to the top of the Thrive podcast page, and leave a 5-star rating, and a review if you’re on Apple or Google, you can’t do reviews on Spotify, so on Spotify or Apple Podcasts, or even Google, just tap on the podcast name ‘Thrive Education with Thomas Flynn’ wherever it is on your screen, and it will then take you to the podcast’s home page where all the episodes are listed, and you’ll see a button for leaving a rating, as these 5-star ratings and encouraging reviews go a long way for 1- building credibility and helping the podcast gain exposure to new people, and 2- it lets me know that you actually value this content.
I’m deeply grateful for all of the feedback and messages so far, I’ve tried to make a point of saying so to each of you who’ve reached out, but just to reiterate, it really does mean a lot so thank you.
Before I expand upon what I’ve said in the title which is that “Strength, Muscle, and Cardio fitness are all non-negotiables for optimal mental health and personal development”, I should say as an aside, being physically active is not just a strategy for optimising health, or exploring physical challenges for people who are oriented that way. Movement and more broadly physical fitness is a non-negotiable ingredient in BASIC HUMAN FUNCTIONING. It’s a non-negotiable for going from drowning to just getting your head above water, mentally, let alone thriving in our growth and mental health. If you’re struggling, or overwhelmed, just start with walking, even just a 5 minute lap of your block. I promise it’ll help. I’m wildly passionate about lifting and running and skiing and you name it, and I’d still say walking is essentially the GOAT movement.
There are two books I’d highly recommend for you about exercise, fitness and mental health, “The Joy of Movement” by Kelly McGonigal, that book is incredible for understanding how important movement is for our brains and I guarantee if you read it or listen to the audiobook, you’ll come away hyped to go for a jog or do a fitness class, and then there’s “Lost Connections” by Johann Hari, which might be the most important mental health book ever written. Definitely check those out, or at least read some cliff notes or something.
Now, I first wanted to summarise what I hope to accomplish with podcast installment number 9 of Thrive, which is that I want you to come away from listening to this, feeling excited and inspired for exercise and training in all forms, of course, but more importantly having a deeper understanding of how they all fit into the puzzle of our best mental health, and for you to have a little checklist in your head of compelling reasons why you’re doing it, wherever you are on your fitness journey.
Because whether you’re struggling with getting started, or you’re a fitness addict or anywhere in between, on the days when you just can’t be fucked, and there are plenty of those, knowing that “it’s good for you” doesn’t really get us across the line. That’s a bit vague. We want to feel that we can emotionally connect to more defined and meaningful reasons to train or just move in some form, and ultimately we want to make it a part of who we are.
We need a self-image of fit, active, thriving person, because our self-image, or our identity, is going to be one of our strongest possible drivers of our behaviour, and if something clashes with our identity, example being if you see yourself as unfit, or as not being someone who cares deeply about this stuff, then that’s going to act as a huge mental barrier to even getting started, let alone being consistent and making progress.
If you take away only one point from everything I ever share on this podcast, that might be the most valuable one: the way that identity shapes our behaviour. You want to start taking your health and fitness seriously? Just ask yourself all the time, every little decision of your day, ‘what decision would a fit, healthy, active person make in this situation? What would they do?’ That applies to anything we want to change in our lives, we have to decide who want to be.
There will be another podcast I’ll record that’s more specifically focused on improving your motivation and consistency, and setting a higher standard for your fitness, lifting, running if you’re in to that, all of it. In that episode I’ll focus a little more on that psychology of behaviour change, habits, personal values, identity, environment, and strategies to help you
develop greater intrinsic motivation for fitness, because ultimately, you won’t stay consistent with OR get good results from something that you don’t find intrinsically rewarding,
in addition to knowing how to overcome the lack of motivation that we all encounter at times, so that you don’t rely on motivation. We need both, we need a foundation of discipline and routine and structure, and identity, and a sense of progress so we feel like we’re actually getting somewhere, and we also need some positive emotion, some excitement and motivation.
So this podcast today will certainly contribute to that overall sense of enthusiasm and motivation for fitness, if that’s something you struggle a little with, because I want you to come away from this one thinking, ok, wow, the full spectrum of exercise is practically magical.
So this podcast is broadly called Thrive Education, as everything I stand for is about helping you as an individual to Thrive in every sense of the word, in your mental and physical health, personal development, emotional intelligence and mindfulness, self-awareness and introspection, resilience, consciousness and philosophy, relationships and more, because they’re all intricately intertwined. This is what I’ve been obsessed with for a long time now, is understanding and connecting the dots on all of these, as it’s really not enough to just address one of them.
The modern movement around self-care is obviously great, although it can become just a coping strategy for tolerating life, if we stay stagnant and remain unfulfilled by our work and relationships, and if we don’t address our own dysfunctional patterns, we all have them; basically, if we just self-care our way through the same difficulties that we’re not actually doing anything about;
yet we’re also going to struggle to ever thrive in any area if our personal foundation of self-care, health and self-understanding, self-awareness, is wobbly.
That’s why this episode is all about the full spectrum of physical fitness, I wanted to emphasise that strength, muscle, cardio (so endurance and heart health), and integrating physical mindfulness (which we can get from all movement, lifting weights can be incredibly mindful, however we do want to ensure we’ve got some less taxing movement, we don’t want to only rely on the intense stuff, so I’d broadly say we want to incorporate something like forms of yoga, or sports, walking in nature, any kind of play and exploration, so any movement outdoors), all the forms of movement or fitness create a non-negotiable foundation for thriving in your mental health and personal growth, and in any area of life that’s important to you.
We can’t optimise our personal development and self-esteem without addressing mental health, obviously, and vice versa, our mental health is going to correlate closely with a lot of personal development concepts,
and we categorically can not optimise either one without a sturdy foundation of physical health and fitness.
All of these different forms of physical training and movement serve their own unique purposes, in terms of what they do for us psychologically, for our confidence and self-belief, self-respect, fulfillment and expression of personal values, reduction of stress, stimulating creativity, making us SMARTER, fitness and less formal exercise literally make you smarter, that one should pique your interest,
as well as, in regards to our mood, the chemicals that the various kinds of exercise release in our brains and the way that they impact our broader health.
This is not just my biased opinion as a qualified fitness professional, with eclectic recreational interests in physique training, running, and a lifetime of skiing and sports,
This is categorical scientific fact.
You can not experience your best possible mental health, or even baseline functioning really, like just the absence of major distress, let alone maximise your personal development, without being highly physically active. We’ve evolved to need movement, to need a reasonable level of physical strength, a degree of muscle mass, you don’t have to get into bodybuilding but muscle is far too valuable physiologically and what it does for our body-image, for us not to address muscle mass,
and we need a baseline of aerobic health from some form of cardio-style work. They all serve unique functions in our wellbeing, and for our mental health.
(and to elaborate on cardio, which is not a cursed word, it does NOT mean that we have to be on a treadmill or going for a run, because I know those are some people’s worst nightmare, those are just methods that we can use for improving our cardiovascular fitness, as in heart health, stuff that gets your blood flowing around your body, gets the heart pumping a bit, so we’ve got lots of strategies there, sports and even walking can certainly help in that regard, because we need blood flow through the brain to think clearly).
As an aside, I touched on it before, for optimal mental health and life satisfaction, we also categorically REQUIRE a couple of other things that are super relevant to movement, we need time in nature, it’s a non-negotiable, a lack of exposure to the natural world is highly correlated with anxiety and depression,
we need play and fun, we need a sense of freedom, and we need flow states, right, a flow state being when we’re fully immersed in whatever we’re doing.
Now you don’t have to derive all of these from movement, or exercise, but it’s just an important consideration, this is why activities like skiing, snowboarding, biking, surfing, hiking to an extent, indoor rock climbing, etc, any form of play or exploration, it’s why they can all be so addictive. They have this capacity to help us meet quite a few essential requirements for great mental health, in one fell swoop.
In regards to the freedom piece, this is particularly why when people find a form of movement they love, be it running or lifting or yoga, or dancing, or skiing for me, it often becomes like an addictive drug for us, because it feels like a physical expression of freedom. I mentioned before about movement having the capacity to express our personal values, well freedom is a great example.
For me, that’s a major factor in why I love skiing so much, it allows me to express many personal values of freedom, play and fun, creativity, mastery and accomplishment, and to get into deep flow states, all at once, in the way that I move and explore the mountains.
I highly encourage you to find some physical activity in life that lights you up to that extent, if optimal mental health is something you aspire to, which it’s reasonable to assert that we all want that.
Being so introspective and curious about humans, I tend to ask people a lot of deep questions in getting to know them, and if there’s one major trend I’ve noticed among people whose overall health (both physical and mental) isn’t that great, it’s that they don’t have enough interests that truly light them up. I touched on this a little in the previous episode about social anxiety, and not having a clearly defined sense of self,
but one major distinction I’ve observed that often, not always, but often separates people who are struggling and people who are thriving, is that those who are thriving have at least one, and usually several, areas of interest that they’re super passionate about, they’re really clear on what’s meaningful to them, AND they always have a form of physical activity that they genuinely enjoy.
Whether it’s the gym, hiking, sports, running, skiing or snowboarding, or even just playing with your kids, something, people who are thriving ALWAYS have a high value on something active. It’s not the whole recipe, obviously, but it’s a non-negotiable ingredient.
Now, I know that for a good percentage of the people listening, you’ll already be doing some form of exercise,
however it’s somewhat rare that someone is addressing all of the areas I’ve mentioned, so I want to help spread the love for all of them.
It might be that you personally love to lift in the gym, for strength building purposes, but maybe you don’t really approach it correctly for building muscle. The right strength training (and nutrition) can accomplish both of those of course.
Or, perhaps you’re mad keen on muscle building, strength, and training in the gym, but as is so common, cardio fitness doesn’t get enough love, because the fitness industry is rife with misinformation, and you’ve been misled to believe that you have to choose between muscleandstrength, or cardio. It’s not an equation of one or the other, they both benefit each other beautifully, when you understand the physiology.
The supreme and sad irony is that many people get into lifting for the mental health benefits, and then they hear that cardio is detrimental to their lifting, so they stop doing that, when cardio is just as if not more valuable for our mental health, I’ll explain why.
Then there’s also the trap that many of us fitness types fall into, and I made this mistake for quite some time, where we start to become overly reliant on the gym and/or running, whatever your poison, as a stress management tool, which it is when used right, it’s profoundly important for reducing stress AND for increasing stress tolerance, however what’s super common for dedicated fitness people is that we don’t have enough physical activity that’s just for play and relaxation.
Because lifting weights, or being serious about your running, HIIT classes, anything effortful that has the goal of adaptation (so improving, lifting more, running further) these are all forms of STRESS on the body. That’s why we do it, we’re stressing the body, and then it needs to recover.
However it’s super common when people fall in love with fitness, so many of us have done this, that we end up overdoing it, too much stress, not enough recovery, not enough fun and relaxation and playfulness.
So chances are you come under one of a few categories right? No exercise at all; in which case you may just literally start with going for walks. I can’t emphasise enough how underrated walking is.
Or, maybe you play a sport, or you’re a gym junkie, or you love running, or hiking, but chances are there’s at least one major fitness pillar that’s getting neglected yeah? Or, perhaps you’re in that category (which I fell into for a while) where you’re actually overdoing the training, not able to recover from it, and it’s adding more stress than it’s taking away.
It’s quite common in the fitness space for people to be a little confused by all of the conflicting information, and go well, OK, you say I should be lifting in the gym? If so, how and in what manner? High reps, low reps, muscle building, strength?
In addition, you’ve got diet culture warping everything, further muddying the waters of your physical health by spreading enormous volumes of bullshit, demonising all of the various food types in some manner, which further complicates things as you know nutrition is a key component of fitness and gym.
Before you know it, you just give up entirely or only stick with what you know because it’s all too overwhelming.
I’ll discuss the how-to’s with sets and reps and such another time, but for now, let me explain the reasons we need to have a little bit of everything, we need some cardio, we need decent strength and muscle mass, and I’ve already touched on the value of more recreational exercise like hiking, skiing, playful stuff, in regards to flow states and such.
I should note on that topic, lifting, yoga, sports, and running can be perfect examples of flow states. When you’re in the middle of a hard set, or you’re running around a futsal court, you can’t really concentrate on anything except what you’re doing. That’s flow, and it’s an imperative for thriving mentally.
Anywho, to rattle off some biological benefits of the full spectrum of fitness. You’ve no doubt heard of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins, all that good stuff that’s essential to our mood and mental health, yeah?
Physical activity is intertwined with these chemicals, hormones, neurotransmitters, and many more in our brains. If you’ve ever spoken to a doctor or a therapist or a psychiatrist about your mental health, and they prescribed you meds but they didn’t enquire about your lifestyle, your social circle, and in particular how active you are…. I’ve got very bad news for you, and it is time to find yourself a new mental health professional. Meds should support you if you truly need them, in developing other more holistic strategies.
Now, the title of the podcast, says that Strength, Muscle, and Cardio fitness are all NON-NEGOTIABLES for optimal mental health and personal development. That summarises the primary message quite clearly, I’ll just elaborate and give you some explanations, and some supporting strategies to help you actually implement these
I’m deeply passionate about this topic, clearly, and even then I’m not sure that I can fully do justice to the fact that if they could take all of the benefits of strength and physique training, and of cardio fitness, and put them into a pill,
That pill would become the most revolutionary advancement in medicine since penicillin. It would make many of the other drugs in existence virtually obsolete, for starters.
Imagine if you could take a pill with NO side-effects, and the following incomplete list of benefits, this list will be incomplete. Are you ready? You may want to listen to this list, and then rewind to let that wonderful pink sponge inside your skull truly soak up this ridiculous array of benefits that we receive from the full spectrum of exercise, cardio, and strength training.
Anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, releases the same brain chemicals as the high you get from marijuana, they’re called endocannabinoids, we get those particularly from cardio-style exercise, that’s why it’s called the runner’s high, Now, you don’t actually have to run to get a runner’s high. It just comes from exercise that we persist with, the runner’s high is how our brain rewards persistence and gives us the energy to keep going, it’s an evolutionary adaptation from when we had to spend hours running after antelope just to eat,
so you could get it from cycling, swimming, group fitness classes, walking for some people would do it! particularly if it’s a bit hilly, any movement that requires prolonged steady effort and persistence,
we’ve got oxytocin which means exercise actually makes us more sociable, less prone to social anxiety, and in group settings being active together helps with developing stronger bonds with the people around us,
we’ve got increased dopamine receptors, meaning movement and exercise helps your brain use dopamine better, meaning enhanced motivation to do things, because dopamine is the motivation molecule.
That’s a big element of depression and being highly stressed or anxious, or burnt out, is that it fucks with your desire to actually do anything, creating a vicious cycle where you don’t have much desire to actually do the things that will help your situation. Well the right fitness regime can assist with this, again, it’s not the full picture, nothing by itself is, but it’s still a non-negotiable piece of the puzzle.
We’ve also got (from all forms of fitness) anti-ageing effects, particularly in calorie deficits, we’ve got preventative against dementia,
in the case of strength training in particular we’ve got helping to guard against or at least slow down osteoporosis,
we’ve got ‘literally makes you smarter’. I’ll repeat that one, training makes you smarter. Exercise, particularly progressive exercise, which is training, helps to kickstart neurogenesis, which means the development of new brain cells.
I really hope that one piqued your interest because it bloody should. Exercise makes us smarter, it helps our brains function more effectively, and all of the different forms of fitness do so in their own unique ways, particularly when there’s some skill involved, such as lifting or yoga.
I could stop now and I’d bet you’re already feeling a bit hyped for your next workout or to go for a walk or something, but I’m going to continue.
In terms of stress management: we’ve got stress reduction. Cardiovascular exercise in particular helps to lower blood pressure and resting heart rate, these two in and of themselves can be a massive stress on your body and brain if they’re high.
What does anxiety feel like? It’s tense, your heart rate rises. High blood pressure and heart rate can literally contribute to the physical feeling of being tense and anxious. Well the right cardio fitness lowers these, and it greatly improve the capacity, so to speak, of your rest & digest system. Ok so you’ve no doubt heard of fight or flight? Well in the modern world, the issue with chronic stress and the reason most of the Western world has issues with excessive stress and anxiety, has a lot to do with perpetually being in a low-grade fight or flight state. This is called the sympathetic nervous system. Well cardio fitness, done right, makes your rest & digest system, or parasympathetic nervous system, more robust.
Meaning, doing your cardio makes it a million times easier for you to stay calm, and to get out of a fight or flight state quickly. Think of it as raising your threshold for when you start to feel stress and anxiety, so it takes a lot more to bother you when you’re aerobically fit, and you feel much less tense.
So when we improve our aerobic fitness, which is basically endurance cardio yeah, so jogging, cycling, swimming, walking to an extent, hiking, most group fitness classes like BodyFit or F45 will help with this, it’s not optimal in most cases but it will help, when we generally become more active all around, when we do this, we lower our overall feelings of stress, we enhance how much stress our bodies can handle, so now we can accomplish more and improve our overall performance in life,
we improve our digestion, we also increase how many calories we can burn, which means you can eat more food if that’s something of interest to you, in regards to weight loss and body fat,
When we look at both muscle mass and cardio fitness, they both combine to help us produce more energy. A big part of thriving, of having great mental health, is feeling like you’ve got tons of energy to take on life, well we need a decent amount of muscle mass AND some reasonable cardio fitness, to increase how much energy our bodies can create.
You know the saying you might have heard in school, that the ‘mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell’. So what that means is that mitochondria are what the cells in our bodies use to produce energy. When we get fitter, and when we have more muscle mass, our bodies can now create more mitochondria. Meaning, you have more energy.
There are of course other factors for your energy levels, such as stress which I’ve mentioned, nutrition, and once again having more muscle and being more active means your body can put that food to better use, AND being more active changes the food you want to eat, it actually makes you want to eat more ‘healthily’ on average because you’re more in tune with your how body feels and performs,
cardio fitness does massively improve your fat loss efforts, it’s just that we don’t use the cardio to burn calories, we use it to drive improvements in our overall health, and energy production, which makes it easier to lose body fat without having to starve yourself,
another little note on nutrition as it relates to strength training, protein plays a big part in our overall health, it’s involved in getting certain neurotransmitters more effectively into our brain, so coming back to that mental health piece, serotonin, dopamine, all that good stuff, protein plays a role in our bodies producing those, and so having more muscle and taking your training a little more seriously means your body can hold more protein, and obviously it drives you to want to eat that way,
and two more pieces on why we need cardio fitness, it actually improves our muscle growth. It lets you train harder in the gym, recover more between sets, get better recovery between workouts, fuel more nutrients into your cells when your cardiovascular system can pump more of the good stuff around your body,
then we’ve got the simple fact that your fitness and physical capabilities should never ever limit you doing things you want to do, seeing things oyu want to see. Exploring, sports, trying skiing or surfing, playing with your kids, especially as you get older, yeah, you owe it to yourself to never let your fitness limit you from having great experiences.
Cardio fitness is going to have more of an effect on these than strength and muscle, so we can’t neglect cardio, but strength and muscle development will help with making you more mobile, more robust.
Injury prevention is a murky area, we can’t really make blanket statements that strength training prevents injuries, but it definitely goes without saying that having a baseline of strength and muscle does not hurt in regards to making movement easier and decreasing your likelihood of niggles, let’s say, particularly as the right lifting technique let’s us become more mobile. So we’re stronger in various bodily positions.
I haven’t even touched on the true psychological benefits yet, besides referencing stress management.
So improving your physical strength and your endurance, as well as allowing you more freedom to do those fun things like hiking, to try activities or sports you’ve wanted to do, it helps you develop confidence through seeing that you can accomplish hard things.
A huge element of confidence and self-esteem is what’s called ‘self trust’, meaning we can trust ourselves to follow through with hard stuff and to handle the challenges that come with it, because if we don’t believe we can do that, we’ll really struggle to believe that we can accomplish any big goal yeah?
Well strength training, cardio work, and muscle building, all provide us an activity that’s fully in our CONTROL, and a sense of control is huge for reducing stress and anxiety, to feel like you’ve had a WIN, you’ve PROGRESSED AND ACCOMPLISHED something for the day, no matter what happened at work or wherever else, and in doing so to develop that self-trust.
This is in part how fitness helps us develop that mental foundation for confidence and self-belief, because we show ourselves we can accomplish hard things, and it’s always in our control. The beauty of that, is it’s all relative to you!
Some days, the mere act of getting up and walking a lap of your block can act as a vote for you being able to keep promises to yourself to be active, and engrain that identity of active person.
So, I think I’ve well and truly conveyed sufficient reasons for improving your cardio fitness, I’ll do other episodes with more nitty gritty details about the how and what, but now you know why heart health and endurance is a huge player in great mental health, reducing stress and anxiety.
I’ve touched on self-trust, discipline, and the sense of pride, accomplishment, control, that we can gain from having a regular form of fitness that we want to progress with, that challenges us.
I’ve explained some of the neuroscience, the way that exercise helps with feel good brain chemicals, and even makes us smarter.
A huge part of psychological resilience is that capability to endure challenge, and when we really push ourselves physically, because it’s just as much mental right, we demonstrate to ourselves that we can handle hard things, significantly more than we thought.
I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen people in the gym, or PT clients, and a big part of my role would just be to show them what they were capable of. People would think they were pushing themselves, and they’d be operating at 60% of what they could really do, if that, so then you support them, encourage them, show them just how much more they’re capable of, and I’ve seen some incredible changes in people that 100% stemmed from that developing belief in themselves through fitness.
Shout out to Pearl, my first ever PT client and still a good friend, she lost about 40 kilos and got ridiculously strong in the gym, blokes would come up and comment because they were frankly intimidated, she pulled herself out a miserable relationship and proceeded to go on a dating frenzy, started rocking crop tops to the gym, got herself into a new and much healthier relationship, and that all stemmed from the self-respect that’s developed when take our health and fitness seriously.
One of my best friends, I won’t name this individual or their gender, but they were another PT client and I watched this person go from what they would willingly admit was horrendous mental health, early days this person used to come into the gym for our sessions and sometimes I’d barely get a word out of them for an hour, they were struggling so much with life, very bad headspace, clearly on the verge of an emotional breakdown quite often, nutrition was shocking, they would constantly quit on themselves, you know stop at 5 reps when they could have done 20 but just didn’t have it in them mentally, and over time I’ve watched this individual have one of the most incredible personal growth journeys you’d ever witness, now has a seriously impressive physique where people comment on how muscular they’re looking, mental health and self-esteem is a million times better, has been in relationships with some very attractive and accomplished people the last year or two, and frankly my friend was the more mature and grown of the pair in those relationships, and this all stemmed from a journey that started with strength and physique training.
As I’ve said, I’ll touch on my own journey in its own episode eventually, but it goes without saying, the gym and running has been incredibly powerful for my mental health as well.
So we use physical challenge to callous the mind, which develops that self-respect and that trust that you can handle really hard things. The origins of the word confidence, in Latin come from confidere which means ‘to have full trust’. So self-confidence is built on that trust that we develop in ourselves to do hard stuff. That in itself might be the most important way that fitness contributes to our self-esteem and mental health.
I’ve mentioned that having more muscle mass plays into being able to eat more. Imagine if you never again had to think twice, or have any guilt or second thoughts, about eating whatever food you feel like eating? Or even if you could view eating high-calorie foods, burgers etc, as actually supporting your goals? As a positive action for your short-term happiness and your long-term success. Well when you have a priority on building muscle, this is possible.
Having a degree of muscle mass is also one of the best possible and healthiest motivators for fat loss. Because it shifts your focus from ‘I’m not content with how I am, I’m lacking body confidence, I want to be smaller’ to ‘I just want to be able to see this muscle I’ve earned, important term there, earned muscle, that’s underneath the body fat’, so now you’re eating to support being active, and to maintain that strength and muscle, rather than fixating on eating less and less for fat loss.
You can’t for a second convince me that body image isn’t an important element of having the best possible self-esteem and mental health, of course it shouldn’t be the primary factor, and we should derive our confidence and self-respect from a wide variety of intrinsic sources, and reflect our character, our kindness, how we treat others, but if everything is coming from a healthy place, I will maintain that body image will and should contribute to having great mental health and self-esteem. You want to and deserve to feel supremely comfortable in your skin.
Well muscle mass, and strength, they celebrate what your body can do, and they’re a visual representation of those values, those traits of dedication, work ethic, self-respect, and muscle and strength they’re much more enjoyable to achieve than low body fat.
What’s that feeling we all want? Confidence. Well muscle plays a big part in that body confidence, there’s no way around it.
I was saying to a friend today, that a great proxy for body confidence, rather than thinking you have to aspire to six-pack abs and being jacked, what if, you started with aiming to just feel confident to go for a run or a walk, with your shirt off? Or to be at the beach, in a bikini or no shirt on. Right, or just tight fitting clothing, whatever context feels an appropriate milestone for you.
And to not feel self-conscious in doing so, or ideally to perhaps even feel proud in doing so.
Because the beauty of that is it has far less to do with how your body objectively looks, and much more to do with your self-acceptance, with how you FEEL about your body, feeling proud of what it can do.
This also relates to podcast episode 7, when I spoke about how fearing judgement from others is really just fearing the judgement we’re already placing on ourselves, and what meaning we would give to someone else’s opinion. So that’s a great little target to set for yourself, could you go for a run or walk with a shirt off? Could you wear a bikini or a swimsuit at the beach? If you can do that, body confidence is probably at a point where it’s not inhibiting the quality of your life and mental health. If you’re not there yet, start smaller. Start with, just being able to not feel self-conscious even in baggy clothes. And then, could you wear relatively tight fitting clothing, without feeling self-conscious? and so on.
So we want to get strong, muscle will come from the right strength training and nutrition, that develops this sense of empowerment and gratitude for yourself, for ‘look at what my body can do, look at what I can accomplish when I apply myself’, and then if you still have a desire for fat loss, well that strength, muscle, and cardio fitness, they will all make the fat loss easier, and they give you a healthier motivation for the fat loss, which is ‘I want to be able see the muscle I’ve earned’, so it’s coming from self-respect rather than shame.
That is enough for today. A bit of a deep dive on cardio health, strength and muscle development, and some reasons why they’re so important in our mental health, self-esteem, and certainly our personal development journeys due to the qualities, the characteristics that we develop in the pursuit of getting stronger and fitter.
Throw in some fun stuff, some nature stuff, plenty of walking, ideally something fun and active such as hiking, sports, skiing, etc, and you’ve got some incredibly powerful tools for overall mental wellbeing and personal growth.
If you’ve made it this far, you know I love ya, would love to hear from you with any questions or just thoughts you’d like to share, my Instagram DM’s @thomas_flynn_ or emails firstname.lastname@example.org are always open if you need any tips or guidance on your health and fitness journey.
Thank oyu for investing your most precious resources of oyur time and attention, I’ve uploaded two episodes today for your listening pleasure, and have got some interviews coming up with two incredibly wise, accomplished and inspiring women, so stay tuned for some enlightening Candid Conversations. Bye, for, now, happy Thriving to you. Go do something active!